Return to Paper & Pen Planner

I might be a late adopter of smartphone, but once I switched over, it was not long before I was doing everything using apps.  For many years, I organised my life with a plethora of apps such as Evernote, iCal, Reminder, etc.  I love playing around with all kinds of GTD apps.  I am still using these apps to keep my life organised.  However, beginning this year, I made a switch back to paper and pen planner.

I love all my apps and the way things can be sync across all my devices.  I love the convenience.  I love the fact that I will not lose information like I would if I lose a physical planner.  Yet, being a visual person, I really want everything to be together in one place, one page, in a layout and format that allows me to see the big picture.  I want to be able to arrange the information the way I like it and not be constrained by the format of the apps I use. I also love beauty.  I love things to be aesthetically pleasing to the eyes.  The apps I use are functional but not beautiful.  The jazzed up ones end up cluttering up the smartphone screen. But the biggest reason for switching back to paper and pen is this : I am tired of being distracted and sidetracked into the internet virtual world.

Whenever I check my schedule or my to-do list on my computer or my phone, inevitably I will end up checking my social media and before I know it, I have wasted precious time mindlessly surfing Facebook or my Chats.  A physical planner does not offer that kind of distraction.  As everything I need to plan my life with is in my physical planner, in the layout and format that makes the most sense to me, it offers me a better view of my day and helps me to plan my day better.

As I used my planner, I discovered another benefit that I did not foresee : It helps me to be more intentional in my planning, which, for some reason, I cannot do with apps. I am sure there are people who can do that with technology but it is just not me.  What do I mean by intentional?  Thanks to Kat Lee of Hello Mornings, at the start of the year, I thought about what I want my Mission Statement to be.  It sounds fancy but it is nothing more than just having a broad life goal.  Yet I find it so useful to help me make sure that how I live my day-to-day moves towards that direction.  If you have read Steven Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, you would  know this thing about what you want people to say about you at your funeral and work backwards from there. Beginning with the end in mind.  So this mission statement thing is similar.

If you have been in the corporate world, you know about making mission statements and breaking it down to tangible goals.  Well, I did not do anything fancy like that.  But I did think about what I would like to achieve this year.  Not big huge goals but a couple of things I want to change, and a couple of things I want to learn.  Things that are measurable and not vague (“lose 2kg” vs “keep healthy”).

So I write all these down in my planner and it helps to keep them before my eyes every day.  I see them when I open my planner to check on my schedule for the day during my Plan Time.  When a few months passed and I have not done anything about it, I can see it and can make an intentional move to put it as a to-do for a particular month, week or day.  I just find it easier to keep track of things with my planner.

My planner is all-in-one but I have to rely on several apps to do the same thing.

Right now, I am using the Mini Happy Planner and I love that it is pretty.  I love all things pretty.  Every week, I will take one day to write down all my plans and schedule for the following week.  At the same time I decorate my week’s spread.  So it is fun for me and the act of writing things down actually helps me to think clearly and get a better idea of what is coming the following week.  When I write down all the appointments I have for the week and put them together with all the todos I have for the week, I begin to ask myself whether it all makes sense together and whether everything is still steering in the right direction.  This is so different from the piecemeal way of filling up my schedule and todo lists electronically as things come.  Perhaps I am a more visual person so I need it to be like this to see the big picture.

I am still using all my apps in tandem with my physical planner because they are just so much more convenient for the syncing across devices and for bringing out.  I do not want to bring my planner everywhere I go to scribble appointments in and all that.  So I still use my iCal and my Reminder on my smartphone.  Then on the day I do my planning in my planner, I will confirm again the to-dos and the schedule with my family and write them in my planner. At the same time I will decide on which days would be good for doing certain things I want to get done, and planning the meals for the week.  I feel like I am really planning my life with intention and purpose this way.

Ultimately, what I value most out of this is still the freedom from distraction that a physical planner offers.  That I can refer to my planner to stay on task and it will not lead to mindless surfing.  It is my way of disconnecting from the virtual world to live in a more ‘real’ world and more in the present.

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