How Switching to a Paper Planner Helped Me Organize My Life

If you’re constantly busy like I am, you need a way to organize your life. Most of my friends and family members use the calendars on their phones and computers for this purpose. If this method works for them, that’s great! Except for the fact that I’ve personally seen this method fail: they forget to put just one event in their calendar and they end up double-booking themselves, or they don’t have their phone with them when the calendar alert goes off. I’ve seen these scenarios happen for my friends time after time and I wonder how they keep up with their busy lives.

I normally have a pretty good memory and so I put off using any kind of calendar system for a while, until I realized that I was remembering commitments I had made, but not which day I made them for. I was texting my private English student during the weekend asking her if we had scheduled the lesson for Monday or Tuesday –– not terribly professional.

That’s when I thought “ok time to start using this iPhone calendar like everyone else does.” Well, I discovered pretty quickly that that wasn’t working for me either, as I literally kept forgetting to put events into my calendar and when I did remember, I didn’t bother taking the time to enter the correct time or set a reminder. A big help that was.

So finally, I decided it was time for me to return to my high school ways and invest in a paper planner in which I had to *gasp* write things by hand. Yeah, I meant business. Since I recently got my hands on one of these, I’ll never go back. Here’s why:

I remember things better

Call me old-fashioned, but when I write things down by hand, I remember them better. It’s a muscle memory and a visual thing for me. First off, I grew up in the days when we submitted handwritten essays that were several pages long in high school. I’m used to it and I like the way that writing physically feels. Second, once I write something down and look at it, I can picture the piece of paper that I wrote it on, so it becomes easier for me to recall even when I don’t have it in front of me. By writing these things in my planner, I actually find that I need to check my planner less and less because I can remember most things in it.

It’s multi-purpose

Not only do I use my planner to write down and remember that English lesson I’m teaching on Tuesday night and other plans like that, but I also write down due dates for freelance projects and bills. I know, not terribly groundbreaking. BUT, because my planner has multiple formats for its calendar, I can look at the whole month or I can go week by week. I also have several notes sections – so I can write out my to-do lists for the entire month. Other things I’ve been doing recently in my paper planner are keeping track of my workouts and taking notes on projects and contacts.

It motivates me

Is there any better feeling than physically crossing something off your to-do list and seeing the stress of that completed task evaporate into thin air before your eyes? I think not. I love being able to cross things out by hand and being able to see my list become one item shorter. It’s satisfying and it makes me feel productive. In order to stay on this productivity high, I’m more motivated to not procrastinate – just so I can cross things off! It also motivates me to keep working out – recently I started keeping tallies each week. I aim for at least 5 tallies each week and I’m able to put one in after every workout, and record what I worked on that particular day. It’s a great visual and physical way to track my progress and keep myself on the right path with activities I might otherwise struggle with.

I can look back at past plans

Sure, you can do the same thing with your digital calendar, but who ever really does that? And even if you do, how satisfying is it to just look at events typed in a clean font that aren’t crossed out or personalized at all? Not very, in my opinion. With my paper planner, I can flip through the pages looking back at when the last time I taught a lesson was, when I sent that invoice, see how many times I’ve worked out and compare how I’m stacking up, or simply go back and admire all those completed to-do lists. If you ever need a pick-me-up, I’d recommend simply looking at an old to-do list of yours that you were completely able to cross out to remind yourself of exactly how much you’ve accomplished.

It reduces my screen time

This is probably one of the most important ones for me. In a world where we are constantly required to look at our phones and computers to communicate with people, we hardly ever get a minute to truly disconnect and we are always distracted. Using my paper planner has almost become a refuge for me. I disconnect, even if it’s only for a few minutes, and I look at and interact with something that is real and concrete in front of me instead of a screen.

Everyone needs to find the organization method that works for them, but in the digital age we live in, paper planners don’t get the consideration and recognition they deserve. If you haven’t found something that works for you yet, I would recommend trying this method out. It can transform your daily life.

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