Along with the new year comes the inevitable resolution to be more organized, more structured — or, to use today’s hottest buzzword, more intentional. For many people, keeping this resolution means turning over a fresh page in a new printed planner.
Even in this decidedly digital age, paper planners, bullet journals and other analog calendar and planning systems remain relevant for people of all ages. While category sales have always been robust, the recent bullet journal trend has boosted printed planner, notebook and related stationery sales, with double-digit growth year over year.
Many find it curious that a traditional paper planner would win over a digital solution, especially among millennials and other tech-savvy digital natives. But the reason is simple: Our brains prefer paper.
Printed Planners Highlight the Benefits of Paper
Much research has been done on the benefits of paper and handwriting in educational settings, and the same benefits exist outside the classroom. Paper offers fewer distractions and leads to greater productivity than using an equivalent digital application. Also, writing information by hand promotes greater information recall.
Reading on paper also feels good, offering a better sensory experience than digital solutions, and it promotes healthy habits. And according to Psychology Today, a printed planner may even be good for your soul because it can reduce stress and anxiety.
When you combine the psychological and educational benefits of paper with the idea of being more organized and intentional, it should be no surprise that printed planners come out on top. What’s intriguing is that there’s no single demographic that is more likely to use printed planners.
Paper planners are an obvious choice among older adults who may have never fully embraced digital alternatives, but they’re also preferred among many millennials and other digital natives for whom using apps, smartphones and cloud computing are second nature. As for that middle ground of Generation Xers who may have started with paper and then switched to digital in the late ’90s? Many are returning to printed planners to reduce so-called digital overload.
We spoke with several people about their preference for using a printed planner instead of a digital solution. Their responses might surprise you.
A Printed Planner Is …
… easier to remember
Kasey Blizzard is a 22-year-old graphic designer who has been using a printed planner for nearly a decade. She now designs her own planners. “I prefer a paper planner instead of a digital one because I remember things better when I write them down. Aside from scheduling, I use it to make notes about my freelance design projects,” she says. “It gives me peace of mind to know that all of the information I need about my day and my work is in one place. I also enjoy taking the time to calmly map out my days instead of throwing dates, times and locations into a phone app.”
… more visible
Bonnee Altis is a retiree who recently returned to using a printed planner after years of keeping a digital calendar. “I really liked the online calendar system we used at work, and I when I retired, I tried to use my phone in the same way,” she says. “But I was missing things because I’d put them into my phone and forget about them. Now I keep a paper planner in front of my home computer, where I see it every time I sit at my desk. I can put notes in the margins and easily glance at what’s coming up or see when I did something in the past. It makes life easier and less complicated.”
… more satisfying
Ginger Hornung, a 46-year-old nurse, has been using printed planners since junior high. “I tried an electronic planner, but I found that I prefer to quickly open my paper planner and see everything at once. It’s just faster,” she says. “Plus, I like crossing things off when they’re done. It’s very satisfying, and it’s not the same when you delete something electronically.”
… more official
Ally Welch, a 32-year-old homeschooling mom, has used paper calendars and planners since 2002. “Now, I use one to list our lesson plans for the year, with each kid’s lessons getting a different color of ink. I highlight tasks when we complete them, so it serves as a record of our homeschool, which is something that is required by the state,” she says. “I feel less stressed about schooling when it’s all planned out, and marking off the things my kids have accomplished lets me know they are learning everything they need to learn.”
… more intentional
Brittney Vaughn is a 27-year-old mother and budding YouTuber who has used a paper planner since she was in college. “I like to have a paper planner. To me, it’s easier to see everything on paper instead of scrolling through my phone,” she says. “In 2020, I plan to use my printed planner to manage my new YouTube channel. I’m going to write down the videos I want to do, when to film and edit them, and when to post them. This will help me see my goals and stay on track with trying to grow and improve my channel. Writing it all down takes off the stress.”
… more customizable
Cecilia Imhoff, a 21-year-old student, prefers a printed planner because it fits her life better. “There are more customization options, so you can find a size and design that fits your lifestyle and what you need to track, unlike digital planners that are more cookie-cutter,” she says. “I also like being able to see my entire month laid out in a size that I can read more easily than tiny text on my phone. I use a planner with enough space to note my work schedule as well as my school stuff. As a psychology major, I also understand the science behind how writing down information makes it easier to remember. That, in turn, makes my busy schedule feel less overwhelming.”
… better for work
Joanna Howard is a 43-year-old business technology teacher who takes a hybrid approach to calendars. “Our family calendar is kept on Google so it can be shared, and it keeps everyone up to date on activity schedules and appointments. But at work, a paper planner is much more efficient,” she says. “I typically have six windows open on my computer at any given time. The jumble of screens can become tedious if I need to make a quick note, look up a meeting time, record a parent interaction, update a grade, etc. So paper is faster. I also like the convenience of looking down at a planner and instantly being able to see what needs to be done for the day. Plus, paper is portable and doesn’t require Wi-Fi or a charging cable.”
… a lifeline
Miki Koelsch, 56, is a recreation superintendent for a large parks department, and she uses paper exclusively. “My printed planner is my memory. If I lost it, I wouldn’t know what the heck I was doing that day. I like being able to see a month at a glance as well as 18 months in advance, plus I have room to record extra information and make notes,” she says. “I’ve tried going digital, but I either don’t remember to enter an activity or task or I forget to look at it. My planner is a calendar, a to-do list, someplace to throw receipts and coupons, a way to track work hours and a record of activities that I can reference for quarterly and annual reports. Not only does it lower my stress and anxiety, but it also gives me a sense of organization and accomplishment.”