The other day, I was at Tuesday Morning. I’d heard that some folks have found Filofax Flex notebooks there. So I wanted to see if they had any day planners or organizers.
As I was rooting around the paper section, the lady who was helping me mentioned that, although she likes paper organizers, nobody seems to use them much anymore. I wanted to contradict her and tell her about the thriving online community of folks who are dedicated to paper planners to help them manage their time.
But in a way, she was right, of course.
Planners and organizers seem to be entrenched in people’s minds as a relic of the bygone yuppie era. They seem shocked or think you’re strange when they find out paper planners still exist and you actually use them! (Read this post on Philofaxy for proof.)
The underlying question that isn’t often asked of you is “Are paper planners even effective these days?”
Paper planners in a digital world
I admit I’ve tried using a digital calendar. I actually still have a Casio Digital Diary from many years ago. It has all the functions of a paper planner (telephone directory, memo, to-do list, schedule, expense tracker, etc.).
I no longer remember what it keeps in its electronic guts. I don’t really care to get it fired up again, just to find out. I already know there’s not much in there that I’d like to keep, anyway. Maybe a couple of appointments and to-do lists. It worked great for me as a calculator. But beyond that, I didn’t use it much, because doing so seemed so fussy.
I currently have an iPhone with a couple of productivity apps. I have online and desktop calendars available at my disposal. And I’ve used them.
But, no matter how much I try, I never seemed to remember to check my electronic lists, update my calendar, or sync with whatever else I had going at the time. The clincher was that I found myself writing notes and reminders on pieces of paper, anyway.
My brain wasn’t synching with my digital organizers.
I know I’m not the only one who has experienced this. Many users of “ye olde Filofax” who left the fold eventually find themselves going back to paper at some point.
But why use paper planners at all?
Digital tech makes things run much faster and more smoothly these days.Wouldn’t it make sense that a digital planner/organizer is more efficient (ie., better) than a collection of ring-bound pages?
Sure, there are many arguments for making the case that digital is the way to go. You can sync with other gadgets. You don’t have to carry extra stuff because you have everything on your phone. And on and on.
I think it’s a linear thing, at least for me.
I’ve found that a digital planner can work really well when the pieces of my life proceed in a singular linear fashion. When one thing leads to another, and I can go down the items on the list one by one. When there are no “parallel lists” I need to keep track of. When there are no detours, and life happens step by step, with the next one neatly laid out for me on the screen.
And this is why digital organizers don’t work for me. Because my life and the way my mind works need space to move around and explore.
I think better on paper. I’m able to see bigger pictures when I write stuff down. I can connect more dots. When I use my Filofax, I somehow get a better grasp of this whole sphere that is my life at the moment, and how it’s related to my goals and vision for the future.
So, going back to the question: Are paper planners still effective?
Yes. But not for everyone.
Paper and digital can and do exist side by side. There’s a healthy and thriving online community that’s dedicated to paper planners. If you’re reading this blog, you’re probably part of that community. You’ve already found that paper planners just work better for you. And it will probably always be that way.
If you’re still on the fence about how to manage your time, whether it’s through paper or digital tools, I really don’t have a cut-and-dried answer for you. Except, maybe, to try them both out.
Don’t discount organizing your life on paper because it’s “cumbersome” or something your grandfather used to do. You may just find that writing things down on the page opens up whole dimensions of productivity and creativity in your life.
As for me, I’ve fully embraced my love of paper. My phone is useful and with me pretty much all the time. But my paper planner helps me live my life better and more effectively.
How about you? Do you prefer a paper planner or a digital calendar to manage your time?