First, let’s look at some common arguments for using a paper planner, and compare them to using an electronic planner.
- There is just something nice about actual pen and paper. Studies have shown that writing by hand helps you clarify your thoughts, improve your memory, and even attain your goals. That’s pretty powerful stuff. But it really applies more to journaling than to just jotting down your appointments. And for journaling, my awesome business coach Christine Kane has found a reasonable compromise: use a stylus and handwriting app on your iPad. That way, you get to simulate writing on paper, but you can easily carry it with you everywhere you go.
- It’s easier to see the big picture. There is some truth to this: it is hard to get a “big picture” overview on a tiny phone screen. However, if you use an electronic calendar, you’re not limited to your phone. You can use a larger screen on a tablet, or use a desktop or laptop with an even larger screen. You can also print your calendar and have a paper copy for planning purposes. But one advantage of the electronic calendar is that you can easily color code it. While you can color code a paper calendar, keeping it accurate requires keeping your multi-colored pencils or pens around. With an electronic calendar, you can color code it any time, any where!
- There are fewer distractions with a paper planner. There is a lot of truth to this argument. You can’t play Angry Birds, check in on Facebook, or check your email with a paper planner. Since your phone can do so much, it’s easy to get distracted. My counter argument to this one is to (get ready for it!) exercise discipline! Hey, you’re a busy professional. You can focus, right?
- It won’t appeal to a thief. Maybe. True, a thief may be less likely to target a binder than a shiny new phone. But if you leave your binder laying out somewhere, it’s very easy for someone to gain access to your personal information. On the other hand you can enable the lock screen on your phone to prevent someone who finds it from perusing its contents. And if your phone lost or stolen, depending on your carrier, you can most likely lock it or even wipe it remotely. You can then restore all your information from a backup. Lose your planner, and your notes are probably gone forever.
Now let’s look at some of the other advantages of using an electronic planner:
- It’s easy to keep it with you almost everywhere. You may or may not want to carry your planner into a store for a quick purchase, but most likely you will carry your phone. If while you’re in the store you spot something and want to make a note to follow up later, you can snap a picture, record a voice memo, or jot a note on your phone. If you use a paper planner and didn’t bring it in with you, you have to remember to add the note when you get back to the planner. And that’s a recipe for not getting it recorded.
- You can sync your calendar to a scheduling app on your web site so that your clients can book appointments during times you’ve set aside for that purpose. And you’ll never be double booked because your busy times are automatically blocked out. (And no, your clients won’t see your appointments — they’ll only see that you are busy).
- You can use voice activation (like Siri on the iPhone or voice commands on Android phones) to create appointments, create tasks, or record voice memos “on the fly.” This is often more convenient than trying to write (for example, when you’re in your car).
- Electronic calendars can send reminders. When I used a paper planner, I would often miss or be late to a meeting because I would get busy and lose track of time. Now, I can set a reminder and my phone will remind me when it’s time to transition to a meeting.
- You can trick yourself into looking at your agenda first thing. Most experts say you should start your day by looking at your calendar (not your email!). When I was developing this habit, I set up my calendar to mail me a daily agenda every morning. Then, if I opened email first, I would see an email with my daily agenda.
- You can integrate the various components of your planner. For example, if you have a task to call someone, you can link to their contact information, or even just add their phone number to the task notes. Then, when you have a few minutes to review your call list and decide to make the call, you can just click the number, and your phone will dial it for you.
- You can decrease clutter by getting rid of paper. For example, you can use your phone’s camera to scan a piece of paper, and then add it to an electronic notebook with other related notes. No more carrying around a binder overstuffed with loose papers!
While paper versus electronic planners is a personal choice, and one that is often packed with emotion, for me the choice is clear: the efficiency and convenience of an electronic planner far outweigh the arguments for using paper.
How about you? Do you use paper or electronic? Let me know in the comments below.
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