Why paper planners are making a comeback

By Nicole Karlis

Those of us born in the 1990s or earlier likely have fond memories of our paper planners from our grade school days. Though ostensibly designed for keeping track of homework assignments and due dates, I used mine to count down the days to field trips and school dances, to write myself short notes in the moment, and to scribble the initials of my crushes. Indeed, picking out my yearly planner was the highlight of my back-to-school shopping ritual. Initially, the blank pages were exciting — they implied a big adventure ahead. Yet by the end of the year, those pristine pages looked like they had been scorched in a fire: edges torn up and ripped apart from getting caught on backpack zippers; tasks written over with notes by friends. Still, that degradation told a story of a year of life, one that I could look back on and remember.

By the time I got to college, Outlook and Googles’ e-calendars supplanted my paper planner habit. Like most elder Millennials, my life transitioned from analog to digital right as adulthood set in. And though it’s been over a decade since I made the jump to full-digital planning, I am not convinced my organizational means are superior. So last month, I made the transition —  back to paper.

I’m not the only one of my generation to go paper. In fact, I’m late to the trend. On Instagram, #planneraddict has nearly 4.8 million mentions. Sales of paper planners increased 10 percent between 2015 and 2016, when the market hit $342.7 million in sales.

What accounts for this shift? I have my own personal experience I can speak to, but I can only speculate as to why others have gone paper. There are benefits to the physicality of paper, but it also seems to be an exercise in simplicity and nostalgia. Paper planners don’t constantly interrupt us with notifications; they don’t demand our attention; they don’t want anything from us, and they don’t ask us to charge them every evening.

My paper experiment seems to have worked well in my own life. Since I’ve transitioned to paper, I haven’t double-booked a night out. I schedule in exercise, writing, and walking the dog. I rarely miss an appointment, as my calendar has its own dedicated physical space, rather than occupy an ephemeral smartphone screen for a few seconds. It would appear, then, that my childhood methods of planning were superior to Google Calendar.

Researchers of consumer culture have argued that the rise in popularity of analog devices and physical media — for example, vinyl’s paradoxical comeback— extends beyond nostalgia. Instead, researchers say consumers are attracted to analog’s perceived sense of coolness; likewise, the resurgence of physical formats relates to younger generations’ curiosity for a pre-digital era. Moreover, nostalgia is a powerful emotion and it can be used as a coping mechanism for anxiety and transitions, both of which apply to this moment in time.

Amy Baker, a mediator based in Seattle, said she tried for years to use iCal and Google Calendar, but it was always a “bust.”

“Either I entered the wrong date, or my iPhone just freaked out and changed the date,” Baker told Salon. “I can build a website and write killer academic papers accessing libraries around the world, so I don’t just think it’s a technophobe problem when I say that switching back to a paper planner has made my life so much better and easier.” […]

via Why paper planners are making a comeback -NICOLE KARLIS NOVEMBER 22, 2019 11:59PM (UTC) — Just Sayin’

15 thoughts on “Why paper planners are making a comeback

  1. Though I no longer use a daily work planner, I continue to rely on the picturesque monthly calendar–I receive several free copies in the mail–for making note of important events, writers’ meetings, and medical appointments. But, then again, I’m old school 🙂


    • I still use an appointment book, Rosaliene. I refuse to buy a Smartphone (I refuse to facilitate my own surveillance by the police and NSA) and I find it a big hassle taking my laptop to all my meetings.


  2. I like computers. I have two laptops, a tablet and a phone. Great for writing and collecting stuff like music, videos and pictures, and of course books. But when it comes to planning, none of those ever worked. I have years of accumulated planners I can readily cross-check and I carry my paper planner with me all the time. I wouldn’t dream of trusting a “device” for appointments, passwords, email or street addresses. Plus those blank spots left unused can be used to jot down memory minders, observations, or anecdotes. My 2020 paper planner is already started!


  3. I have never tried the online calendar thing, or at least, not since Microsoft Works (showing my age here) went kaput and the easy-to-use calendar function with it. I don’t want my calendar syncing to a bunch of different devices–I don’t care. i always have a “boredom bag” with me and my planners go in there with other stuff I have to tackle. Works great, and if I make a mistake, then I have plenty of white out tape or a good pencil eraser to take care of things.

    It’s so much simpler, and I’m a big believer in “if you write it, you own it.” harder to forget when you’ve taken the time to physically write it down, or at least, HARDER to forget.


  4. Why plan? EVERYTHING is present moment!

    The activity of planning is ALWAYS a hypothetical.

    Things present themselves right in front of you and you decide.
    And from that decision the next thing presents itself and you decide.

    The fun part is that several things present themselves all at the same time ….. damn!

    Tubularsock uses pencil and paper when it comes to “dreaming future”.

    If ANY lesson that should have been learned from California’s recent PG&E grid shutdown is that a cell phone, a computer — laptop, tablet, and the like — are of no help EVEN if it is on some cloud somewhere!

    Yep …….. pencil and paper, so simple and present moment in existence. AND when it shifts on you, there is always the handy little eraser.



  5. And the blackouts are only going to increase, Tube. Because the grid infrastructure hasn’t been maintained, it will only become increasingly unreliable over time. Pretty soon we will be like India and only have electricity 3 hours a day. If people want to have a continuous electrical power, they will need to establish community micro-grids and run them themselves.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I cant live without my paper planner. I still plug things into my google calendar too so Im doing double duty. But I just love hand writing my schedule. It stays longer in my mind somehow and I feel like I can keep a handle on it better in a nice contained book. Good read. Thank you!


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