iOS vs. paper

I’ve long contended that I can capture information more successfully with pen and paper than with any iOS app. After reading this great post by Joshua Schnell, I felt justified. Of course paper is better!

I also know that perception isn’t always reality, so that might not be true. It’s time for an experiment.

I’m going to spend the next month with four apps apps (using one per week) plus a notebook and a pencil. I’ll monitor my habits, take data and report back in five weeks. Here are the specifics.

The focus will be on capturing incoming information only. I’m looking for the best mobile inbox. For example, if someone asks me to perform a task at a certain time, I must be able to enter that request into my trusted system as easily as possible, with a 100% guarantee that I’ll see it again during processing. In this experiment, I will not be setting up calendar appointments, creating or adding to project lists, etc. Instead, I’ll simply push incoming stuff to “In.”

Some definitions

Stuff – I’ll go with David Allen’s definition: Anything that isn’t where it’s supposed to be. Like an appointment confirmation on voice mail, or a task in an email message.

Trusted System – The procedures by which I put a figurative stake in the ground that says, “This must be attended to. Here’s how and why.” In order for a system to gain my trust, I must feel absolutely confident that any information forwarded to it will not be lost or forgotten.

Ubiquitous Capture Tool (UCT) – The physical object(s) that allows me to capture stuff in any situation or environment.

The apps

Due – This app touts super-speedy task input.

TaskPaper – Super simple interface.

SimpleNote – It’s got companions on the desktop and iPad, plus over-the-air sync.

OmniFocus – Ph.D.-level task management.

That’s a nice range of apps. Before you balk about pitting Due against OmniFocus, remember: the goal is to jot down ideas. Every item on the list is just as capable as the others. Also, you might wonder why I’ve omitted obvious choices like Teux Deux and Calvetica. They’re both tremendous, but are best at handling time-sensitive tasks. I’m looking to capture any and everything.

Finally, I will use the iPhone only. No iPad.

The notebook

I’ll be using one of my trusty Field Notes Brand notebooks.

The data

As I work through the month, I’ll note:

  • How long it takes to enter a task
  • Convenience
  • Reliability
  • Usefulness
  • Which one I find myself wanting to go to (towards the end of the month)

Hardly scientific, I know, but still telling. For now, I’m off. Look for part 2 in five weeks.