The Power of Paper for Everyday Life

By Glen Allsopp

June 5, 2009   •   Fact checked by Dumb Little Man

Since becoming self-employed at the start of this year, I’ve noticed that I organize myself and operate a quite differently. While the actual work only differs slightly, the time I’ve been able to spend on my projects has increased dramatically.

When working with clients or for a boss, I always had to make sure my work was accessible for other people. That meant it would be in Word file that I could email, in Online Documents that other people could ace or even just stored in my mind to recall for the next meeting.

Since coming home and working for myself however, I have noticed that my clarity and productivity are through the roof. I credit this change to something very basic: the use of pen and paper. Because of this realization, I decided to look at exactly why I may have naturally started “going back to basics” and how this change has dramatically improved my output and creativity.

Practical Application
First of all, pen(cil) and paper can be used for a myriad of tasks. For that reason, this list could be endless, but here are a few of the tasks I use Pen and Paper (P&P) for on a regular basis:

  • Organizing and structuring articles
  • Action plan for my tasks
  • Problem solving
  • Brainstorming
  • …and much more

In fact, all the points in this blog post were written down on paper before I dared to type them on a keyboard. I have became so accustomed to the natural feel or writing things down rather than trying to remember them or first putting them on a computer, that I’m not sure how I could get by without this most basic of equipment.

There are four main benefits I have found for using P&P. The following are probably the main reasons that I have become reliant on such a simple but effective habit.

  1. Frees Your Mind
    It is said that we each have around 65,000 thoughts a day. Most of them are repetitive and inconsequential but some of them are great ideas and sources of inspiration. For this reason, I try to keep a notepad or some form of ‘thought-taking’ with me at all times and I love looking back through my workbooks.

Although it would be great if we could have photographic memory, it’s only available for a few people and the fact is…we forget things – a lot of things. We can often remember the things we need to remember but it is usually at a cost of disregarding other things that come into our thought stream.

Writing things down really does free your mind, allowing you to come up with new ideas or simply capture your insightful thoughts as they happen.


  • It Gives Things Value
    Because we do have so many thoughts and feedback from others each day, it can be hard to sift through everything and keep everything of importance in memory. When you put down an idea or task in ink however, it gives it some form of importance.


A shopping list is easy to forget if all of the items are simply on your mind, but if you write things down and check your list while walking through the aisles, it’s unlikely you’ll miss anything. It’s the same when I’m writing a blog post, I might have lots of points that i want to include but I know the ones I actually write down are more likely to make it in a final version.


  • You Create Reference Points
    There are a lot of events that we’ve gone through in life which we can recall in our minds quite well. They are usually important events like a wedding, a birthday or even the birth of a child. Thinking about these events in detail can also mean that we relive the emotions that we had on the past occasion.


Our brains are highly advanced, but they aren’t perfect. Can you remember what you ate last Tuesday, or the Thursday two weeks before that? Probably not; I know I can’t. It’s often the same when we have goals for ourselves or we’re brainstorming new ideas for a project. We might be able to recall some of our ideas, but certainly not all of them.

Paper gives us a physical reference point that we can use to recall our ideas, our thoughts and even an opportunity for us to keep a record of what we eat for lunch every Tuesday. I’m very big on goal setting and having action points, and it is far easier to make things happen when I can re-read my aims every single day.


  • It Ensures Clarity
    If I asked you to work out a riddle or perform a fairly difficult calculation but one that you could handle, it would be fairly difficult to do so in your head. You could probably get through the task, but you might lose track a few times or struggle to recall some numbers. Yet, if I give you a pen and a piece of paper to solve either, you would find things a lot easier.


Writing things down literally puts them in black and white. We can clearly see everything we are dealing with rather than trying to keep certain things in memory while using other aspects of our mind to work things out.

There are many more benefits to writing things down so if you’re someone who tries to remember everything or you just simply store ideas on your computer then give it a shot. If you can adopt the habit of “offloading” your thoughts and ideas onto paper you can constantly free up room for new insights and never be lost for inspiration.

Written on 6/5/2009 by Glen Allsop. Glen writes on the subject of Personal Development at PluginID. His site’s main aim is to help people Plug into their Identity, be who they want to be and live the life they want to live. Photo Credit: orphanjones
Glen Allsopp

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