Paper vs. Digital Planners

It’s no secret that I love planners. It only takes a quick glimpse at the blogs I read, the pictures I’ve favorited on Flickr, or even this blog to notice.  It’s also no secret that I love technology. I work for an IT department, and have even been referred to as iAndrea for having so many Apple products. {I’m not even joking.}

In high school, I practically lived out of my monthly/weekly planners the school provided. Ever since then though, I’ve been buying planner after planner hoping one would magically solve all my planning needs. Clearly I haven’t come across one yet, because I’m still struggling in the paper planner world, but if I do find one, I’ll be sure to let everyone know.

Before I continue, I want to clear up one thing. I write about planners a lot, and I have a LOT of calendars and a LOT in my calendars for that matter. I have had some people in my life claim they need to book an appointment with me just to hang out after hearing about it. {Think 27 Dresses, where the guy penciled himself in throughout her Filofax.} That’s not me. My Filofax/planner/whatever does NOT rule my life. In fact, I’d say 90% of what I write down with the exception of work related meetings doesn’t even get done. I just like to {pretend to} have a plan about where I’m supposed to be or supposed to be doing. It’s my way of dealing with anxiety, and I also like going back seeing what I’ve done or written down. It is by no means some minute-by-minute guide for my life.

Anyway, with that rant out of the way, I’ve been carrying my Filofax with me everywhere for months even though I rarely even use it anymore. Don’t get me wrong. It makes me feel incredibly fancy when I grab my Osterley out of my bag, and it makes me look crazy organized even though nothing’s written in it, but looking pretty isn’t what an organizer is actually for. Lately, I’ve actually started thinking that maybe I’m not in planner fail at all. {Crazy idea right?!} Maybe I just don’t have a use for a paper planner anymore. Maybe I’m just trying to use it because I’m used to carrying it around. The more I thought about it, the more it seemed to make sense. I mean, before I got to college, phones weren’t allowed in school, and laptops were almost taboo until senior year. Tablets weren’t even a thing yet. I HAD to use a paper planner. Ever since then, there’s been nothing stopping me from using my phone/iPad/laptop instead.

With that in mind, I started to think about what I gravitate towards when I do need a planner.

  • When I’m at work and have to schedule a meeting with someone, I open up Google Calendar on my computer.
  • When someone wants to schedule a meeting with me, they do it through Google Calendar, and I get an email invitation.
  • When a friend asks me to meet for dinner, I add it to Google Calendar from my phone.
  • All of my recurring tasks are in Things.
  • Anything I think of spur of the moment usually gets put into the inbox in Things.
  • Outside of that, my other to-dos are either in my email or in Pocket/Readkit.
  • And meeting agendas are in Google Drive.

Nothing is on paper. Everything is digital, so it makes sense that I wouldn’t check my Filofax. My Filofax ends up being just another place I have to write things down, and being the efficient person I like to be, why waste time doing that if I’m not getting anything out of it. Even the other things people track like health, books to read, or wishlists are online for me using my Fitbit, Goodreads, and Pinterest.

So here’s what I came up with about why I prefer using a digital calendar instead of a paper planner.

  • One device is all you need. At the very least, I have my iPhone with me, and that’s all I need. My events aren’t in a planner while my contacts are in another.
  • I can color code without toting around multi-color pens and highlighters.
  • I don’t need to rewrite things. Whether I check it at home, at work, on my phone, iPad, or computer, it’s the same everywhere.
  • I can switch between daily, weekly, monthly, and even yearly views whenever I want without adding any bulk, having to rewrite things, or spending any money on inserts.
  • When plans change or I make a mistake, I don’t need to worry about whether I wrote it in erasable pen or how I can cover up the wrong information if I didn’t. I just have to edit the event. For a perfectionist, this is a huge win for me.
  • When I need to schedule an event well in the future, I never have to worry about where to write it down until I get next year’s inserts.
  • If I want to remember when something happened, I can search for it immediately rather than worrying about whether I removed inserts and if so where to look for them when I get home.
  • On a similar note, there’s no need to worry about where or how to store inserts or planners that you aren’t using. {I usually end up putting them in an old empty Birchbox and then losing the box in the pile of other boxes I did the same thing for the months before that.}
  • I don’t have to keep writing recurring events. When 90% of your life is routine, recurring events, it’s nice to not have to waste time rewriting them every day/week/month. It also keeps me on a regular schedule for appointments with doctors or when I need to get my hair done. {I will forget and it’ll be years before I go otherwise.}
  • Google calendar reminds me of events I might forget. If I have a meeting after lunch, you can bet I’ll forget about it if I don’t have a reminder, even if I wrote it down in my planner that morning and saw it on my calendar about 20 times. With Google Calendar, I get a reminder 15 minutes before my event which is enough time for me to get nearly anywhere on campus in time for the meeting.
  • It allows other people to tell me when they are available or unavailable. My coworkers share when they are leaving early or when they’ll be out. Similarly, my mom shows me when she’ll be away, and I need to watch her dogs. Simple.
  • I can choose which calendars I want to see. Some days I want to see when the Ravens are playing more than my Workout calendar. Some days I may want to check the dates on my university’s academic calendar, and other days I may want to see how my appointments line up with my daily routine. With Google calendar, I can choose to look at one calendar, a few of them, or all of them. I don’t always need or want to see everything, but it’s there if I ever need it. You can’t say that with a Filofax. It’s either there or it isn’t.

