Low-/No-Tech Productivity

Low-tech productivity tools are ways to distance yourself from technology when it is not helpful and possibly hurtful.


No-tech meaning no computers involved in the usage of the actual tool.

Hipster PDA

A hipster PDA consists of:

Put them together and you have a portable tool for solving problems, taking notes, todo lists, whatever.


A pocketmod is a small booklet made out of a standard letter size or A4 paper. Either pre-printed or just blank, this can be useful for reference material, note taking, or simple templated tools (e.g. a financial ledger, paper computers).

I used Pocketmods as a ledger for all my debits and credits when I had my own spreadsheet budgeting system pre-YNAB.

You can find a PocketMod SVG template here (1kb).

Noguchi Filing System[13]

The short version of this is just use a LRU cache with your files or folders. But more verbosely:

  1. Get manila folders and cut off the top end with the flap, so that any papers inside stick out of the top.
  2. Write a one to two word description on the long edge, with the papers sticking out the right hand side.
  3. Put all your folders in the file cabinet.

You are done. When you need a folder, search for it. When you are done, put it at the very front. The folders you need the most often will always be easily accessible, where the ones you need least will take longer.


Low-tech meaning eschewing complicated, fragile, or problematic systems (e.g. Adobe, Evernote) for something simpler[7].

Plaintext Everything

A plain TXT file (or Markdown) can easily accomplish the 80/20 of task management, calendars, record keeping, or whatever else, and there are many many examples[5,6,14]. Advantages are it is universal, completely customizable, easily searchable, cross platform, cloud synced through something like Dropbox, and nimble. Disadvantages are not a "sexy" GUI, potentially takes more maintenance, requires some planning.

Shell Scripts

This takes a bit more investment and planning, but learning how to make scripts in your shell (bash, zsh, etc.) can automate otherwise time consuming or annoying tasks[11]. For example:

Hammock Driven Development

This is more of a method, but I think it should get a mention here. Big point of this method is that you should be spending most of your time solving problems and most of that time should be away from the computer.


  1. http://www.43folders.com/2004/09/03/introducing-the-hipster-pda
  2. https://netninja.com/hipsterpda/
  3. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hipster_PDA
  4. https://pocketmod.com/
  5. https://plaintextproject.online/links.html
  6. https://danlucraft.com/blog/2008/04/plain-text-organizer/
  7. https://kairos.technorhetoric.net/20.2/inventio/stolley/
  8. http://www.blossomassociates.org/Plan/
  9. https://github.com/todotxt/todo.txt-cli
  10. https://github.com/milofultz/sub2pub
  11. https://github.com/alebcay/awesome-shell#command-line-productivity
  12. https://merveilles.town/@exquisitecorp/107359264170996361
  13. https://fernandogros.com/the-noguchi-filing-system/
  14. https://sive.rs/plaintext

Last modified: 202204190418