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WHY PAPER IS THE REAL "KILLER APP"

(13/05/2017)

With apps taking over our lives, there’s a movement afoot as people yearn for simpler, technology-free times.

Every January, Angela Ceberano sets goals for the 12 months ahead. And on Sunday nights, she plans and organises the coming week.

But instead of spreadsheets and fancy smartphone apps, the Melbourne, Australia-based founder of public relations firm Flourish PR, uses notepads, an old-fashioned diary, coloured pens and a stack of magazines. With these, she brainstorms, makes lists and creates a vision board. 

Ceberano is anything but a technophobe. A digital native with a strong social-media presence, she splits her time between traditional and new media, and between Australia and San Francisco, where some of her start-up clients are based. For certain tasks, she just prefers the simplicity, flexibility and tactility of the page.

“Sometimes, I just want to get rid of all the technology and sit down in a quiet space with a pen and paper,” she says. “There are so many apps out there and I feel like no one app gives me everything that I need. I've tried and really given them a go, doing those to-do lists of having your priorities or brain storming using lots of different apps … [but] when I get a pen and paper, or when I'm using my old-fashioned diary and pen, it just feels more flexible to me. I can always pull it out. I can focus.”

She's not alone. A quick scan of social media illustrates a quiet return to the humble charms of stationery and lettering. Many people are using cursive writing and colouring in to help organise their lives or work on certain goals — whether it's fitness, finances, or fast-tracking their careers. And, despite the proliferation of apps, other back-to-basics ideas have gained popularity online.

 

The science behind it

 

Science suggests these traditional types might be on to something. While technology can certainly provide an edge for certain tasks, digital overload is a real and growing concern. A 2010 study by the University of California at San Diego suggests we consume nearly three times as much information as we did the 1960s. And a report by Ofcom in the UK  says that 60% of us consider ourselves addicted to our devices, with a third of us spending longer online each day than we intend. So are we doing too much, and are our screens too distracting? Possibly. For instance, many studies indicate that multitasking is bad for us and makes our brains more scattered.

Other findings show that pen and paper have an edge over the keyboard. Research by Princeton University and the University of California at Los Angeles, published in 2014, showed that the pen is indeed mightier than the keyboard. In three studies, researchers found that students who took notes on laptops performed worse on conceptual questions than students who took notes longhand. Those who took written notes had a better understanding of the material and remembered more of it because they had to mentally process information rather than type it verbatim. And, another study, published in the Journal of Applied Cognitive Psychology, showed that people who doodle can better recall dull information.

 

The new self-awareness

 

So, with the proliferation of technology specifically designed to aid productivity and efficiency, what's the enduring appeal of simpler tools?  For starters, a notepad will never run out of batteries or have a screen freeze half way through a task. You can't accidentally delete something. It won't ring, or ping or pester you with constant social-media and email updates. And you can sketch, draw a diagram or stick-figure illustration — sometimes a picture is worth a thousand words — which isn’t as easily done on a smartphone.

 

Back to basics

 

For Ceberano, being able to switch off her phone, step away from the computer, sit down and focus is key, along with the flexibility to create her own systems.

 

“You can get caught up in this stream of technology and actually it's always on someone else's terms,” she says. “With those apps, the reason I don't use them is because they are someone else's format. It's not they way my mind thinks,” Ceberano says. “So when I'm there with a pen and paper, I'm putting it down in a way that is very organised in my head, but probably wouldn't work for somebody else. … I think people are just trying to take back ownership over the time that they've got and also the way that we're controlling the information that we're taking in.”

 

Read more at: http://www.bbc.com/capital/story/20170120-why-paper-is-the-real-killer-app