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Most people today use their phones or computers to plan out their day digitally – but there are still some die-hard paper planners out there too.
Figuring out whether a digital planner or a paper planner works best for you is often the first step towards developing your productivity.
Here’s what you need to know.
The Advantages of Paper Planners
Before computers, there were only paper planners, and paper planners were entirely sufficient for most people’s needs. Though they may not be searchable, there are still some advantages to going “old school”:
- Paper planners can be used without electronics. You can write in a paper planner wherever you are, without having to boot up a computer or have a smartphone nearby. This makes a paper planner more convenient and easy to use, especially if you are often on the go.
- Paper planners can be useful reminders. When you write something down physically, you are more likely to remember it. This is one reason note-taking is so important when you’re in school. By writing down appointments and activities, you can ensure that you retain more information.
- Paper planners can be more straightforward. A paper planner gives you all the information you need on a single page. If you’re someone who prefers simplicity, this may be easier to read and to use than a digital planner. Digital planners tend to be far more complex and give you more information up front.
- Paper planners can be isolated. When you get onto a computer or look at your smartphone, you are more likely to get distracted with something else. A paper planner is isolated from other digital distractions, thereby making it easier to focus on.
- Paper planners can be easier to use. For some people, flipping through paper is simply more natural feeling and more accessible than having to launch an app and swipe through it. If paper planning feels more “comfortable” to you, it’s also probably more effective.
- Paper planners can be physically secured. With a digital planner, you may need to worry that your planner may be hacked. This is especially true if you keep confidential business information in your planner. A physical planner is far more secure.
The Advantages of Digital Planners
Digital planners are the most popular option today. Though they may not have the “feel” of a paper planner, they have a lot of advanced technical features. Here are some of the best:
- Digital planners can be accessed from anywhere. If your planner is on the cloud or available on a website, you can log in wherever you go. That means you don’t have to carry a cumbersome planner around with you, and that you can check it on-the-fly wherever you are.
- Digital planners can be easily searched. By searching for keywords, you can get data regarding everything that you need to do. Don’t remember when a task needed to be completed? You can simply search for the name.
- Digital planners can be categorized and tagged. There are many things that we need to track today, ranging from our home lives to our work lives. The ability to categorize and tag activities in digital planners makes it easy to filter through your tasks.
- Digital planners can be set to alert you. Most planners can send alerts directly to your phone and your email address, letting you know when something is about to be due. This gives you an additional reminder and a boost to productivity.
- Digital planners can be integrated into online schedules. Your family, friends, and colleagues will be able to see when you’re busy and can connect with you regarding shared events. Digital planners can often be integrated directly into online calendars.
- Digital planners can be used with other applications. For instance, an entry item that says “call grandmother” can automatically launch your grandmother’s phone number, to make the task easier to complete. Digital planners can link to websites, email addresses, contact information, and locations — some of them can even tell you when you need to start driving in order to get to a location on time.
- Digital planners can be backed up in multiple locations. You aren’t going to lose a digital planner, whereas a paper planner could easily be lost or misplaced. Your digital planners can be backed up so that nothing is ever lost.
Tips for Using Both Digital and Paper Planners
Some people like to use both types of planners. This can convey both advantages and disadvantages. On the positive side, it means that you can get the benefits of both worlds. On the negative side, it can become confusing and lead to lost information. Here are a few tips for using both digital and paper planners:
- Always move information from one platform to another. Either always transfer your paper data to your digital files or transfer your digital files to your paper data — the important thing is that you are consistent in this. One platform should contain all of your data while the other platform should include all of your most critical data. As an example, you could move all of your appointment alerts to a digital planner, or you could write down a to do list every day in your paper planner.
- Give yourself time to organize your thoughts. You should have a special time every week to organize both your digital and paper planner, to ensure that you aren’t forgetting anything.
Neither paper planners nor digital planners are inherently any better than the other. Instead, it’s all about what you find most comfortable. Take a week or two to test out each type of planner and figure out which feels best. It may even benefit you to switch between the two occasionally, so that you remain mindful of your plans.
What Do I Use?
I’m glad you asked!
I use my day-at-a-glance paper diary to list all my priorities for that day. That includes work, home, recreational activities and study commitments. This helps keep me focused on what’s important for each day.
I then use my various electronic devices to keep my productivity in check.
- Reminder alarms are set on my phone for home and recreational tasks.
- Google calendar sends me reminders on tasks I’ve planned for work.
- Project management software stores all my project information, communication and deadlines, which keeps me organized without having to “remember” every last detail.
- Cloud-based communication apps keep me connected with my team throughout the day while we work remotely.
Without these tools I would be lost. I’ve tried various methods over the years and currently this works best for me. Try and test different planner tools to see what works best for you.
A version of this article was originally posted on Get Organized Wizard in 2017.