In the age of super-powerful smartphones, digital calendars and planning apps of any sort, in which our lives are fully digitalised, I have decided to continue planning my daily tasks and appointments on paper. In this post, I would like to briefly comment on the reasons behind this decision, as well as on what I believe to be the benefits of handwriting compared to typing.
Firstly, I am a huge stationery and paper lover, and therefore the pleasure of touching and writing on high-quality paper is irreplaceable by digital devices. Writing on paper allows me to try out different types of pens and inks, which is always a wonderful experience for a paper addict like myself, and to improve my handwriting. More generally, it gives me an excuse to purchase stationery items that I can then put to good use.
Of course, this first reason will inevitably not be relevant for everyone, as not everyone is as obsessed with pens and paper as I am. What’s more, people might rightly argue that planning digitally has some unquestionable advantages, including portability (we all have our phones with us all the time), ease of use (e.g., if you need to repeat an event multiple times you can write it out only once, and it will automatically be repeated as many times as required) and the ability to share plans and notes with other people like coworkers or family members.
However, there are other advantages to writing on paper which I think can apply to many if not most people. They include better memorisation, independence from third-party apps and servers, as well as the degree of personalisation possible.
Personally, I find that when I write appointments and tasks on paper, I am more likely to remember them. Of course, I am writing them down so that I don’t have to keep them in mind until they are due, but strangely enough, the very same fact of writing them physically, with pen on paper, not only helps me offload the task from my working memory, leaving space for other more immediate things, but also to then remember the task or event when needed. This is even more evident with repeated tasks or events. Although it might sound tiresome to repeatedly copy the same tasks or appointments many times, week after week, it definitely helps me remember where I have to be or what I need to do, especially since my schedule is continuously changing.
In addition to this, using a physical notebook or planner frees me from over-reliance on privacy-prying apps, and from storing my daily life, routines and tasks into someone else’s computer (i.e., the could). This might sound paranoid or old-fashion, and it might well be so. But personally, I prefer to keep the nitty-gritty details of my life for my eyes only if possible. I know that these same companies already know where I go every day and have a clear picture of who I am even without me sharing my schedule with them, but this small way of taking back control over my life gives me a little sense of agency that I am not prepared to give up as yet. Plus, it is nice to go back and look at past years’ planners, to see what I was doing at the time, what was taking up my time, what were my concerns, and so on. It’s a little record of my life that a digital app would not provide — or at least I would never go back to look at.
So where to start? Well, if you are thinking about trying to go back to pen and paper planning, the only things you really need are a notebook and a pen. That’s what I believe to be the most beautiful thing about old-school, analogue pen and paper: personalisation. It can be as beautiful or as bare as you need it to be, you don’t have to rely on features designed by others (you can design your own planner, or use the bullet journal method), and you can really make it work around your life and the way you need it to work for you.