Aug 17, 2019 - 4 minute read - kanban organization GTD productivity agile agile organizer

I’ve Moved From Paper To…. Paper

(see here for the full Agile Organizer series)

I’ve been using the agile organizer for better than four years and it’s worked swimmingly. But I started working at Dropbox last year on a product called Paper. I figured I’d give Dropbox Paper a go to see how well it might fit in with the Agile Organizer, either for collection or whatever. Well, after 16 months, I’m still using Dropbox Paper to do AO.

Caveat: I work or Paper as my day job, so take all of the following with that in mind.

For task management, it’s really good. Just put a checkbox next to something with [], and it’s a todo. I keep my notes under the relevant todo item. This way, the info is where I can find it when I need it. You can assign a date to a todo item, and Paper will send you an email that morning reminding you. It allows for click and drag for reordering them — actually you can reorder numbered/bulleted list items too. If you’re collaborating with others, it supports collaborative editing, and you can assign tasks to others, and they’ll get an email about it. You can also get emails when docs are edited and commented on, so it’s easy to follow.

With the built-in /date macro, I can easily have a Done section, segmented by date, where I drag completed items into. You can collapse the contents of a section by clicking a little triangle to the right of the heading, this way I can hide the contents of sections like someday/maybe or scheduled items since I don’t need to look at them all the time. Paper also remembers what you had collapsed, so when you come back to the doc, it’s the way you left it.

Among the sections in my main TODO doc are: Current TODOs, Done, Scheduled Items, For Next Performance Review, Documents, previous TODO documents (they do get big after a while). The Scheduled section for TODOs coming in the future, periodic reminders, and/or when certain product versions I have go EOL. For Next Performance Review is a section to keep track of major things I’ve done for my performance reviews review. The Documents section has links to documents that I need quick at hand. Paper has an unobtrusive outline on the left side of the page for easy navigation between the sections.

I like that it has specific support for code. Trying to type or paste code into a Google doc, or Word is an infuriating thing — they want to uppercase things, or do weird stuff. In Paper, it’s like Markdown, three backticks and code away. It even does some measure of source-code highlighting — it’s not perfect, but ain’t bad.

The mobile app works quite well for my use cases — usually just tweaking a doc, or checking items off the TODO list. I wouldn’t do large editing of anything as keyboards on mobile devices are pretty terrible, but for a one off here or there, it’s just fine.

Overall, I like it because it’s the closest online tool I’ve found to being a sketch pad — it doesn’t have any presupposed flows that I have to fight against. I really like that I can use Markdown (not full MD, but enough) to type at it. I don’t find myself getting angry using it like I do with MS Word or Google Docs where it tries to “help” and I’m just like “don’t try to out think me, I know what I want!”

I could talk about embedding images, galleries, YouTube videos, your Dropbox files, and such, but this isn’t a product ad. It’s flexibility has made it able to do just about everything I need an organization system to do. Does that mean I’ve given up dead-tree notebooks entirely? No. I still use a steno pad that I use for rough data collection and notes (I prefer to leave the laptop at my desk or closed during meetings when possible) - and when warranted, they wind up in a Paper doc somewhere — or just maybe scanned and dropped somewhere convenient, but for the vast majority of the things I need an organizer to do, Paper does what I need. And I still use the original AO notebook for my personal life.

But in short, if you’re not a fan of sticky notes and paper, you should try (capital P) Paper.