Nine Reasons Why Paper Planner Lovers (Like Me) Should Go All In on a Digital Calendar

September 11, 2023

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I used and loved a paper planner through law school. But many of us reach tipping points where paper planners just can’t keep up with our ever-more-complicated lives. If that you still use a paper planner (at least in part) and that sounds like it might be the case, here are nine reasons you might want to consider going all-in on a digital calendar. 

Note: This does not mean I’m for going all digital on everything (e.g., note-taking). I still take notes on a legal pad with a pen. I just then bridge any action items to a digital calendar to make sure my plans are realistic, see how they all interact, and to help me share the load with others. 

Enjoy this episode, and let me know if you have any questions about how you might make this work for you! Email me at ke***@ke********.com or reach out on Instagram (https://www.instagram.com/_kellynolan_/)

To learn more about and sign up for the Bright Method 8-week program, click here: https://kellynolan.com/the-bright-method-time-management-course-with-kelly-nolan.

Episode 20. Reasons to Go All In on a Digital Calendar

[Upbeat Intro Music]

Kelly Nolan: Welcome to The Bright Method Podcast where we’ll discuss practical time management strategies designed for the professional working woman. I’m Kelly Nolan, a former patent litigator who now works with women to set up The Bright Method in their lives. The Bright Method is a realistic time management system that helps you manage it all, personally and professionally. Let’s get you falling asleep proud of what you got done today and calm about what’s on tap tomorrow. All right, let’s dig in!


Hey, and welcome back! All right, so today we’re gonna talk about why you should consider going all in on a digital calendar if you are someone who also uses a paper planner to a degree right now. I want you to know, first and foremost, that I come at this from the angle of someone who loved paper planners. I used a paper planner all the way through high school, college, law school. I absolutely love paper planners. I know how fun they are. I know how wonderful they are. I know how hard it is — I still always want to go buy a paper planner at that Target aisle because they’ve gotten even more beautiful over time. So please understand that I’m coming at it as a paper planner lover. I still really believe that we need to transition to a digital calendar.

The other thing I want to say on the outset is that, while I’m a firm believer in managing our time and our tasks with a digital calendar, I also truly still love paper and pen. I have a legal pad right now with notes all over it for this episode. I process by writing with a pen in my hand, and I still love it in that degree. So I want you to hear that as I push you to go digital for calendar and time and task management, that does not mean I want you to go all digital on everything else. I still love paper and pen for a lot of different things. So just know that going into this discussion because I think that can be confusing for people. They might think I’m like, “Rah, rah, digital everything!” That’s certainly not the case.

What I’d like to do is go through nine reasons why I just think you need to consider going digital even if you’re a paper lover like me. What it all comes down to is just a firm belief that, to me, paper planners served me really well through all the phases of my life up until when I was an actual practicing attorney, and what I think happens is that they just cannot keep up with our lives when we get an ever more complex life. That tipping point can be hit at different phases. For me, I like to think I was an early bloomer in the overwhelmed phase. I got very overwhelmed very early in my career, where for other people, they do fine with the systems they have in place until a certain promotion, or a kid comes along, or a sick parent comes along or something like that. And then, at that point, they realize their system isn’t keeping up with their life.

So, wherever it happens to you, you just might hit a point where you realize, “Man, that system that was serving me really well for a long time just can’t keep up with where my life is at now. That is what it is and let me transition into a system that can keep up with my life and get me where I want to go.” That is a life of feeling more clarity of all the things you have to do, how they’re going to happen, how they interact with each other, and how you can take a break in the middle of it all and still actually enjoy that break.

Nine Reasons to Go All In on a Digital Calendar – 3:12

So let’s talk about the nine reasons that digital calendars give us that clarity, that peace of mind, and all of that, where paper planners can’t fully keep up with that when our life hits that tipping point of complexity.

Reason One: Get Clear on Our Invisible To-Do List – 3:23

So, reason number one is — I think we’ve talked about this through the past episodes to date — I’m a firm believer that we need to get really clear on our invisible to-do list. As a quick reminder, those are the things that we do in our lives that take up hours of our day but weirdly we don’t typically put them on the calendar, or we don’t typically put them on a to-do list. And so, when we plan our day, we’re not fully accounting for those things, those hours of things we have to do, and that’s why we feel like we end the day being like, “Where did it go? I know I was so busy.” It’s because we’re not fully appreciating all that we did do because we weren’t accounting for so much of it.

