Insights | March 17, 2020

Paper Planners vs Digital Planners: What's the Consensus?

It’s time to discuss the elephant in the room. 

What works best in this day and age: is it the paper or digital planners? 

Well, after extensive research and careful thought, we bring you a dedicated blog comparing the traditional way of planning to the new one.

Before we answer which one works best, let’s first discuss the beauty and the hassle with each type of planner.

Paper Planners 📝

Retain Memory

You have probably heard or experienced the many ways that writing helps you remember better. Well, it is not a myth. Writing indeed helps you retain memory because it stimulates thinking and careful processing of information. Studies have shown that unlike using pen and paper, taking notes on a laptop involves mindless processing, being a less mentally engaging activity. 

When we use digital tools to take notes, we are more likely to scan through our notes just like we scan excessive information we come across on the daily online. The writing process, on the other hand, “leaves a motor memory in the sensorimotor part of the brain,” meaning that your brain does a better job at storing information written down. That is because while writing, you establish a relationship between thinking and writing. 

Avoid Distraction 

Although distractions are everywhere, you are less likely to get distracted writing on a piece of paper than using an app. That is because you might get a notification or a message while you are trying to use your planner app, breaking the train of thought and taking you down the time-wasters road.

Although some of these notifications may be useful, such as reminders from an app, they still represent a small fraction of the total volume that we receive per day. Have you ever found yourself tapping on a notification, and then getting carried away into other apps? It happens to the best of us. In that sense, a  paper planner is more effective since it dismisses the possibilities of notifications, allowing you to finish a task at hand without constant pop-up distractions.

Write Better Notes

Typing in an app requires less mental effort than the process of writing on a piece of paper. As a result, we are more likely to type across a digital planner in a less organized manner. When you write things down in a paper, the brain submerges into a state where it thinks about contemplating various ways of writing before actually doing it. Naturally, your paper planner will reflect your refined thoughts, while your digital planner will reflect scattered thoughts - both of which are equally important, as not all thought is clear and concise.

taking-notes-better-paper-vs-digital-planners

As a small business owner or solo entrepreneur, you are most likely looking at many documents from employees, partners, suppliers, clients, and so on a daily basis. If you are looking for some mental clarity to help with your very busy routine, then a paper planner might do the trick. The sentimental value attached to journaling might be refreshing, inspiring you to take concise and purposeful notes.

Write the Stress Away

Writing actually has some surprising therapeutic attributes. In fact, journaling is commonly advocated by therapists as a means of reducing stress and increasing overall health. Studies showed that expressive journaling for only about 15-20 minutes three to five times a week had the effect of lowering blood pressure and improving liver functionality. 

That is because journaling helps by giving you a platform to organize your thoughts, clear your mind and inspire problem-solving. 

Chaotic thinking can be a great stress factor, paralyzing you from taking action because you don’t know where to start. Writing helps you sort out messy thoughts by asking you to take the effort to define thoughts and selectively register them in a piece of paper. So, if looking at those endless and messy notes on that app stresses you out, consider writing it down on a piece of paper.

Digital Planners 📱

digital-planners

Save Money

Paper planners can come at a cost since you need to replace them at the end of each planning period. Digital planners, on the other hand, are often free or come at a one-time cost, saving you money in the long run. There is no need to replace a digital planner at the end of any given period since you can simply delete and type again. 

Edit as Needed

While you can cross something off on a piece of paper, its editing capacity is limited. Digital planners offer the convenience of being highly editable in contrast to paper planners. The former offers the much-needed convenience of quickly erasing, re-writing, crossing-off, and restructuring. Try doing that on a paper planner and you’ll end up with a page full of scribbles.  Scheduling is often conducted digitally to meet this flexibility need. The flexibility of digital planners is considered unmatched to a paper planner. To illustrate this, consider the endless features digital planners usually have. For instance, you can use hyperlinks to navigate within the digital planner to quickly get to a specific note. Additionally, you can create daily, weekly, monthly, or yearly planning sheets depending on your It surely seems like the opportunities are endless with a digital planner.

Collaborate with Others

If you are seeking efficient methods of planning and scheduling, chances are you use many different platforms to stay on top of your plans. Many digital planners are designed to meet these very dynamic needs by offering collaborative features with other apps. For instance, Atto’s timesheets can be easily integrated and synced with QuickBooks, letting you schedule and maintain employees’ accounts in no time.

Set reminders

Digital planners are responsive and engaging, meaning that it is not a one-way relationship. You can ask your app to give you certain reminders when a deadline is approaching or when you have a meeting with someone. Your app can share information with other apps or other people. For instance, you can save the date, time, and location for an event that is coming up. You can set reminders when the event is approaching, and you can even easily plug the saved location into a GPS navigator. 

Paper planners do not engage back. Just like any other one-way relationship, you invest much more time, money and energy on it than it invests on you. The situation is quite the opposite when it comes to digital planners. In a way, digital planners interact with you like a personal assistant. 

The effort needed to retrieve the reminder from a digital planner is unmatched by the paper counterpart. It is something that paper planners simply cannot do. In that regard, a digital planner helps you stay ahead of activities and plans at a moment’s notice.

Enjoy its portability

Although keeping a paper planner seems very personal and sentimental, the reality is that we are very likely to forget it. 

According to Social Indicators Research, more than 35% of people today ‘always feel rushed’ compared to just 24% back in 1965.  

Chances are, you will not have your paper planner at your reach the moment something comes up. You might find yourself constantly typing things on your phone anyway in the absence of your paper planner. Inevitably, you’ll eventually find yourself juggling between notes on several different planners. On the bright side, most people always have their phones with them, eliminating the problem of accessibility present in paper planners. You can always include last-minute planning into your planner at the tap of a button when it is right in your pocket.

Earlier, we vowed to discuss the elephant in the room. What works best - paper or digital planners? As you might have noticed by now, the answer isn’t straight forward. Choosing a planning solution depends on your needs and lifestyle. Most likely, you can use a combination of both to encompass all your needs. 

For instance, you might use your digital planner for reminders, events, and day-to-day planning, while you might rely on a good old traditional planner for long-term planning and brainstorming. The latter might help you with memory retention, while the former might help you boost productivity. 

Whichever the choice, make sure you evaluate why you are opting for the choice and how it will help you reach your goals. 


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Atto is the simplest timesheet app for small and medium-sized businesses. It’s intuitive interface and carefully designed features, including time tracking, location tracking, team insights and automated timesheets help employees and managers focus on real work.

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