Thursday, January 2, 2014

5 Reasons I'm Going Back to a Paper Day Planner

That's it; I've had it.  After two years of trying to exist with only electronic day planners and calendars, I give up.  I'm going back to paper (mostly).

I have used a Franklin Planner since graduate school, and I was always happy with the sense of control I had over my schedule and information.  But in 2012, I decided I should give up the paper planner in favor of various electronic calendaring systems that promised to synchronize, be available across devices, and allow me to seamlessly share information with others.  And while these have their place, I have spent two years with the nagging feeling I'm going to forget a deadline or an important to-do.

It may seem odd for a sustainability blog to urge the use of paper, graphite, and ink, but I argue that the way I am managing my information is much more sustainable - for me - than any other system.  Here are my five reasons why:

1.  No more losses from computer crashes.  
In the past two years, my computer has crashed not once but twice.  And while I run an automatic back-up every day and move key files to an external hard drive regularly, that won't protect against every possible loss.  I've tried to restore Outlook calendar files multiple times, with little success.  Clearly, a paper calendar is a great way to be sure you have your information at hand regardless what your devices are doing.

2.  It's a sensible "prep" against grid melt-down.
Prepper fiction is full of horror stories of what might happen if the nation's or the world's electricity or data grids were compromised.  While emergencies like an EMP are unlikely, it is very likely that most of us will experience a power outage or two in the next few years.  If your computer is dead and your phone is out of juice, it might be good to have access to your important contacts and information in paper form.

3.  It's a way manage "journal" data.
Unlike most writers, I don't keep a diary or journal.  But I do like to look back on certain information that is difficult to manage with electronic planners.  For example, I like to keep a short record of my exercise each day.  I also like to jot numbers down that allow me to count the days until my next vacation.  I've not found a great way to do this on a single electronic calendar, so I kept buying apps for my phone to manage the data. They do so, but then I can't "flip back" through the information in quite so nice a way as I do with paper.  Also, I can keep my old planner pages as a kind of record of my life should I wish to.  And it is a great way to see system-wide patterns that might not emerge otherwise.  For example, if I had a terrible headache last week, I can look back to see if I took an unusual exercise class or had atypical work stress that might have brought it on.

4.  Managing multiple views is easier.
I know I'll catch a lot of flack for this, but I find flipping between day, month, and year views on electronic calendars to be unsatisfying.  On a paper planner, I keep different kinds of data on each calendar type:  day pages get color-coded brackets for appointment and the requisite travel time; month views hold deadlines, vacation days, pay days, and count-downs; year views hold a visual code for big events, like the amount of time we plan to spend in Key West.  I've not found effective ways for me to carry all of this information in a single electronic calendar. This year, I may even experiment with keeping my garden harvest data in my planner.

5.  I just like the feel of paper.
Just as there are some books that I want to read on paper, I like the aesthetic feel of a paper day planner.  I like the weight of it in my bag, and I like the way I can see my color codes and deadline bars from across the room if I'm on the phone (I've never figured out how to access my calendar while talking on speaker phone). I like that I can keep personal and professional schedules together without feeling like I'm sharing them with the world.  (Yes, I know I can do the same with Google calendars, but I don't like the "feel" of it.)  I like that I can keep my to-do lists the way I want them.  I like that I have privacy.  I like that I can erase or even burn all evidence of something I've written without worrying if it is somewhere in the cloud.

What can I say?  I'll continue to keep an electronic calendar for some things, but I'm happy to be back to my paper planner. I have a Roomba vacuum, but I have an old-fashioned rug beater, too, and I like them both.  The right tool for the right job.

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