So things like that are making dinner, showering and getting ready, if you have little kids, doing bed and bath time with those kids, walking the dog, even things like just making meals and cleaning up the kitchen. This stuff, when you add it all up, it truly takes up hours of our day, and we need to account for it.

Now, I want you to envision if I was like, “You need to calendar when you’re gonna make dinner and shower and do bed and bath time and walk the dog and all these things in your paper planner every single day,” and both how time consuming that would be and how much of a mess it could quickly become. I just want you to understand why, if you are interested in alleviating the mental load in this way, getting it into a calendar, seeing how it all interacts, moving it around easily, all of that kind of stuff, why using a digital calendar would serve you better in that department than a paper planner. I do think that the value of getting clear on that invisible to-do list is so critical for the mental load and the mental juggling act of managing all of it, and for it helping you get a better understanding of your capacity to take on everything else, which will help you plan for realistically.

So getting clear on that invisible to-do list is a very important part of solid time management, in my opinion, and you need to use a system that allows you to do that in an efficient and effective way. When you use a digital calendar, you can actually calendar every day from, let’s say, 6:00 to 6:45 you shower and get ready, and you just repeat it going forward just on workdays, however you want it to be. You can customize it, and suddenly, you have this very efficient, easy, quick way to account for that in your calendar from then on out, and you can move it because I’m a huge proponent of flexible time management, and if you were like, “Well, on this day, I’m actually gonna do it here, and on this day I’m gonna do it here,” the beautiful part of the digital calendar is you just move it up. You just drag it up and let it go and save it for that event going forward.

Suddenly, you can start tailoring this kind of default building block that you put into your calendar to fit your schedule for the day. When you use a paper planner, you just don’t have that ability in the same way. If you tried to do The Bright Method in a paper planner and get clear on that invisible to-do list and make it work in your calendar, you’re gonna spend too much time doing it. It’s gonna be really unwieldy. If I were trying to do it, I would give up. And so, I have no judgment if you give up. Again, it’s not a fault with you. It’s just the system. That’s why I would encourage you to try out a digital calendar.

Now, I’m gonna kind of go on a tangent here because I realize that, as with any tool that people bring up, the tool is critical, but you need practical strategies to do it. So please know that if you have tried to do a digital calendar and you just haven’t figured out how to make it work or things like that, don’t rule it out or think there’s something weird with you. I just think if you’re like me, you need someone helping you with step-by-step instructions and guidance and that you can ask questions of to do that. And so, just know that if you’re interested in that, that is a lot of what I do. So just know that that’s an option for you. Or if you want to find someone else, awesome.

But more to the point, understand that if you’ve tried a digital calendar and you were trying alone and you just got frustrated and couldn’t figure it out, that is not anything on you or the tool. It’s just that you need more guidance to help you understand the strategy behind what do you put in there, how does it work, what are creative ways you can use this to put a lot of information in there but in a more manageable way and things like that. So that’s a little bit of a tangent, but I wanted to address that if you are someone who’s tried and gotten really frustrated with it in the past.

Reason Two: It Helps You Get Out There and Live – 7:42

Okay, reason number two is, if you are like past me, you liked your paper calendar looking kind of pretty. I wasn’t a big floral color anything like that, which is no knock on you if you are, but I still liked my handwriting to look nice, and I boxed certain things, and I liked those boxes to look nice, and if they didn’t, that bothered me a little bit. If I had to erase something and move something and cross things out, that could bother me. Not all the time, but sometimes it did. More to the point, I just spent a little bit too much time in my calendar making my calendar look pretty versus getting out there and living life.

The reason I believe that we plan and schedule in the first place, in the whole place, is to help us get out there, get stuff done, and enjoy the fun stuff, and take breaks and just accomplish what we want to accomplish, enjoy life, be present in the ways that we want, and not live in our calendar. While I think that time management is annoyingly and ironically time-consuming to do, so we do have to spend probably a little bit more time than we want to in our calendar making sure things are gonna work and come together in the right way, we don’t want to be spending more time there than we need to. And so, I think we just have to be more realistic that things are gonna change, we’re gonna have to move things around, and that’s easier to do in a digital calendar. You just drag and drop, as I said. No big deal.

