Paper Diaries vs Digital Planners and Online Calendars

Paper Planner
For years people have had to plan their time and keep some form of a diary and now there are more “planning” tools than ever. Initially starting as a plain paper book, the diary later evolved into a chronological dated book dedicated to each year. Now, with the rise of technology, digital planners and online calendars are the latest editions to the “diary” family. Not only are there multiple electronic devices available; there are an abundance of third party apps offering a variety of features to suit individual needs. Technological and online solutions are often seen as a superior solution to predecessors however, is this the case when it comes to diaries?

Why bother with an old fashioned diary?

Some people genuinely will have no idea why anyone would waste their time using an “old school”, “prehistoric” and “dated” way to organise their time, making statements like:

“why would you write anything down, there’s an app for that!”

“well it might work for you but can your diary notify you on 5 different devices?”

“a diary won’t fit in your pocket but a phone will”.

But paper diaries have worked for people for years and based on records have been used for over a millennia. They have helped humanity evolve. The question shouldn’t be “why use a paper planner?” but should be “why would you not use a tried, tested and proven way of planning?”.

fountain pen and diary

Benefits of Using a Paper Diary

Before the 2000’s I wouldn’t have to justify the positives of a paper diary – there would be no true digital rival. It was the “go to” organisational tool for millions of people. The current era, as aforementioned, now offers a wealth of digital alternatives but that doesn’t mean that a paper planner doesn’t have it’s advantages.

To effectively use a diary, you need the diary itself, and a pen or pencil. Good diaries will include a clip or loop to store your pen within the diary. With just the diary and writing instrument, you can use your diary for months. It doesn’t need battery power, it doesn’t need charging every day and it doesn’t require a network connection. It’s simplicity and lack of technology is it’s major benefit.

No Annoying Notifications

With a diary, you can view appointments and look back at what you’ve done when it suits you. You’re diary doesn’t ping, it doesn’t light up and it doesn’t vibrate. It’s there to look at when you want to. A busy day can quickly feel more congested if you have constant pop ups and reminders informing you of what you need to do and what appointments you have.

The last benefit to mention is that everything is now technology based. The average day for a working individual may be something like:

  • alarm goes off in the morning
  • check preferred news website to keep up with current affairs
  • check emails once at work
  • use spreadsheets and word processors throughout the day
  • call significant other on the way home from work
  • turn on the TV at home whilst browsing the internet on a tablet or phone
  • look up a recipe for dinner
  • look for something to do at the weekend
  • finally, once in bed, drift off to sleep whilst reading an E-book

Constantly being “connected” via a phone, tablet or laptop is becoming a regular occurrence and can add to stress without you even realising. Taking a break from technology and bright screens to use a paper diary can do the world of good for both your mentality and your eyesight.

It’s also proven that writing things down is a more effective way of remembering – see our post “Is it Better to Type and Touch or Write and Mark?“.

Digital Calendar

Benefits of Using Digital Planners and Online Calendars

The “techies” reading this post will, most likely, disagree with the benefits listed above. However, there are both very obvious and less obvious benefits to using technology as a calendar, diary or digital planner.

A calendar app, such as Google Calendar, has far more space to add details to appointments. You can include when an event starts and finishes, where the event is, add your contacts to the event and add custom notes such as “remember rain coat”. All this information would not fit into a section on a diary page, and maybe not even a full page, especially if you have multiple events/appointments in one day.

Calendar Syncing

Another major plus digital solutions have over pen and paper is the option to add other people to an event or appointment. Syncing with colleagues, friends or loved ones calendars offers a multitude of benefits including notifying everyone an hour before an appointment. Also, one person can create the appointment to update everyone’s calendar rather than everyone having to write it down themselves in their own diary. A synced calendar is great for both the workplace, families and relationships allowing everyone to remain in sync, organised and up to date on what each other is doing.

Reminders and notifications also offer an advantage which diaries can’t. Birthdays for example, you can receive a notification on all your devices both a week before, 2 days before and on the day. This reminds you to buy a birthday present and card in advance, post the card 2 days before and send a Happy Birthday message on the day. Equivalent reminders in a written diary would have to be written down four times, showing the digital solution in this instance both saves time and effort. Not only does it save time, but your notification can be set up to pop up on all devices reducing the chances of you missing a reminder.

Cloud Storage

Cloud and Online Backup

Most calendar apps will sync online, automatically creating a mirrored backup in the cloud. Don’t have your phone or tablet with you? Log into your calendar online via an internet browser. If you don’t have your diary with you, there’s no online backup and no way to view appointments/events. If you get a new phone or upgrade your tablet, once logged into your calendar app you immediately have access to all your appointments again.

The last advantage of online calendars I’ll mention is that you can have recurring appointments. What’s the first thing you do when you get a new diary or calendar? You add the birthdays of those important to you. With the digital counterpart, Birthdays and other specified events automatically recur each year. This means you only need to add these to your calendar the once.


Paper Diaries

  • No wires, chargers or network needed
  • Tried and trusted for hundreds of years
  • No annoying notifications
  • Gives you a break from technology
  • Writing things down is good for your memory

Online Calendars

  • More scope to go into detail on appointments/events
  • Cloud sync/backup
  • Saves time
  • Add and notify other people to event/appointment
  • Easily add recurring events such as Birthdays

There are pluses and negatives for both methods of maintaining an online calendar and diary. The best solution will always come down to the individual. If you’re tired of your phone constantly buzzing and beeping, a diary will give you a break. If it’s convenient to have everything you need in one place, including your calendar, on your phone, then why carry an extra item everywhere? The choice of which method is best is down to you; both methods work, it’s simply down to which benefits appeal to you.

In our shop we offer a range of diaries and personal planners as well as compact pens designed for using with touch screens.

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One response to “Paper Diaries vs Digital Planners and Online Calendars”

  1. my diary says:

    I’ve gone back to using a paper diary years ago. I was fed up with losing everything because my phone broke. My wife usually gives me a personalised diary for Christmas with all her favourite pictures from last year. I’m already excited what’s in my photo diary 2018, there’s usually some photos in there I haven’t seen before (no, nothing naughty if you were thinking that).

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