Paper Planner vs. Digital Planner

Paper Planner vs. Digital Planner

Can’t decide if you should buy a physical planner or go completely digital?

I’ve gone through this issue before.

I’ve purchased all kinds of apps and physical planners, both have their positives and negatives. The convenience and “cool” features of apps always seemed appealing, but I always somehow “forget” my digital schedules, only to come back to them days/weeks later and feeling defeated.

Physical planners aren’t perfect, either. It can be difficult to know what to fill the blank pages with (we have a guide to planning your day and a daily planner to make it easy know what to fill your day with).

Throughout my experience getting better with both kinds of planners, I’ve determined physical planners blow digital ones away.

Here’s why writing is better than planning digitally:

Write More, Remember More

There are a lot of studies and anecdotal evidence on the benefits of writing down your thoughts and taking long-form notes of what you learn.

According to this series of mini-studies, a pair of psychology scientists determined that students who wrote notes long hand as opposed to typing them down wrote less information than students who typed their notes, but they were able to recall information easier and wrote down important lecture information instead of “mindlessly transcribing” notes onto their laptops. They also performed better on their tests than the laptop note takers did.

While this one test doesn’t prove anything conclusive, it highlights the power of writing things down.

You remember what you write down, and since it takes effort, you naturally write what’s important.

A Physical Planner is a Better Reminder

What will make you think of your pending tasks and schedule more:

An app inside of your smartphone


A physical planner sitting on top of your desk right next to your computer?

If the answer isn’t obvious, then I can’t help you.

A vital tenet of being more productive is to keep what’s important in your thoughts and don’t let them slip away. An amazing tool for doing that is a written planner, as it becomes a physical reminder of what needs to be done.

If you’re checking your random websites and generally wasting time, if you glance at your planner it will be an almost painful reminder of what needs to get done today and what you shouldn’t be doing.

Less Technology is a Good Thing These Days

From the moment we wake up to the moment we go to bed, there’s a screen in our face.

This article highlights 16 Chinese studies that link negative effects of screens on children, it’s not a stretch to believe a lot of the disadvantages also exist for adults.

Today, we get everything from our screens. There’s one in our pockets at all time, we work with them, we shop, entertain ourselves, see what’s happening in the world, and more all through our screens. Anything we can do to get away from them, even for a few minutes, is valuable.

Let’s Be Honest For a Moment

Why is there even a question about whether a physical planner or digital planner is better? Benefits aside, it should be obvious that a dedicated tool is best. The likely answer as to why this is even a question is that people are quick to sacrifice something potentially useful for the “convenience” of having another app in their smartphone.

Sure, there’s things your phone can do that pen and paper can’t. You can automate recurring events, or connect different devices together, but why would you want to? The point of scheduling manually is that you want to be writing what’s important consistently, always keeping it within your thoughts.

Putting information on what you should be doing in your phone is just as risky as thinking about it and telling yourself “I’ll remember this later.” It just doesn’t work in practice.

It’s not like you can’t set alerts for important events if you use a physical planner, either. If you have an important event scheduled, write it down and set an alarm for it in your phone.

Wrapping up

A physical, written planner is better for obvious and not-so-obvious reasons compared to a digital planner or a smartphone app.

Saving your planning exclusively on device you always keep in your pocket may seem like a good idea, but in reality it’s prone to having the same problems that scheduling everything in your brain would.

Do yourself a favor and choose physical, it’s the best way to make sure you don’t let what’s important slip away from your thoughts, which is really the main thing holding us back from getting more done.

If you want to start using physical, you can download our planner templates, which will give you the ability to plan your entire year down to each day, along with other useful printable templates.

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