Going Old-School: Why Top Achievers Shun Digital Tools for Productivity.

Carl Pullein
4 min readNov 1, 2023

If you listen to interviews with incredibly productive people, you will notice that most of them are not using many digital tools to organise their work. Yes, they use a digital calendar, which makes sense as it solves a particular problem.

Before the digital revolution, we needed to carry around a diary. If you were fortunate enough to have an assistant, they needed a copy of your diary to know where you were on specific days. The digital calendar solved that by allowing assistants and family members to access their calendars.

Beyond that, very few are using the plethora of digital notes or task managers available today. Christian Horner, CEO and Team Principle of Red Bull Racing, carries around a leather-bound A4 notebook (and Mont Blanc pen), taking notes and presumably writing out his to-dos for the day. Red Bull’s Chief Technical Officer, Adrian Newey, is rarely seen without his red notebook.

David Allen, the father of the modern productivity movement, still collects ideas, notes and to-dos using his notetaker wallet and, when at his desk working, will more likely scribble down a thought, idea, or to-do on a notepad on his desk for processing later than adding it to his digital task manager directly.

Warren Buffett carries his little pocket diary everywhere he goes and remains reluctant to add anything. He loves the space and flexibility of having no appointments for the day.

This does not mean you should reject digital tools. After all, digital tools do help us. It’s a lot easier to digitally write and share a document, store documents you want to share with your team, and access information relevant to your work.

However, the biggest advantage of minimising the digital tools you use is you have less to keep organised and up-to-date. You have fewer options about where something will go or what you will use to do a piece of work.

For example, when I sat down to write this article, I did not need to think about where I should write it. I’ve been using Ulysses as my writing tool for almost eight years. I have Microsoft Word, Apple’s Pages and Google Docs On my computer. Yet, I still use Ulysses. It never crossed my mind to use anything else. After…



Carl Pullein

I help people learn to manage their lives and time better so they can experience joy and build a life they are truly proud of. www.carlpullein.com