I’ve always been a sucker for anything that promised me the ability to work smarter. This is reflected in the numerous shiny gadgets I’ve owned over the years. About two years ago I came across David Allen’s Getting Things Done (GTD) and concluded this was without doubt the organisational system for me.

It may not be shiny, but I’ve found the GTD methodology to work really well, and when we trained everyone in the business in the ideas and techniques many of the team said it was the most valuable and useful day’s training they had ever had. This, coming from experienced and capable managers (who suddenly found capacity and time to think released), was high praise.

However, GTD leaves it to the individual to decide on the best way to implement their system and this is where I continue to evolve my thinking. I notice in my GTD blog two years ago I was using Toodledo and as a Mac user I soon transferred to Omnifocus. Omnifocus is a fantastic way of maintaining a sophisticated to-do list that is constantly in sync, whether I’m on my iMac at home, iPad, iPhone or Macbook Air.

Studies of the Hands of Erasmus

With all the gadgets work tools I use, I’m drawn to make everything digital and in the cloud so that it is always available. So I also use Evernote as a means of storing ideas and notes, and I was starting to use DayOne as a journaling tool. Each application works well, and my main frustration is that I can’t quite sketch ideas on the iPad in the way I’d like to. So why do I still find I’m drawn back to my Cross Pen and Moleskin A5 notebook as a great way to take notes and sketch ideas? A Fast Company article may provide the answer; ‘The Pen is Mightier Than The Phone: A Case For Writing Things Out’, which reported a Forrester Research Survey of business professionals that found that 87% of them supplemented their use of gadgets with paper. Frankly, this doesn’t seem that surprising, but I was interested to read ‘By committing your thought to paper, you’re also doing more to lock it into place.’ Virginia Berninger, professor of educational psychology at the University of Washington, has the brain scans to prove it. Berninger told the Wall Street Journal in Oct. 2010 that as your hand executes each stroke of each letter, it activates a much larger portion of the brain’s thinking, language, and “working memory” regions than typing, which whisks your attention along at a more letters-and-words pace.

A 2008 study, also cited in the Journal, asked adults to distinguish between characters in another language and their trick mirror images. Those who had a chance to write out the original characters with pen and paper had “stronger and longer-lasting recognition” of the proper orientation than those who found the character on a keyboard.

So perhaps that explains why I keep wanting to go back to my Moleskin notebook. I have started to sketch ideas out on paper and then add them to Evernote as a photo for easy reference later. A blended approach to learning?

After reading the Fast Company article on Monday night, I found Dan Gold’s e-book on using Evernote to simplify your GTD system and have everything in one place. Not surprisingly, I’m not using Evernote as effectively as I could be. So, I’m going to give it a go and try to simplify my GTD system to just my Calendar, Evernote and of course my Moleskin notebook.