But if you are someone who, like me, really liked your paper planner looking nice, you might spend too much time doing that, and then things change, and you spend too much time rearranging it and still having it look nice and things like that. If you are not that person, then you can totally ignore this point. but just wanted to address it because it’s something that I’ve felt and I also feel like, as paper planners get more and more beautiful (which I think they are) that only exacerbates that issue. It’s like this beautiful planner so you want to keep it looking nice versus just having it actually be effective for you and helping you get things done in a way that works for you and in a way that you can take a break and actually do that.

I’ll also wrap up there that if you still love the beautiful paper products, which I completely understand, there are just so many wonderful notebooks and journals and things like that that you can satisfy that kind of component of your life in other areas. It’s just that when it comes to managing your time and tasks, I don’t think pretty necessarily is the thing that we need to prioritize over what we’re actually looking for. A beautiful calendar that’s all color coordinated and things like that, I totally get the draw, but if you take a step back and ask, “What’s the point of me managing all of this?” In my opinion, it’s less stress, more clarity, better communication with people, sharing the load, getting to actually accomplish what I want to accomplish, being able to check out at the end of the night knowing I accomplished that, feeling good about my plans tomorrow, and feeling motivated about that. Those kinds of things are really what’s most important, and to get there, I truly believe that a digital calendar is the most efficient and effective way to do that more than a paper planner. So you can consider that one for yourself.

Reason Three: It Allows for Incredible Communication – 10:56

All right. Reason number three to go all in on a digital calendar is that it truly allows for incredible communication with other people. So that could be your home partner. That could be, obviously, people at work, and you’re probably already doing that to a degree at work and really think about what works well there and how could you bring that over into your personal life as well. You can communicate with other people as well like family members, parents, a nanny, people like that. It can really help you communicate, which is critical because that means a lighter workload for you.

So let’s pretend that you have heard what you like on The Bright Method Podcast so far, and you’re like, “I’m gonna implement all of this, but I’m gonna do it in my paper calendar,” and while I believe it will help you, what I want you to see is that you could get a lot of clarity around all the tasks that you have to do at home, all the tasks that involve any kids that you have (pick-ups, drop-ffs, all that kind of stuff). You could do a lot and build it all out in there, but it just lives there. It just lives in that paper planner. Where, if you put it all into a digital calendar, you can start sharing calendars or certain event-type things with your partner to delegate things out to them. They can be aware of plans. They can see what you see, to any degree that you want. You can send invites to your parents or a nanny who’s helping you. You could share a calendar with them. Whatever makes sense to you. But suddenly you have a lot more native communication happening within this platform, where you’re already managing your time, that you can avoid having to communicate every little change, every little thing with every other person that is in your life.

This truly helps you delegate things and also just not be the keeper of all the information, not be the keeper of, “When do we have to get the kids, and where are they, and where do I go,” and all those little things that can be so brutal and infuriating. When you use a digital calendar where you can communicate that information, it doesn’t actually take a whole lot of extra steps for you, if any, if you’re already using a digital calendar to keep track of things and put information in on where people are at different times, then it’s just available to other people that you’re sharing that with versus you having to take the extra step of coordinating it for yourself and then communicating it with other people.

So that communication component of this is massive just for, one, communication is so beneficial itself, and two, getting things off your plate. Stopping being this family secretary where other people can put things in there and communicate with you as well in that calendar, and it can be really, really — it just eases it for everybody and makes life easier for everybody if you can share it with other people.

There are obviously other issues here if your partner is not using a calendar. But for the vast majority of people I work with, their partner is using a form of a digital calendar and there are creative ways that we can try and bridge their calendar to you and things like that to share calendars in that department. So it can be a little more complicated than it sounds, and I never like to sugarcoat that, but it can be truly a game changer for a lot of people in terms of sharing the workload, especially at home.

Reason Four: You Can Plan for the Long Term – 14:11

Reason number four is if you want to think long term, you need to be able to plan long term. For that, I really believe you’ve got to go digital. So there are certain things that come up in your personal life like when is your driver’s license gonna expire or your passport or even just birthdays every year, and when do you want to start doing things for those birthdays ahead of time. So it’s not just the birthday you want to be aware of but when do you want to buy a card and send it? When do you want to make dinner reservations and do that? When do you want to send flowers? Whatever you do, those things you need to do, typically, before the birthday.

