Our smartphones are more than capable of keeping track of our daily schedules, and our desktops make it simple to stay on top of tasks. It’s not enough that this capability comes included out of the box — there is an overabundance of third-party alternatives.
Nevertheless, you can still see paper planners lined up on store shelves. And you know what? It’s not just the old or computerless who are buying them. There are practical reasons to prefer a physical product over a digital solution, even if thinking of them can leave some of us scratching our heads.
Why Even Consider a Paper Planner?
This question may seem ridiculous, especially to someone of an older generation, but when I was in high school, Microsoft Outlook was already entrenched, and Google Calendar was becoming a thing. Agendas were simply those annoying things teachers made us carry around.
In college, I experimented with no shortage of Linux applications dedicated to the task. By the time I received my diploma, smartphones were more commonplace, and switching to an Android app seemed like the logical next step. The idea of carrying around a pencil and notebook seemed simply absurd.
But now I find myself inundated with notifications, beeps, alerts, and messages. Having to open another tab, fire up another piece of software, or launch another app to access my calendar amounts to one more on-screen thing vying for my attention. With so much of my work and personal life dedicated to a computer, sometimes the most helpful thing can be to take a breath and walk away.
Suddenly a paper planner starts to make sense.
What Makes Digital Planners So Special?
For starters, you have a seemingly infinite amount of space to work with, giving you the room to fully flesh out each task. In Google Calendar, I can jot down an event’s start and end times, its location, the names of everyone else involved (along with their contact information), and just about any other detail that comes to mind.
Not only that, reminders automatically pop up on my desktop, in my inbox, or on my phone. Google Now will even tell me when I’m running late and integrate with Google Maps to calculate the best route.
As great as that sounds, it’s really just the beginning. For a while I used Todoist, which makes events and tasks searchable through the extensive use of tags. This way everything I needed to do or had already completed was easy to pull up in exactly the specific way I wanted.
Perhaps the biggest advantage online solutions have over old-fashioned pen and paper is the ability to sync your calendar with someone else’s. Should you and your co-workers come together on Friday to discuss the progress you’ve all made on the current project? Create an event, add it to their calendars, and automatically alert them via email while you’re at it. Don’t want your husband to forget the dinner date you two have planned for Tuesday? Boom, you’ve just added it to his calendar. There are no shortage of tools that make this all possible.
Digital planners come in any number of forms. Don’t like Google Calendar (even though it syncs with everything)? Try Sunrise, an alternative that is also cross platform. Evernote may be primarily a note-taking experience, but you can also use it to plan out your tasks, and it’s available on the web and as a mobile app.
Yet sadly, you still may not find something that really clicks with how your mind works.
Advantages of a Paper Planner
We all live and think differently. Pen and paper provide you with the freedom to create a system that works for you. Write down only the details you need to know, and don’t bother even thinking about the extra information that you already have in your head — you get your car fixed at the same shop every time, why are you still entering in the location?
A pen is also less likely to bog you down with the act of actually creating the reminder. Scribbling Meetup @ 2:30PM takes much less mental energy than opening an app and filling out the many variables that come after tapping the “add” button (seriously, why does creating a meeting involve as many entry fields as a DMV form?).
Physical calendars don’t come with notification bars where some alert calls for your eyeballs, nor do they make noise (unless you drop them). They don’t put a strain on your eyes, they don’t run out of battery life, and they don’t come out with an upgrade every few months. Nor do they require creating an account and giving a company access to your daily schedule.
They have only one singular purpose, providing you with space to keep track of what needs to be done now and in the days ahead. Paper planners may not be as configurable as their digital counterparts in certain ways, but these days, they’re pretty customizable in their own right.
The act of picking up a pen can get your mind thinking differently from the way it does when you place your fingers on a keyboard. X-ing out previous days may help you better keep track of the date. Physically turning pages may force you to think about how time’s always moving and motivate you to make better plans in the first place.
Sometimes just holding something in your hands can make all the difference.
Which Helps You Stay More Organized?
As I said before, no one size fits all. Chances are, you already have an established routine. Have you been carrying around a planner all these years? Do you prefer to manage all of your responsibilities in the cloud?
If you’ve found a system that works, we would love to hear all about it. Speak up in the comments below!