Don’t Abandon That Paper Planner Just Yet

paper planner tips

Today’s digital age surrounds us with endless choices when it comes to organizing and planning our lives. With new apps, syncing calendars and pop-up reminders before every event, it’s easy to depend on our screens to organize our days. But a growing trend in the planner industry reveals a some good reasons still remain for pen and paper.

Here are just a few:

1. It takes more time.

I know this feels counterintuitive, but planning takes time. It shouldn’t be harried or rushed. Your day’s plans cannot be simply thrown into a phone with reminders, bells and alarms. Creating and organizing our week demands attention, and a written planner requires us to sit and reflect, organize and look ahead.

The simple task of writing down a week’s agenda asks a bit more from us, and in turn, rewards us with clarity in our commitments, attention to detail and reinforcement for our memory.

2. For the sake of beauty and creativity.

A planner is a place for self-expression. If you look at popular hashtags #planneraddicts and #onmydesk, you will find the planner industry provides not only a place for organization, but a place to journal, color-code and doodle. Pages are filled with inspiration, and a planner becomes a source of pride to carry around.

Those hashtags display an array of options; some planners created from simple journals, others guided and goal-orientated. Think of a planner in your bag as a personal artistic expression of how you spend your time.

3. The power of picking up a pen.

I read this interesting article called “Laptops Are Great, But Not During a Lecture or a Meeting” by Susan Dynarski, where she concluded that university students learn best when taking notes with pen and paper, as opposed to using a laptop. Although not directly related, as a planner enthusiast, I can relate to the various research that shows students are less distracted and synthesize information better when using the simple pen and paper.

I agree with Sarah Light, creator of Sol Planner, when she said that “goals are achieved when written on paper; the act of writing helps us absorb and process information and put those plans into action. We are held accountable to our written word.” There is great power in writing plans down!

Think of a planner in your bag as a personal artistic expression of how you spend your time.

4. Increased phone freedom.

I recently purchased a watch because, quite frequently, I look at my phone for the time. But every time I pull out my phone for time reference, I continue down the rabbit hole. I check my inbox, my text messages and before you know it, I’m knee-deep in my Instagram photos of 2013, walking down memory lane.

So as I switch from my phone’s calendar to a paper planner, I anticipate breaking another chain from my phone. This is liberating and I would venture to say, time-saving. My strive for (affordable) watches and a paper planner won’t streamline my life digitally, but it feels simpler, more beautiful and freeing.

As you approach the new year, are you considering buying or making a paper planner? What are ways you can add beauty to your routines, a touch of creativity to your time management? There is nothing wrong with the digital processes we use, but don’t underestimate what this year could hold for you in using the timeless pen and paper too.

Are you a fan of the paper planner? How do you make it work for you?

Images via Katie Kopan


Jennifer is a former Spanish teacher, part-time writer and full-time mother. On a day off, you will find her at a favorite art gallery, taking a stab at poetry, reading practically anything or listening to Fresh Air. She also is a devout fan of youth soccer and a determined shuttle-van driver for her son’s practices.

  • Albany February 15, 2018

    I too, am a “planner-enthusiast.” Possibly too much of one since I have about three paper planners LOL I’m a sucker for a cute Kate Spade agenda!
    I am quite a traditional girl so I can truly relate to this article and I really appreciated all the insight behind why having a handheld physical planner is much more beneficial (I believe) than a digital one, though I do use my smartphone calendar quite a bit too.
    Thanks for writing!

  • Herman H. Woodworth January 25, 2018

    Using a paper planner is a really satisfying way to stay organized and get more accomplished each day. We really do more efforts to fulfill the promises that we do on a paper planner to our selves. Actually, it keeps reminding us what to do next. Here at edu birdy I do the same thing before doing any task and I always recommend to my friends and family to use paper planner instead of phone.

  • Jackie January 6, 2018

    In college I used the Day Designer planners for assignments and due dates– loved that the days were long vertical boxes perfect for lists! I used my phone calendar for events I had to attend– classes, parties, friend meetups, etc. Now I’m in my first year out of college and I’m teaching. Still using phone calendar as i did before. However, I don’t really have due dates or assignments not related to my job, and my school has teachers use Planbook for lesson planning… So although I love expressing my creativity through paper planners, I don’t really have a use for them at this stage in my life! Hopefully the time will come around again. I’ve been eyeing the Blessed is She planners designed by Erica Tighe of Be a Heart Design ? and so interesting that Veronica uses pen and paper to plan lessons! I wonder if that would help the lessons stick in my brain better. I’m intrigued… might have to try that.

