Paper or Plastic?


A few years ago, I helped my client (I’ll call her Julia), find a paper-based agenda that had all the elements for planning and calendaring that she needed. She wanted a week view with plenty of space for appointments, notes, and tasks and since she writes these appointments, notes and tasks in pencil, the paper also had to be high quality. For the last two and a half years, Julia has been effectively using the Levenger Circa Agenda and been incredibly productive, meeting major goals, as well as keeping up with day-to-day family, business and personal responsibilities and projects. Her paper planner has also been a great tool for ensuring that she took the time she needed to care for herself.

I’m often asked if I think people should make the leap from paper to electronic planners and calendars and I always find myself answering, “It depends.” Just like most of my generation, for years, I used a paper calendar to plan my time and note appointments. My weapon of choice was a Mead® At-A-Glance Monthly Planner. I loved the ritual of buying a new calendar for the coming year and entering the birthdays of my friends and family. And yet, despite my love for paper, I made the leap to an electronic calendar several years ago and can’t imagine going back.

When asked if someone should make the switch, I ask questions about how they currently use their planner, what works, what doesn’t and how comfortable they are with electronic media in general. Although, many of us appreciate the ease of electronic planners, some folks need paper to process and plan. Making the transition is a personal choice and has more to do with which tool supports your way of thinking than whether or not it is an antiquated system. If it works, what’s the point of “fixing” it?

A few months ago, Julia expressed an interest in going electronic. Although she wanted to take advantage of the benefits, the idea of making the switch filled her with anxiety. Julia pushed back our date for making the switch a few times, but last week, I helped her finally make the transition. It took almost 2 hours to create a system for categorizing appointments and tasks and inputting all of the entries from her paper calendar into iCal, as well as, teaching her how to add calendar items and tasks on her iPhone. Once the transfer was complete, Julia was completely relieved. The benefits of effortlessly syncing her calendar and tasks on both the iMac and iPhone, easily deleting or moving entries from one day to another, and the instant accessibility of her calendar wherever she goes are now hers to enjoy. Yet, Julia will still use paper for prioritizing daily tasks, like calls and emails. She’s made the leap, but she’s also keeping what works!

What works for you? Are you into paper? Or electronic? Or do you have a system that is a hybrid of the two? If you are stuck and can’t figure out what kind of system works best for you, give me a call. I’d love to help you find a solution that works for you this year!

16 thoughts on “Paper or Plastic?

  1. Marcia Butler Reply

    Janine, I think about this all the time. I am on my iphone, and at the same time, always want to have the feel of the paper….feeling nostalgic for the old days…..

    • Janine Post authorReply

      I totally understand, Marcia! I was once a paper addict and had trouble passing by a stationery store without popping in and shopping. But now I love how unencumbered I feel when it is all on my iPhone!

  2. Sarada Chaudhuri Reply

    I made the switch to electronic for my calendar and tasks a few years ago, because I couldn’t stand finding random pieces of paper everywhere!

    But when it comes to forward planning i.e. looking ahead at a few months, deciding on upcoming marketing campaigns etc. I still need to get a pad and pen out. There’s something about the physical act of writing something down that helps my creative process!

    Thanks so much for this Janine!

  3. laura Reply

    Hybrid ~ for day to day calendar of appointments, I use google calendar coupled with my client appointment scheduler. For projects and planning, I need the BIG picture and use white boards and good ole paper and pen to map out the project~ first with a mind map then with a calendar!

    • Janine Post authorReply

      The tools that we use to keep ourselves on track are so varied. I often recommend white boards to people that are visual thinkers and need space to map out what is up ahead and where they are now. It’s great that you know what you need and have found tools that support that need! Thanks for sharing, Laura!

  4. Reply

    I agreee with Sarada..
    I also made the switch but sometimes paper is faster and I can miss the tactility of paper & pencil.
    But maybe it’ll just take a few more years before the digital world has bridged that gap?

    • Janine Post authorReply

      Hi Janine! Thanks so much for joining the conversation. I too love the feel of writing on paper and I am certain that the digital world will try and bridge that gap!

  5. Lori Byron Reply

    I’m a hybrid person, too. I schedule things in my Google Calendar, but I also make a daily to do list on paper. I love the ability to physically check off items. (Oh, and I also use Evernote for thoughts I want to capture, “someday” projects and reference information.)

    • Janine Post authorReply

      Thanks for joining in, Lori! I love it that so many people use a hybrid system. It confirms my belief that we need to use the tools that work best for us!

  6. Nancy Tierney Reply

    I made the leap when I got an iPhone and could sync between it and iCal on my computer. I have to admit, I kinda miss the old-fashioned, hold-in-your-hand, big and floppy week-at-a-glance planner, but this system works much better for me.

    • Janine Post authorReply

      Thanks for sharing your leap to electronic, Nancy! I made the leap when I had a Handspring (remember those?) and used Palm Software to manage my calendar. It is so much easier today to sync. Back then, so many steps were involved that I actively discouraged paper lovers (most of whom were technophobes) from making the leap from paper to electronic.

  7. Linda Reply

    I’m still mostly using my paper planner and making baby steps to using my phone calendar that I literally just now found out how to sync with Google, etc., But I use that for setting up appts when I’m out somewhere and don’t have my book. I still love the paper as well for quickly adding notes and checking off things.

    • Janine Post authorReply

      Linda, thanks so much for joining the conversation. I love the feel of paper and I would encourage you to use one calendar and carry a notebook for your notes and to do lists. A hybrid system give you the best of both worlds and you won’t have to duplicate your calendaring efforts!

  8. Alyssa Reply

    I too am one of those organizational freaks who always loved buying my new planner at the beginning of the year! I’m glad to hear there are others out there. My husband would always roll his eyes. I just recently switched to using Google Calendar and love it – especially now that I have a smartphone and can have immediate access whenever I need it. I also love the ability to set reminders and utilize that ALL the time.

    • Janine Post authorReply

      Sounds like you are a planner junkie, Alyssa! And I can assure you that you are NOT alone! Thanks so much for sharing the benefits of and your enthusiasm for your electronic system.

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