Paper Planner vs. Digital

Paper planner vs. digital?

I have a paper page for every day since 1996. When I was living in Paris, I bought my first planner. There, it was called an agenda.

What a life!


After the agenda, I transitioned to Filofax. It had a brown leather cover that I reused year after year, purchasing the pricy calendar inserts (and sometimes some accessories if I could afford them) at stationery stores. I bought my dad a Filofax, too. He kept it closed with a rubber band.

After I stopped being a student, I found the Filofax too heavy to carry. I tried a mini Filofax one year, but it was too small. So I reverted back to my original and chose not to bring it along with me. Faithfully, I filled in the details of each day — even after the fact. Just like to-do lists that begin with already-done tasks.

College Bookstore Planners

When I started my current job nearly ten years ago, I went back to academic planners. It felt good going to college bookstores. I bought 2018/2019 from the Harvard Coop after a campus tour for work. The planner came with little stickers, and I used up the sick and angry faces first. Sigh. I think I’ve since changed.

I made a bad decision in 2015 and left my good job for a bad one. Luckily my old job took me back after I realized what I had done. On the first day of that bad job, my new boss asked me what kind of calendar I used. I told him I used a paper planner. He said this:

Prepare for a seismic shift.

I often recall inconsequential dialogue from a truly random occasion. Some days, the lines play over and over in my head. The seismic shift is one of those lines. I see his face saying it, too.

It really was a terrible job.

I dutifully entered my meetings in Outlook, but I maintained my paper calendar throughout those unpleasant eight months.

Passion Planner

These days, I use Passion Planner. I’m on my second iteration and third year. In 2019/2020, I used the medium soft cover. Last year, I upgraded to the spiral large. The big pages were delightful but only because of remote work. The planner was heavy! Too heavy to carry around. This year, I returned to the medium soft, and I bring it to the office every day.

Large Spiral Passion Planner – Paper Planner vs. Digital?

The questions on the side of each week are a guilty pleasure. I add to my list of “good things that happened” as the days progress. And I rate each month from 0-10 after answering questions that encourage me to do more of or less of a certain activity. I miss the stickers, but you can buy those, too. It’s really a great product.

But leafing through my old agenda and Filofax with all of their brittle drugstore receipts, outdated maps, and old ID cards from when I still had collagen in my face — precious to me.

So how do you feel about paper planner vs. digital?

Say some things.

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    1. I like digital for the alerts and notifications. But love crossing out tasks on a paper to-do list! Thank you for reading and commenting, Michelle!

  1. I’m strongly in the Filofax Paper Planner camp, I started using one back in 1986 I had a few years of using electronic ones but a change of job in 2005 saw me return to paper and I have used one ever since. I blog about them every day too over on Philofaxy and I published a book as well earlier this year! File of Facts!
    I’ve tried various electronic planners/task managers but I always come back to my A5 Filofax/Van der Spek.

    1. Oh wow — heading over to your blog in a minute! But first I need to check if my filofax was A5. I forgot about the designations! File of Facts sounds great — checking that out as well. Congrats on publishing! Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting.

      1. Philofaxy has been around since 2005, I joined the team in 2009, full time since 2010!!
        Your Filofax looks like a Personal size 171x95mm page size. My A5 gives me a bit more page real estate for my terrible hand writing!
        Thank you, enjoy the book if you get a copy, it’s not a big read, but packed with information I’ve gathered in the last 10+ years.
        Take care
        Steve @philofaxy

      2. First, sorry for the delay in responding. The comment went to spam. I checked out your site, and it’s wonderful! I love the detail, lists, and the history of it all. So when I went back to check the designation of my Filofax, I made a terrible discovery — the inserts were Filofax, but the outside wasn’t Filofax at all — it was made by Polo! But then I did some digging in my house and found my actual Filofax (I guess I made a switch at some point?). These are the markings on the inside cover: “filofax cuban personal organizer italian leather.” The inserts are marked with “Personal filofax Ref. 6842711.” In any event, I’m committed to paper, and it’s nice to know that there’s a whole filofax community out there! Thanks again!

  2. I love my paper planner and could never see myself go full digital. Although I also couldn’t see myself without gCal. Meetings and events are in both but my paper planner has lots of little notes. My paper planner is pretty basic, I get the notebook size Blue Sky or Mead planner – it has a monthly calendar and two pages for the week with big blank spaces for the days. I have tried various prompt and fancy planners over the years but they just don’t do it for me. I do have a 5 year daily prompt journal though.

    1. I was really surprised that I ended up liking the passion planner, but I love it. I also really love stickers and need to get some. It’s so interesting to hear about what everyone prefers. I prefer notebook size too, but I find it difficult to transport. Do you carry it around with you? And the prompt journal sounds really interesting. I’d like that! What is it called? Thanks for reading and stopping by!

  3. Just like Michelle (hi!), I use digital for calendar purposes, and my A5 journal for everything else. It needs to be a Leuchtturm-type notebook though, because ring bindings just add to the bulk of it all.

    For my digital notes, I use Notion, so besides my calendar, I also use it to store screenshots, books and links to be read later, cooking recipes, and all the nitty-gritty that’s hard to sort through and find in paper journals. Anyway, thanks for this post!

    1. Hi, Stuart! Thanks for stopping by. I’ve never heard of Notion, so I’m going to check it out now. I’ve tried using Evernote, but it just never caught on for me. I like the idea of being able to sort though. Thanks again for reading and commenting!

      1. The only two pieces of software I’d keep promoting for free to writers: Notion and Scrivener. Those apps give more value than they’re worth. Hope you’re trying Notion already!

      2. Yes! Just added it to my phone. I think it could be good for typing out blog drafts in note form. Sometimes I do that on my Notes app when I get an idea and I’m out. Thanks again for the recommendations!

  4. I use a combination of the passion planner and google calendar – agree, the passion planner is very well thought out. I wondered about the spiral version, thanks for mentioning how heavy it I don’t feel like I missed out 🙂

    1. Just too heavy to carry around. The extra space is nice, but ultimately it’s just not practical. Thanks for stopping by and commenting!

  5. Oh my! Love this post! I spent months going absolutely mad looking for the perfect planner to move into from a blank bullet journal and one day a lovely burgundy daytimer appeared before me in a thrift store! $2!!! We’ve been inseparable ever since. I will always prefer paper and tangible planning/memory keeping. Now that I am creating and printing my own inserts, I suppose technology is still good for something… (;

    1. Thank you so much! I love thrift stores, and the burgundy planner sounds like a great find. 🙂 And how cool that you’re creating your own inserts! Do you know about the philofaxy blog? Just in case, it’s

      Thanks for stopping by and commenting!

Say some things.