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Are smartphones better than paper planners for note-taking?

Tarun Mittal
25th Apr 2017
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Today there are countless smartphone apps for creating schedules and to-do lists. With free products like Google Calendar, Apple Reminders, and Evernote making it extremely easy to create, store, and access planned activities and tasks, the pen-and-paper planner has been rendered obsolete. But conventional diaries and journals still hold sway over many more people than you would expect. In Japan, a country famed for its highly productive work culture, people continue to maintain hand-written accounts of their daily lives despite the several alternatives offered by technology. But is there anything more than nostalgia and sentimentality when it comes to handwriting the day's agenda, or does it offer more tangible benefits than recording it online? Here’s looking at the advantages and disadvantages of both options.

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Paper planners are better for memory

Research has proven that people tend to remember things better when they write them down instead of typing them. While digital planners come with the useful feature of sending you reminders and notifications of upcoming events, paper planners are an easier and better way to plan and remember tasks. The physical act of writing by hand makes it easier to organise your schedule and fosters the habit of more detailed note-taking. Also, since you can flip through the pages of your diary, it's easier to see and remember the sequence and schedules of upcoming events and tasks.

Digital planners aid collaboration

Apps like Google Calendar and Trello allow users to coordinate their appointments and tasks with other people in an instant. You can inform a person of an upcoming appointment or keep a track of your tasks in a team project with ease if you're using digital planners. Paper planners are great individually, but not of much use when your tasks involve coordinating with several people.

Paper planners offer a break from the screen

With smartphones, laptops, and televisions demanding our attention for most of our waking time, the ever-increasing screen time is wreaking havoc on our health. The need for reduced screen time has been touted by several studies and using a paper planner is certainly a step in the right direction. Since most of us schedule our appointments and tasks just before sleeping or after waking up — two times when avoiding screens is of paramount importance — using a paper planner is a welcome habit.

Digital planners are easily accessible

There's no doubt that smartphone apps for planning and note-taking are easier to access. Since we carry our smartphones all the time, recording a sudden idea or a task that you just remembered is unbelievably easy. Whether you're in a crowded bus or walking down the street, whipping out your phone and entering a new note or a reminder for a meeting is a simple matter. Paper journals and planners, on the other hand, aren't quite as easy to use as digital ones. Also, there is a strong tendency to forget your paper planner at home or misplace it somewhere else, something that doesn't happen if your notes are stored on your phone.

Paper planners are a permanent record

One of the biggest positives of using paper planners is that they are a permanent record of what you've done and accomplished in the past. We always delete completed tasks from our digital planners but they remain in our diaries and journals forever. While digital planners only serve to remind you of what needs to be done, paper planners also serve as a steady reminder of how much you've accomplished in the past few days or weeks.

There you have it then, the pros and cons of using paper planners and digital ones. Which one you go with depends entirely upon your preferences, but I for one am leaning more towards the pen-and-paper variant.

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