The Pros and Cons of Project Management Software Analog or digital? Here's why you should (or maybe shouldn't) use project management software.

By John Boitnott

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

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For people who are addicted to project management software and tools, there has never been a better time to be alive.

Task management apps, bullet journals, simple lists, Getting Things Done—busy entrepreneurs have a wealth of options from which to choose.

However, one of the foundational questions you'll need to answer for yourself first is this: "Analog or digital?"

Related: Launch a Project Management Career with This $45 'Lean Six Sigma' Education

Defining Analog vs. Digital

Analog systems are paper-and-pen based. They can include tools and approaches such as bullet journals, basic task lists, index cards, a Moleskine notebook or a day planner.

Essentially, anything that's built out of the very basic tools of paper and pen is analog.

Digital, of course, means apps. That can mean an expensive app that tracks task lists, free project management software or anything in between.

It can also be a simple plain text file in a basic text editor. Almost any strategy you can think of that's available in paper format is probably available as an app, either for iOS or Android devices or for both.

Which is best for you?

Related: Why Project Managers Are Essential to Your Business

The Elegance of Project Management Software

There's no question that digital task and project management software are highly popular, especially with busy entrepreneurs on the go.

For sheer efficiency, the digital approach wins, hands down. You can copy and paste text, easily check off completed actions and drag and drop items into your preferred organizational structure.

Differences Between Project Management Software

With the plethora of apps available, it's never been easier to find one that matches your needs precisely.

Design and UI can make quite a bit of difference to users.

  • If you're more linear in your approach, an app that presents your tasks in a list may be a better fit.

  • For those who prefer to get the "big picture" view, seeing all your commitments at a glance, you may feel more comfortable with a different approach, such as a card-based UI.

Last but not least, project management software apps are flexible and portable.

If the app or apps you select have mobile versions, preferably ones that sync up across all your devices (including laptop and desktop computers), then you can take your system with you wherever you go.

The Surprising Power of Pen and Paper

As efficient as project management software may be, there are other considerations to keep in mind, possibly ones that carry even more weight, depending on your situation and needs.

It's true that apps make copying, pasting or task tracking more efficient, but "efficiency" isn't interchangeable with "productivity"—unless your definition of the latter means "getting as much busy work done in as short a time as possible."

Related: Your Lousy Handwriting Might Actually Make You Smarter

Boosting Creativity with Analog Systems

However, for most business owners, this is just not the case. Entrepreneurs aren't workers on an assembly line from the early 20th century.

You need downtime, thinking time, time to exercise creativity and do some deep consideration of your actual priorities.

That's something pen and paper-based systems do very well. Here are a few reasons why some entrepreneurs prefer writing to project management software:

  • The act of repetitively writing down tasks that didn't get done, for example, helps reinforce the item in your brand.

  • It increases the pressure you experience to get the task done, which can be helpful for procrastinators.

  • Analog tools let you exercise your own creativity to a greater degree. That might be overwhelming for some, but for others, it can be a powerful draw.

Pen and Paper, Project Management Software, or Both?

Whether project management software is best for you depends on your preferences and your business' needs.

To make the best choice, consider each of these factors when evaluating your productivity system options:

  • How do you work best?

  • How mobile you are during your work week?

  • What's your planning style?

Looking at each of these factors, you should now have a better idea of which approach would work best for you.

However, you're not restricted to one or the other. If you find some aspects that make you lean towards a paper and pen approach, while others suggest a digital tool might be better suited for your needs, you can create a hybrid approach.

For example, you can use a paper notebook for capturing ideas and data during the day, then transfer your projects, tasks, and appointments to an app or two on your phone.

Be Consistent in Your Approach

Finally, consider any preferences you feel intuitively towards one system or another. In the final analysis, the best productivity system for you is the one you'll use consistently.

No matter what the analysis might reveal, if you still have a strong reaction one way or the other, it's worth paying attention to that feeling.

The key is to make the system work for you, not to twist yourself and the way you work to suit the system. Remember that productivity systems are all about becoming more productive—getting your tasks completed, staying focused, ensuring you're on time.

With all the options available today, it's never been easier to create a personalized approach that works for you.

Wavy Line
John Boitnott

Entrepreneur Leadership Network VIP

Journalist, Digital Media Consultant and Investor

John Boitnott is a longtime digital media consultant and journalist living in San Francisco. He's written for Venturebeat, USA Today and FastCompany.

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