Digital Planner or Paper Planner – How To Use Them Together Effectively

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If you are torn between using a digital planner or a paper planner – I have good news! It doesn't have to be a tough choice. You can use both effectively, as long as you have a plan.

Once upon a time, everyone carried around some sort of a paper planner to help them stay organized.

And then smartphones happened.

And without even realizing it, our phones became our calendars.

Smartphones should have made life easier, but for some people it actually created confusion.

You weren't quite ready to ditch the paper planner for the electronic one.

But using both created a lot of duplication of effort. In fact, it made you feel more disorganized.

How many times have you panicked because you just know you are missing something important but you don't know what?

It's an awful feeling.

Did you enter that appointment in your phone, or did you write it down in your planner?


It may seem that the logical solution would be to choose just one – a digital planner or a paper planner.

But I find that using just one is really hard to do.

I always have my phone with me, but I am a paper person at heart.

There is just something wonderful that happens when you put pen to paper.

When you jot down ideas and notes you can transform a busy, jumbled day into an orderly set of tasks.

So, if you are like me and are not quite ready to give up on the paper planner, yet you love the convenience of using the calendar on your smartphone – then read on for ideas on how you can use both your digital planner and paper planner together effectively.

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Create a System for How to Use Your Planners

Yes indeed, you need a plan for making a plan.

It may seem redundant or maybe overkill – but this step is essential.

Basically, you are creating a system.

Make Your Digital Calendar Your Master Calendar

My master calendar is my digital calendar.

I use Google Calendar which syncs to my Apple Calendar app on my iPhone and my Mac.

This is where I enter EVERY. SINGLE. APPOINTMENT.

When I say “appointment” – I mean anything and everything with a time sensitive deadline.

Here are some examples:

  • actual appointments – doctors, clients, lunch dates, etc.
  • birthdays
  • my kids activities and schedules
  • work projects and deadlines
  • vacations
  • due dates of bills
  • even dates that some of my more valuable coupons or gift certificates expire.

Everything goes on this calendar.

Now, I recognize that it may not be convenient to enter new appointments on your digital calendar when they come up.

But if you jot it down on a scrap of paper somewhere – you need to make sure that at the end of the day – you transfer that note onto your digital calendar.

Make Your Paper Calendar Your Supporting Calendar

I use a paper calendar as my supporting calendar.

For my paper calendar in 2020 I will use an Erin Condren LifePlanner customized with an hourly layout.

In the past I have used a 2 page per day calendar spread in the Blooms pattern at Franklin Planner.

It doesn't matter what type of planner you choose as long as it has a place where you can plan your day on an hourly basis.

Every morning I sit down with 3 things to map out my day:

  1. my paper planner
  2. my digital calendar
  3. my “to-do” list (I use the Things App on Mac for this – but you can use any to do list app or paper notebook to keep track of your tasks).

First, I fill in the time slots on my paper planner with my non-negotiable appointments from my digital planner.

This leaves me with a lot of time gaps in between the things that I have to do or the places that I have to be.

Next, I look at the things on my to do list for today and estimate the time I will need to complete each one.

Then I fill in my time gaps with my tasks.

The advantage of using a paper calendar for this is that you can visually see what needs to happen and when.

You can also jot down notes and ideas that just pop into your head as you write things down.

For example –

  • as you write an appointment down – you might make a note about questions you want to ask the person you are meeting,
  • as you list errands – you might write a reminder to yourself to take a coupon, a library book, something you want to return or donate, or even to grab your grocery list before you leave the house.

I find that the actual act of writing something down helps me to remember things, even when I am not looking at my calendar.

Create an End of the Day Routine to Add New Items to Your Master Calendar

This is the most IMPORTANT step in making sure your system of using both a digital planner and a paper planner works effectively.

At the end of each day you must review the notes you have made on your paper planner and also on any sticky notes or scraps of paper here and there.

Enter anything that is time sensitive into your digital planner.

Also, enter any new tasks or to do items into your to do list app or notebook.

Now all your appointments are on one master calendar!

No more sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach that you are missing something.

Your System Can Be Unique

When it comes to choosing to use a digital planner or a paper planner – your ultimate decision should work with the way that you think and operate.

If you prefer your master calendar to be the paper one – then go with it.

If it's easier for you to just use one and not both – that is fine too!

There are no wrong answers here.

You just need to create a system that you will stick with to stay organized.

In the book Atomic Habits, the author James Clear outlines four laws of behavior change:

1. Make it obvious.
2. Make it attractive.
3. Make it easy.
4. Make it satisfying.

Atomic Habits by James Clear, page 53 Kindle Edition

You might think that these laws apply to the things that you are using your planners to plan for – and you would be right.

BUT these laws of behavior change also apply to the act of planning.

I doesn't matter what system you decide to go with – digital planner or paper planner or both – you just need to make it enjoyable and effective so that you stick with it.

Your Thoughts on Planners

Chime in with your thoughts in the comments below.

Happy Planning!

Erin Condren Reviews

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