I’m sure some of you planner people are cringing at the idea digital could be better than paper, but for me it works. One of the most common things people mention in the digital vs. paper debate is battery life, but for someone who carries a battery pack and a car charger nearly everywhere, I’ve only once or twice been in a dead phone situation, but that was my own fault for not bringing the battery. Even so, I’m never going in a situation when my phone is dying {usually around 10pm} and I have somewhere to go to on foot. Moreover, phone numbers aren’t an issue for me either, because I rarely use the phone, and for those people I do call, I have memorized their numbers.

So for now, I’m actually thinking of leaving my Filofax home, and the thought of it makes me uncomfortable. Even though I’m not using it, I’ve carried a planner for so many years {since I was in elementary school really}, not having one to carry makes me feel like I’m forgetting something.

However, the point that proved I don’t need to be carrying it was that my first concerns were where would I keep my pen and store reward cards – two things I wasn’t carrying it around for. The pen is now going to live in the pen loop of my purse organizer, and I am relocating my cards back into my Vera Bradley wristlet. Problem solved.

I don’t plan on abandoning the planner world. I still very much enjoy reading about and seeing everyone’s lovely planners, but right now, it’s just not for me.

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10 thoughts on “Paper vs. Digital Planners

  1. Amanda says:

    I use the calendar on my iPad for things like reoccurring appointments because it is easier to add it in once and then hit repeat. I copy them into my filofax at the beginning of each week so I don’t double book myself. I have just updated to iOS 7 and the notification screen tells me what is on my calendar for the next day which is great BUT I was just looking at that screen and realised that there was nothing about tomorrow showing when I know I have things to do so I have gone into my calendar and EVERYTHING has disappeared! I know everything backs up to the iCloud but now I need to check how I can restore my appointments. I’m ok for this week as they are already in my filofax but I need to sort it before the weekend. I love technology too but I’m glad I’m also a papper planner.

    • Andrea @ says:

      Oh no! I’m thankful that I’ve never had any major issue with losing my data. Back in the day, when I used a Blackberry, it was constantly deleting things. Somewhere along the way, someone decided it was a good idea that if your Blackberry was running out of space, old messages were safe to delete without asking, and however it decided to sync contacts was always a mystery to me, so I never bothered with that either. I do wish you luck in being able to restore the data. That is one area where paper planners do win.

      I also really enjoy iOS7’s updates to the notification center, but I have a habit of actually checking my app instead. I have my work calendar shared with my personal Gmail account so that I can see my work appointments and personal appointments in one view on my computer, but because of that I end up with duplicate events in the notification center’s today view. There’s no way to hide a particular calendar from notification center even if it’s hidden on the phone’s actual calendar. I was really hoping Apple would have fixed that bit, but for now I’m stuck either having to see duplicate events in notification center or not being able to respond to events from my work calendar. Responding to events is more important.

      • Amanda says:

        There are a few kinks they need to sort out but on the whole I’m really liking it! I’ve managed to get the info back. I’m not sure how I did it, I couldn’t restore it without updating my version of iTunes but I didn’t have time to do that. I logged onto the iCloud and saw my original calendar, I typed the most important appointments back into the iPad and then half an hour later everything was back where it should be and I had double entries. Lol I still love my iPad though!

      • Andrea @ says:

        Well at least you didn’t lose anything. That’s the good part. I use Google Calendar for my calendars and haven’t ever had any issues. I’ve never gotten into using Apple’s iCloud for anything other than back ups of my devices though. I guess that’s one area where I trust Google more, but I also don’t feel any need to move over to iCloud for my calendars either.

  2. Tim Edwards says:

    Hi Andrea – your post really hit a chord with me! I’ve been passionate about planners (we call them organisers in these parts!) for over 25 years. My family buying me an iPad last year was a life changer for me. Like you, just about everything now goes onto or into my iPhone/ iPad and my Filofax(es) get carried around and rarely used.

    I’m currently down to a Slimline Holborn that doubles as a jacket wallet. Still great for a few sheets of information that I need to refer to quickly and still ideal for jotting down notes when on the telephone or in a meeting. Everything else is synced, shared and up in the iCloud! Keep writing your interesting posts! Tim

    • Andrea @ says:

      I’m glad I’m not the only one. I’m not too much of a note taker, but you’ve given me an idea that maybe I can use my Filofax at work instead of using my post its for jotting down things. Who knows, maybe I will venture back into the paper world, but for now, I’m loving the simplicity and the lighter bag.

  3. Melinda says:

    I recently have been throwing the idea around of starting back up a paper planner. Why? I am not 100% sure. I think for the pretty factory. I see all these amazing planners on Pinterest and all these fun things you can do with them and I was drawn into them. I used to be an avid scrap booker and since having kids those days became scarcely numbered. I thought by making a paper planner I could get to use some of the “cute papers and stickers” in a quick and simple way. Lol. After coming across your post I just want to say THANK YOU!!!! I have been an electronic planner for the last few years and it has been working just fine for me and that is what I will be sticking with. You made a lot of very good points and I completely agree with you on them. 😄 Thank you again.

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