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Paper Calendar: Two of the Best Reasons to Use One

Do you use a paper calendar? I do. In the past, I tried to use a digital calendar but found the process frustrating. I could only see dots indicating there was something scheduled on the day in question when I looked at the month view. It took a second step to see the details. Every now and then I enter a date in my phone but frankly I never think to look in my phone for appointments. I always check my paper calendar. Why is that? It’s because I can easily see the appointments for the day I’m curious about and even what is looming on the horizon. This is important for me and possibly also for you. Let me explain.

It’s Springtime

Here in Atlanta, spring is showing her beautiful colors. Daffodils and tulips are blooming, azaleas are just about to pop, and the redbud trees are putting out their lovely purple blossoms. The sky is often a gorgeous deep blue promising us that warm (possibly hot) days are in our future.

Speaking of future, what tool do you use for future planning? Are you like me and use a paper calendar? Or do you scroll through the days, weeks, and months on your digital devise?

Recently, I have been reading books on time management and productivity as well as taking classes on this topic. One of the things that many of the books talk about is the need to ‘see’ time. Digital devises tell you the time but do not allow you to see the passage of time.

How Do You ‘See’ Time?

For instance, a digital watch usually just gives you the time read out: 1:55. I know that some watches allow you to set the display in an analog view which gives you the clock face. For me personally, it’s easier to know that I have 5 minutes left in an hour when I see the clock face. A read out of 1:55 doesn’t give me the same message.

The same is true for me when thinking about my day, week, or month. It’s difficult for me to know what appointments I have when I just see dots indicating that there’s an appointment. It takes an additional step for me to see that it’s a client appointment or something I intend to do.

A paper calendar lets me see without any additional steps the things I have planned in my day, week, or month.

Future Plans

I am talking about this because when you use a paper calendar it’s easier to make future plans. Let’s say you have some paid time off you want to use in the next couple of months. When you use a paper calendar, you can flip the pages of the calendar to see what you have going on and if it’s realistic to take a little vacation. You have a sense of the passage of time.

The Other Benefit to Using a Paper Calendar

When you write in your calendar you are engaging another part of your brain.  Did you know that? The more ways the information comes into your brain, the easier it is for your brain to retrieve it.

As you write the letters, you are engaging fine motor skills in addition to just seeing the text. If you speak the words as you are writing them down, then auditory senses are also tapped. Using all 3 of these senses; visual, auditory, and tactile helps imprint the information in your brain.

When you put the information into your digital calendar you are just tapping buttons – not forming letters. Sometimes, because the computer in your phone remembers, it provides you with the words to input using even less of your brain. No wonder it’s hard to remember what the little dots represent.

Of course, one of the benefits to using a digital calendar is that it is small and easy to carry with you because it is probably also your phone! A paper calendar is often large and not as portable.

Use Paper and Digital Calendars

My friend, colleague, and business partner, Jonda Beattie, uses a paper calendar and also takes time once a week to add appointments to the calendar in her phone. This way if she only has her phone with her, she can check to see if she is available – should someone ask.

The key to using 2 calendars is to be sure to enter the information into both of them. That’s why Jonda schedules time once a week to make sure both calendars contain the same information. You may be thinking this is double the effort. That’s true but if a system works (and it does for Jonda) don’t knock it.

A Monthly Wall Calendar

Some families use a monthly wall calendar to keep track of the big rocks – you know, the things the entire family needs to know about. Dad and Mom each keep their own calendars which are digital, and the children have their school agendas. Once a week the family gathers to review the family wall calendar. This is the place field trips, doctor appointments, school plays, and out-of-town trips are recorded.

School Agendas

Speaking of school agendas. The best calendar for children (adults like it, too) is the one published by Order Out of Chaos called Academic Planner. School agendas typically don’t have a place for students to record their after-school activities or weekend plans, this one does. It also has a place for students to plan how they are going to get those long-term assignments done. It lets them see time (as all those books recommend) so they aren’t cramming to get the project done the night before it’s due. I can’t say enough good things about the Academic Planner. If you have children in school, check out the Academic Planner.

In Review

Let’s review. The first reason to use a paper calendar is so that you can see what else you have going on that day, week, or month. You can avoid overscheduling yourself when you can see the rest of your appointments. The second reason to use a paper calendar is to help you remember your appointments and intentions by engaging your brain as you write in your calendar.

If using a calendar, planning your time, and being productive is on your list of things you want to do better consider joining the Clear Space for You support group I run with Jonda Beattie. We have new groups starting the first week in May.