For all of these types of things, you might want to put things on repeat for all the years going forward For the passport example or the driver’s license example, you might just need to start calendaring things years in advance of, “Okay, my passport expires in three years. I want to start renewing that nine months before, so let me calendar that.” And there we go!

But if you are using a paper planner that ends at the end of 2023 or maybe an academic year of 2024, you’re just kind of keeping a list of things that need to go into the future that you can’t calendar now, and are just hoping that you remember to transition those into a new planner, and you have to reinvent the wheel for birthdays and things like that every single year to know, “Okay, on this date, I need to go get the card and send it off before the birthday in a week.”

And so, you really eliminate a lot of work for yourself by going into a digital calendar where you can schedule things years in advance, you can schedule things on an annual basis that just repeats going forward without any further work for you, and when it comes to all of just managing all of those logistics that go forward into the future, that we need to be aware of now, is just so beneficial to be able to do that easily and efficiently, versus having to kind of keep a paper list of things that you hope you remember to transition into your new planner going forward.

You can think of this on the work front as well like annual conferences, annual performance review-type things. All of those things that come up, you can literally lay out a rough game plan, repeat it annually, and gain the benefit of that from here on out, versus kind of being like, “Oh, yeah, it’s this time of year. This is when I do this,” and, “Oh, I should start working on my self-evaluation at this time.” If you can actually calendar out, “Okay, I want to start working on my self-evaluation in early November before the holidays hit, you just repeat that on a going-forward basis, and there you go.

So I’m not giving you an exhaustive list of examples, but you can start seeing how it could really benefit you to put in those repeating things that hit annually or every two months or every three months. Again, with a digital calendar, you just repeat them on that custom basis going forward and you get that benefit, versus having to really just manually do it all, count it all out, all of that kind of stuff. It just doesn’t work as well. So, if you want to think long term and be able to plan long term without a lot more manual work from you, digital is really, really powerful in that regard.

Reason Five: It Integrates with Email – 17:17

All right! Reason number five is short and sweet, but it integrates with email. You know, a lot of your digital calendars pull things in from email. You can accept invites easily, things like that. Planners don’t. Especially on the work front, when meetings get moved, they just get moved and you can see them. You might get an alert, but you just see them, and you don’t have to manually change everything and update your calendar. That can be really, really important. Because the more places you’re trying to keep track of things, even if you’re like, “Oh, each day I write out what I have to do that day into paper,” if things move, then something’s gonna fall through the cracks on that front, and that really just doesn’t serve you very well. It’s so easy to see how that happens of how things fall through the cracks, and let’s just eliminate that point.

Reason Six: It Sends Reminders – 17:59

All right, reason number six is a big one for me. A digital calendar virtually taps you on the shoulder to remind you to do the things, and a paper calendar cannot do that. So this one is burned into my brain because, in my paper planner days in college, I once stood up the most senior female professor at my school, and she was quite elderly and had a cane and walked herself deep into campus all the way to a restaurant, and I stood her up. That lunch was in my paper planner. I just didn’t check my calendar. I finished class. I was tired. I was like, “I’m just gonna go home and take a nap,” and I didn’t think about it or remember that I hadn’t checked my calendar. I went home and took a nap, and I woke up in a panic mode because I realized it then. Ugh, I still feel ill when I think about it.

That is the thing. That paper planner is only so good as it can remind you to do the thing when the time rolls around. A paper calendar just can’t reach out if the paper planner is in your purse or downstairs or at home when you’re out. It can’t just tap you on the shoulder and be like, “Hey, heads up. You have that call in five minutes.” Where, as we all know, online calendars can. Whether it’s on your computer or on your phone or both, it really has saved me so many times where I’m like, “Ooh, yeah, I totally forgot I had that thing, and now my phone is telling me to do that,” and it has just been a godsend for me and something that, unfortunately, paper planners just cannot do.

And so, that is reason number six to go digital is you get that tap on the shoulder to do the things you’ve worked so hard to schedule.

