May 3, 2021

From the Desk: Ugmonk Analog Review

Will the Ugmonk Analog make you better at completing your to-do list? Probably not. But it might make you want to.

From the Desk: Ugmonk Analog Review

I tend to treat productivity systems like Pokémon--gotta catch 'em all. When a new to-do app or methodology is released, I jump in and give it a whirl, which is probably why no one thing has stuck with me.

In fact, in a recent episode of my podcast, Home Work, my cohost, Dave, and I discussed putting our systems on autopilot--getting them to a place where they practically run themselves. Unfortunately, I never stay with one system long enough to get to that point.

But in the last few weeks, I've been pushing myself to try something new--and not just a new system. My goal during this time has been to stick with one framework, be it a rigid adherence to the Getting Things Done method, or using one to-do app instead of fifteen.

Well, on my digital devices, Things by Cultured Code has been my go-to for managing my daily task lists. It's beautiful and simple and doesn't throw a lot in my face the way some other applications do.

On a more analog level, however, things are a bit stickier. I developed a methodology several months ago called the Work/Life Task System, designed around reducing how often I check my work emails after hours. I've gotten better about that and my company rarely emails me after 5:30 with things to do, so I don't really see the need to keep noting when I check my email anymore.

Yet, I still need to keep better track of what, exactly, must get done on any given day. I've got separate lists for the various aspects of my life--freelancing, the blog, video projects, and home stuff. It's a lot, and being able to see the most important tasks right up front would go a long way to making my life a lot easier.

Things is where everything ends up, but once my tasks are logged, I need to filter them down. Not everything needs to be done at once. Some items can wait. Others are more important--and I need those important items in front of my face at all times, lest I forget to do them.

To help with this, I've been relying on a set of Strategist Index Cards from Baronfig, which are pre-printed cards featuring lines for tasks on one side and an open dot grid on the other. I love them, and I still plan on using them...once my other cards run out.

Those other cards? They're made by a company called Ugmonk and they are part of a beautiful productivity system they named, simply, Analog.

There are two main components to Analog. The first is a gorgeous card caddy made of walnut, with a repository at the back for storing either blank or used cards--depending on your preference. There are two small, but powerful magnets near the front, designed to hold a metal divider over the repository, separating it into two sections.

With the divider in place, you can store blank cards in one half of the holder and used cards in the other. I would have loved to see the wooden caddy made just a little taller to accommodate a full stack of blank cards on the bottom, separated by the metal divider on top. With its current limitations, I've placed the blank cards on top and left the bottom open to store my used cards instead.

At the front of the holder is a narrow, angled slit where you can stand up the day's active card. This is what makes Analog so valuable for me. An index card by itself can get lost beneath papers on my desk, or under my keyboard mat, or it can blow away to the floor and I'll never find it again. By having it front and center underneath my monitor, however, I always know where it is and I can see all my important tasks immediately.

The cards themselves are printed on uncoated 100# stock and measure 3" by 5". There are fifty to a pack, divided into three categories:

  1. Today cards come in white and are designed for you to list out your top ten tasks for the day. On the back is an open dot grid for you to jot notes or draw pictures.
  2. Tasks that don't get completed can be transferred to a Next card, which is a creamy, off-white color and meant to help you focus your to-dos for the next day.
  3. Finally, Someday cards have a kraft paper look and are for the kinds of tasks that don't necessarily have a due date. These might be long-term projects, like "clean the garage" or "redesign my blog." As you get closer to completing them, you can move them to a Next card or Today card when ready.

At the top of each card is a line to write the date. Beside that, in the top right corner, are three circles--or dots--arranged vertically. The idea here is to color in the dots to connect related cards together. For example, you might color in the top dot on cards pertaining to one project, while coloring in the top and middle dots could tie cards with grocery lists together.

There's also a system centered around filling in the bubbles alongside each task, known as Task Signals, which indicate where a specific item on your list stands. A half-filled circle, for example, means a task is in-progress, while a circle that's completely filled in indicates a completed task.

What's nice is that the system isn't strict. You can create your own symbols for tracking task progress, or use something like Patrick Rhone's Dash/Plus system instead.

The beauty of Analog is its simplicity. Could you accomplish all of this with a three-dollar stack of index cards from staples and a shoebox? Sure, but why would you want to? Analog isn't for everyone, from both a financial and a practical level.

It's expensive, with the starter kit--including the walnut card holder and a three-pack of 50 cards--running about $100. Card refills cost $40 for a three-pack, or $30 if you opt for the subscription model. It's also relatively easy to replicate with other, cheaper materials. If you really wanted to, you could build your own Analog system for twenty bucks.

But then you wouldn't have the crisp, beautifully printed cards, nor would you have the card holder's carefully rounded edges, or the laser-etched logo on the front.

Analog is a beautiful tool. It looks fantastic on a desk, like a dormant peacock waiting for you to pluck a feather from its backside. And like any beautiful tool, it makes you want to use it. I often find myself coming up with random tasks to do, just so I can scribble them down and color in the bubbles when I'm done.

If you have the means and you're looking for a tangible, aesthetically pleasing way to keep track of your to-dos, give Analog a try.