  • Anita January 6, 2018

    I have been using Eccolo day planners for the past three years! I love the weekly pages as well as the monthly layout! It’s hard for me to keep up with daily life, financial responsibilities, and long-term goals with app calendars and simple timed reminders. It’s cool to see that others also feel the same as I do!
    Happy New Year, everyone!

  • Greta January 6, 2018

    I’m trying to get into bullet journaling! Paper planners 100%. Although, while amazing, with paper planners, coupled with social media nowadays, looking for inspiration on Pinterest or Instagram does lead us down the rabbit hole of time wasting (at least for me!) Setting aside allotted times for each of these items helps.

  • Bridget January 6, 2018

    Just took up Bullet Journaling! I’m a former Spanish teacher too!

  • Veronica January 5, 2018

    Paper planner all the way! Erin Condren is my planner of choice, after my sister got me addicted two years ago. I am one of very few teachers in my school who still does lesson planning with pen and paper in my planner and even keep a paper grade book (even those I still have to then transfer those grades into the online grade book). I just think better when planning with a pen and paper.

  • Heather January 5, 2018

    I don’t actually carry a paper planner, but I use paper notebooks all the time for goals, ideas, scratch-pad, to-dos, everything else, practically. I love using field notes for bigger projects I have going on too!

  • Kate Schiffman January 5, 2018

    I love my planner! I’m actually just starting to look for a new one for the new year. 🙂 It’s how I keep all of my finances and social commitments on track, otherwise I would forget some very important stuff!

  • Aimee Hossler January 5, 2018

    I love my Nomatic journal. As a full-time graphic designer, I don’t have the energy to create a bullet journal in my free time and though I loved the idea of everything in the Passion Planner, the Nomadic has been my Paper planner for 3 years strong. I also use my google calendar in addition to using the paper planner. The paper planner allows me to add everything else in my life along with those events in the google calendar, whether it’s goals, plants to research/buy, places to travel, movies to see, various personal and work notes and so much more. Every year over New Years Eve weekend, friends and I go to a cabin. Usually on the ferry commute to and from the cabin, I go through the previous year’s journal and make notes over what I haven’t yet accomplished and things that I want to carry over into the new year. Having a paper planner is like having a personal assistant that keeps me in check,

    • Aimee Hossler January 5, 2018

      Edit…my Nomatic PLANNER! Not journal!

    • Anita January 6, 2018

      Aimee, what a cool idea to go to a cabin for New Years! I like that you take some time to reflect on the year behind and ahead during your commute to the cabin. I absolutely love this idea! 🙂

  • Melanie Loon January 5, 2018

    This totally reminded me to put my watch back on today. I used to never wear bracelets (need freedom!!) but once I realized the same thing about using my phone for a clock I started using a watch!

  • Melina January 5, 2018

    I absolutely love my bullet journal. It’s such an organized way of saying on track with things. I also like the creativity aspect. I have to agree with the fact that writing things down helps me remember them better than writing them on a computer or phone. I started bullet journaling last year and I’m not turning back. I have to say that I’ve always had a paper planner though, so I guess I’m cheating in the sense of feeling like I never got out of the habit of writing on paper. Great post!

    Melina |

  • Alysha January 5, 2018

    I love my Day Designer planner! It has everything from goals to core values to help you structure your life completely – plus the daily planner had a time list, a to-do list, a top three list, and other little note sections that are amazing. Definitely worth the price!!

  • I swear by a paper planner! I’ve been using one to journal and to plan since 2012, with a new one for every year. I can’t seem to get organised digitally. I think the process of physically writing down my appointments and my to-do list helps a lot. 🙂

    Charmaine Ng | Architecture & Lifestyle Blog

    • Tamara January 5, 2018

      Im excited about using my Cultivate What Matters planner! I’m a total digital woman so using paper will be a big change I purchased gel pens and stickers and am looking forward to being creative!