Analog Productivity: My Personal Approach to Staying Organized

Opening this blog has been one step of a long process that started basically after having spent too many hours watching productivity videos on YouTube and reading books like Building a Second Brain by Tiago Forte or Getting Things Done by David Allen. During this period I built and rebuilt a system for organising my stuff and every information that I was consuming, trying different methods and apps and basically wasting a lot of time and money. After some months in which buying the space for this blog was a means for having a place in which condense some fixed points in what I was developing (for reference: the “express” phase in Tiago Forte framework), I decided that the best way of being organised was to abandon myself to what I liked in that particular moment, and leaving stuff to evolve naturally. Of course this came with multiple loss of data, but having started early in the process, I got no huge damage, plus I have track of everything I did in the process.

The power of analog

Growing up I was always fascinated by writing and reading on paper, and by stationery in general. At the very start of the process I had only a Moleskine dotted notebook and a Mark’s Tokyo pen. Now the list of the stuff that I use daily is quite longer:

  • A5 Moleskine notebook: this is for my personal journal
  • Pocket Moleskine notebook: for everyday carry
  • Midori MD paper notebook: for taking notes strictly related to my research work
  • Moleskine weekly planner: my main agenda-calendar
  • Plain paper notebook: for quick notes
  • Lamy Safari fountain pen: for writing when I have a desk or support
  • Mark’s Tokyo pen: for writing on the go
  • Paper Poetry Gel Stift pens: for coloured markings

Most of the stuff that I have here is here because I liked it and I wanted to try it, but right now I use everything on a daily basis, so I’m pretty happy with the system.

The stuff that I like to log is typically related to

  • Personal thoughts: on my journal
  • Workout log, weight log and quick to-dos/thoughts: on the pocket moleskine
  • Maths and research related stuff: on the midori
  • Everything that is scheduled: on the agenda

In addition to this, I also have a block on paper squares on my desk (like post-it notes, without adhesive) on which every evening I write the tasks for the following day. The little sheets then goes into my pocket Moleskine that I carry everywhere.

The issues with analog

Most of the times, I write down stuff that I’m not sure when it will turn out to be useful. Sometimes a long time might pass from the note writing to the moment in which I need to retrieve everything I wrote. This means that everything in my system needs to be searchable; in order to do that, I digitize everything by scanning and storing on iCloud using the PARA method (still from Tiago Forte book).

For those not familiar with the PARA method, PARA stands for Project, Areas, Resources and Archives, and it is a way of organising stuff based on how actionable the different elements are, from projects which are relatively small tasks with a specific deadline to resources, which are containers of stuff that you now that might be useful in the future. Everything is organised with nested folders, and the same structure can be replicated in multiple location.

Of course, digitized notes are still not searchable. To solve this problem, in a way that is similar to what (again) Tiago Forte calls Progressive Summarization, I try to rewrite stuff in Obsidian, following a storage system that’s the exact copy of the PARA structure I have on iCloud. Typically this helps a lot in re-elaborating stuff and finding new meaning and connections in the notes.

The important thing here is not to transcribe everything right after the first draft on paper. I force myself to wait some time (a general rule of thumb is: if I forgot about having written the note in the first place, that’s the right time) before transcribing. This allows the ideas to season in my mind, and pushes away any misunderstanding or misconception about the content of the note itself.


The whole system is still a work in progress, it does not include stuff like coding, images and so on. Plus, I’m still not sure about how to manage my sources, and which kind of source I prefer (lately, I’m consumed by the Kindle vs books for reading dilemma), but I’m pretty sure that this analog first approach is the right choice for me. As I said at the beginning of the post, I’m using this blog to track what I’m doing to be more efficient in my life, so if there’s anything new in my system (or if I abandon everything), there will probably be a new short post like this (and this is a promise to myself, more than advertisement).

Then, why analog? There’s not a good reason why, apart from the fact that I like it and it’s fun to have pen and paper. This could be one of the most important advantages of staying analog, you have a more personal and direct experience with the note taking process. In addition, of course if you are into topics that require stuff like equation, drawings or other graphics artefacts that are not just plain text, no digital tool has reached the immediacy of a piece of paper and a good pen.

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