Diane N. Quintana is a Certified Professional Organizer® ,a Certified Professional Organizer in Chronic Disorganization®, Master Trainer and owner of DNQ Solutions, LLC and co-owner of Release●Repurpose●Reorganize, LLC based in Atlanta, Georgia

12 Comments

  • This is such a personal preference for calendaring- paper or digital. I love all of the ways you described why paper works for you and some of the benefits. The part about writing the letters on paper as a way of remembering is so interesting. I am that way when taking notes during meetings or learning sessions. I have to hand write my notes.

    For years, I used a paper based calendar. I loved it for all of the reasons you shared. It helped me visualize time. And by writing things in by hand, it also felt like I was touching time. However, for many reasons, I slowly switched to going digital. One of my big concerns was what you mentioned- not being able to “see” my overall calendar as well. I figured out a workaround, which has been fabulous. I have a suite of Mac products- iMac, iPhone, iPad. They are all synced. For managing my schedule, I mostly use my iPad. I can see vertically dated week at a glance. That enables me to easily read and see what is happening when. Entries are color coded, so I can also visually see in an instant where my time is being spent each week. I can switch to daily or monthly views, but I prefer the weekly view. It’s the same as how I managed my weeks when I was paper based.

  • I love my paper calendar, but I also like to make recurring appointments on my digital calendar. I created my calendar page for each day of the week in Microsoft Excel and have been able to modify and add tasks easily. Over the years, my arthritis had been pretty bad, so only writing down “new” appointments/assignments on my calendar has helped.

  • Seana+Turner says:

    I think there are benefits to both systems. I love having a paper planner, but I can’t see the whole month at a time. I know families often like the versatility of everyone being able to “log into” the family calendar and see what is going on.

    I do find that I remember things better when I write them down on paper with a pen. It also helps me when I have to rewrite recurring events because I “stumble upon” conflicts that I wouldn’t have seen if I digitally assigned something to recur every week or month.

    I think the best calendar is the one you use and trust!

  • Julie+Bestry says:

    I couldn’t agree more with what you said, from the neuroscience behind why analog/paper calendars rock to the benefits of Leslie Josel’s Academic Planner.

    I use my paper planner (for almost two decades, a Franklin Planner, now an Emily Ley planner in the FP binder) for everything that is date-specific, plus to block out periods of time (like vacations or conferences). I use my desktop digital calendar mainly for time/date specific things happening at the computer — Zoom meetings, webinars, etc., so I’ll have the URL to attend and to be prompted about 30 minutes in advance so that I can prepare.

    As you said, I need to see time, and that includes being able to see everything essential for the week in one place; maybe it’s my age, but I have no desire (and limited fine motor control) to type every appointment into my phone. My planner goes to all client meetings with me; I make my haircut appointments for the entire year with my planner in hand. My few doctor and dentist appointments are scheduled on Mondays, when they can’t conflict with clients, so I don’t need to see my calendar, and can easily take the appointment card directly to my planner if I haven’t brought it with me.

    I appreciate the benefits of a digital calendar, and perhaps if were inclined to use one uniform calendar, it might make somewhat more sense. But I don’t use Google but Outlook on the desktop (not 365), and if I used the calendar on my phone, it would be Apple’s. Without the ability to sync across different platforms, I’ll keep my trust in my paper planner.

    • Diane Quintana says:

      I carry my planner with me to all appointments also. I can erase or cross out a mistake in my planner. For me, the paper planner is easier all the way around.

  • Lisa Gessert says:

    Such an awesome blog that taps into everyone’s way of trying to keep a calendar that reflects our personalities.

  • Julie Stobbe says:

    I like a paper calendar. I find it so fast to know what I am doing now, in a week or next month. I am usually waiting on my clients to pull up their digital calendars. I do an electronic on too so I can have my calendar information with me when I am not working. I have lots of notes on my paper calendar to help me remember things that would be difficult to add to an electronic calendar and see them as quickly.

  • I agree that writing things down in a paper calendar help cement them in your brain.
    I went digital years ago when I started hiring employees. I needed to see my schedule beside each of their schedules at the same time, so the switch was necessary. I love it.
    I usually coach clients to only have one calendar. I think having more than one would cause confusion. But my clients are disorganized people and can’t keep up with two or more calendars, so we are trying to simplify their lives.

  • I must thank you for the efforts youve put in penning this site. I am hoping to check out the same high-grade blog posts by you in the future as well. In fact, your creative writing abilities has motivated me to get my very own blog now 😉