The Day Planner Is Better Than Digital Calendars -3 Indisputable Reasons This Is True

Remember pocket organizers? If you’re my age or older, you must remember those calculator-sized gadgets that were supposed to be some kind of “secretary in your pocket” and organize your busy life. I never had one, and now that I think about it I’m not sure I know anyone else that had one either? They were certainly a fad, and trusty day planners outlasted them.

Smart phones have changed the game and offered more capable digital-day-planners small enough to fit in your pocket. I found dozens and dozens of “organizer” and “planner” apps when I searched on my iPhone. I can honestly say I’ve tried many of these too.

In this piece, I’m going to make the case that good old-fashioned day planners are better and more effective than the digital ones. Before I jump in to my argument, allow me to explain the “inspiration” for this post.

Life afforded me a few early lessons on the importance of being organized. When I turned 18, I graduated high school and that fall stared college at Cameron University in Lawton, Oklahoma. That first year I was a traditional student and lived at home with my parents. Life was easy. By the time I turned 20 I was working full-time, serving in the Oklahoma National Guard, and still going to school while living in my own place. I had obligations, appointments, bills, etc. Life wasn’t so easy anymore.

At that time, we certainly had cell phones, but the smart phones we all know now were not “a thing” quite yet. I was also a starving college kid so to speak, so I probably could not have afforded such a thing. My days were spent studying and working hard; my nights were spent partying just as hard. This led to many mornings of me shaking the cobwebs out over a cup of coffee IN THE SHOWER trying to figure out what I had going on that day. My best defense mechanism against chaos was printing out calendar shells from Microsoft Word and using those to organize myself.

My first real job was at UPS. As it turns out, synchronizing the world of global commerce is demanding. As a full-time management person, I was tasked with more things than there were hours in the day to complete them. Planning was crucial. My boss would let me use my expense account to buy what we called “Franklin Planners”- although they were really monthly/weekly planners made by At-A-Glance. I lived and died by that planner.

I’m not perfect, and I’ve made some terrible life decisions…but you won’t find a person out there who can justifiably say I’m unorganized. It’s a strength of mine, and I believe writing in a planner is one of the main components of being organized, efficient, and successful. Allow me to give you the 3 indisputable reasons these day planners are better then the digital ones.

1. Writing your goals down increases the likelihood of accomplishing them.

I’ve heard it from famous and wealthy people. I’ve read it in almost every personal finance book. One thing that makes a vision more likely to become reality is simply writing it down, physically, with pen and paper. Read this article if you’re interested in the science behind that statement. My experience supports this concept. Allow me to give few examples. I pulled my planner out to reference for this post. As I look down at it, and flip through past months, I see things like “ASUs need alterations” and “finish New Year cards”. Both of these tasks were accomplished. I remember quite well having to scratch them out and replan then when they weren’t finished as originally planned. There’s something about visually absorbing what you’ve written in your own handwriting that creates a different kind of “sense of urgency” needed to make things happen and get things done. I’ll discuss later in more detail why this doesn’t work the same digitally.

2. Digital reminders are as ineffective as car alarms.

When I was a kid, if a car alarm went off you could see a state of panic ensue among any onlookers. We sort of shifted into a mob mentality, collectively ready to serve justice to whomever was attempting to steal someone’s wheels. Decades later, we can’t even hear car alarms anymore. After years and years of false alarms, the car alarm has truly become the “boy who cried wolf”. We are conditioned to ignore something that is otherwise supposed to indicate we should have something to worry about. This is quite evident when our little digital alarms go off. I have my Outlook reminders at work telling me everyday what I need to do. I generally ignore them or “snooze” them – without even reading what they’re reminding me to do. However, that’s now how we operate with calendars and planners that require our intimate attention to detail and effort. Physically crossing things off lists is satisfying, seeing a month of blocks checked off and progressing toward completion is satisfying. Erasing something important that didn’t get done and relocating it makes it more likely to happen. The computers will remind us even after we’re dead, but the planners we write in will cease to progress after we’re gone – we’re more connected to our tasks and work when we write with pen/pencil.

3. Planners serve as journals; digital calendars are one more reason to have your phone in your face.

This last reason, although frivolous to some degree, might be one of the easiest for me to argue. I spent quite a bit of time at airports in the last few years, and it disgusts me to see the lack of interaction between people. Person after person, slouched over his or her phone with poor posture, a beer gut squeezed into a suit that’s too small – ugh. I know many of these folks are working and being productive. They might be reading the news, or a new book. There’s just no sexiness to it, and the drooling, stupid state of our union is exemplified through “slumped over phone-looker-atter”.

Writers armed with pen and paper rarely look so disgusting. I can’t really articulate why, but as I’ve typed this I have that sense that readers will nod their heads in agreement because we all know what I’m talking about here. As we become more and more reliant on screen-time, we should celebrate the things that help us unplug. Planners are a great method of unplugging.

I can’t see myself ever changing, but I’m always open to discuss change. My wife has gone more digital again after doing it my way for awhile. Her work requires her to spend more time in front of a computer, so I can understand why she thinks that’s the best method for her…although the planner would still be better.

Do you swear your allegiance to the digital method and slump over your phone? Are you more loyal to the planner like me? Why or why not? I’d love to hear from you.

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Husband, dad, soldier, veteran, transportation manager, musician, and now a blogger and podcast host...sharing stories, experiences, and debates.

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