Is Paper Really Doomed? Productivity Apps Are Taking Over

Productivity – out of 450 million words in the Corpus of Contemporary American English, “productivity” is in the top 5 hundred, which is pretty good, considering its contextual limits. It is THE word of the 21st century. 

The modern lifestyle is a fast paced one and being time efficient is a must. We are time-bound creatures, and we have less and less of it, but never before has technology helped us in this scale to be more productive, at the office, at home or even on vacation. Pen and paper were great discoveries, revolutionary as they changed history and propelled education, but it seems that they are losing the battle every day as there is an even greater need to be time efficient. People are looking for something a bit more functional and a bit more – compact – we want everything at the tip of our fingers and we want it instantly. It seems natural that we turn to productivity apps as we spend so much time looking at our smartphones and computers.

We have to meet deadlines as low management officials or coordinate groups of people on large projects as upper-management coordinators, and on top of all of that there is no margin for error. That means a lot of sticky notes, an organizer filled with pending meetings, phone numbers, associates’ names, and other dibble-dabble. And you don’t have to be a high profile executive to have a tough time to organize your day – even stay home moms are struggling to juggle between making meals, picking up the kids from school, taking them to soccer practice, etc. All this means you are probably always on the go, so you need to be flexible and on the move.

So, where is paper losing the war?

Mobility (Productivity apps lead by one)

Well, you don’t have to be Steve Jobs to guess who has the upper hand here – there is a wide range of free productivity apps for mobile phones (or smartphones) – the little device you and I carry everywhere with us. If you manage your to-do’s using a productivity app you will have the notes at your disposal at all times. You needn’t carry all your paper notes in big briefcases, the smartphone is the briefcase of the 21st century. You will never miss another meeting or forget to pick up your kids from school (let’s face it, this happened at least once to everyone).

Searching for Notes (This one’s a tie)

Going through tons of paper is no fun. When you have day-to-day tasks organized in paper notes you will be drowning in sheets of it. You shouldn’t waste your organizational skills in organizing your paper notes – you should be using these skills in executing your everyday tasks. Though paper here has a big advantage – when you write something on it you can be fairly sure that it will be there when you need it, paper doesn’t have a battery which can get drained and it can’t be infected with a computer virus which will delete all the notes.

Even though apps have the advantage of easy access, we have to call it a draw in this category.

Shareability (Productivity apps go up by two)

If you have the need to share any of your notes or tasks with someone else when it comes to paper you have a few options. You can either fax it (however this is a machine that is dying out of the office), you can scan the notes and send it via e-mail, or you can find the person and give it by yourself, which often is not a possibility. Also, when there is a need to share with many people, the problems with paper notes are obvious.

With notes made in productivity apps it’s a bit of a different story. You can share your notes quickly and easily via email, Facebook, Skype, etc. This means that you are not bounded by space – you can send it to anyone who has a working internet connection, and the number of people to whom you can send your notes is virtually unlimited.

How Are You Reminded (Productivity apps in for the kill)

Paper doesn’t have an alarm, paper reminds you if you remind yourself to look it up. That’s a bit of design flaw, you have to agree, but who knows maybe they will fix it with version 2.0. But, seriously, this is a big problem and productivity apps come in handy here. You can easily write in the time of something that needs to be done – the alarm goes off and it instantly draws your attention and reminds you of a pending task. This helps you greatly in managing your time, whether you have a big meeting with a new client or you just have to take the soufflé out of the oven.


It looks like paper has a gloomy future in front of it. It still hasn’t lost the war and polls show that more than 50% of people still prefer paper over digital notes, however when today’s digital savvy younger generations reach their thirties we can expect a tipping point where productivity apps will take over.

How about you – paper or apps?