Reason Seven: It Allows for Quick and Easy Rearrangement – 19:37

I’ve kind of touched on this already. Reason number seven is that digital calendars help you quickly and easily rearrange when those curveballs inevitably strike. And so, we all know the curveballs are coming. We all have curveballs almost every day at work. We have them in our personal life, and whether one derails your hour, your next day, even weeks at a time, your digital calendar just lets you drag and drop things around really easily to create a new plan.

Where if you’re in a paper calendar, there’s a lot of erasing, a lot of rewriting. It can be weirdly frustrating when that happens, and it’s far more time consuming to move things around and you might kind of worry that you forgot to move things and things like that. We’ve got to use a system that accounts for curveballs. We know they’re coming. Let’s use a system that helps us be more efficient and effective when they do come so that we can move things around quickly and then get back to playing out our new plan.

Reason Eight: You’ll Always Have it On You – 20:28

Reason number eight is also short and sweet. We usually don’t leave the house without our phone. And so, if you have your phone, you will always have your calendar on you. I am someone who has one of those little cases that credit cards go into. So I truly grab my keys and my phone, and I’m good to go. I have ways to pay. You might just use Apple Pay now. There are just a lot of ways that you can leave with just your phone, not even your bag, these days. And even on a dog walk or things like that, you can just have your calendar accessible to you so easily all the time, where if you run into someone and they ask for something and things like that, you can just pull up your calendar pretty easily there.

I will just say, I do most of my planning and calendar management on the computer. I just really like that larger view. It helps me see a week at a time and things like that. But on the go, I still reference my calendar a lot. I might not put in a lot of stuff in there or move things around or manage my calendar on my phone. It’s a personal preference. I like that bigger view. But I still very much like to be able to reference it, be like, “What am I doing the rest of the day?” and pull that up quickly, things like that. So that is a big point for me as well.

Reason Nine: It’s Backed Up – 21:31

All right, and reason number nine is your digital calendar is backed up. It’s on the Cloud, wherever that might be. [Laughs] I’m not very tech savvy in that department. The information there lives on. So if you lose your phone, you have not lost your calendar. Where I have had a client whose car got broken into, and her planner that was in a bag was taken, and suddenly, everything coming up, her whole copy of what was coming up on her schedule was gone. That’s pretty scary, especially if you are running client information and you have all these deadlines and things coming up. If you don’t have a record of it somewhere else, that can just be a pretty stressful place to be.

So I’ll just really throw that out there for you to consider is that, with a digital calendar, again, you lose your phone, you can jump on any computer, login to Outlook, login to Google, login to your iCloud account, and you see your calendar there. That’s just a huge stress relief point for me. If you’re also worried about it, you can always back up your calendar once a month.

So I have had some clients who are like, “What if Google goes down?” or things like that. “What do I do?” You could calendar time once a month to just export your calendar and keep it on your computer if you wanted to do that. But you have those options. You have more options with a digital calendar than you do with paper, and that’s just something that I think is important to think about.

Bonus Tip: It Helps You Use Apps – 22:49

Then one bonus tip, just because I can’t help it, is that digital calendars really let you use apps like Acuity or Calendly, and now Google even has native features to do this, where you can schedule meetings. You could send someone that booking link, they can schedule a meeting on your calendar with a lot of ease, and that is just really, really nice to avoid all those back-and-forth emails and that kind of stuff.

So that was just a bonus tip. But when you use a digital calendar and you can trust it to include everything on your plate in the ways that you want, you can use those things like Acuity and Calendly for others to easily get on your calendar without that back and forth of, “When works best for you?” “Oh, I can’t do those times. How about these?” and all that kind of stuff. So that is a very big perk as well.

Recap – 23:33

So what I want you to really think about here is what’s the point? Just taking a step back from this. What’s the point of managing your time in a planner or a calendar? What are you really after? Again, we kind of talked about this, but if you are after more clarity of all the things on your plate, how do they all come together, is it realistic when they all come together? How does this work thing affect your personal life, and do you need to communicate that with a partner and all that kind of stuff? Then if you can just get clarity on that front, of what am I really going for here, and then you can ask yourself (thinking about some of the things I’ve raised here) does a paper planner help me get there? Could a digital calendar help me get there? And compare those with that lens of what’s really the point of this. I don’t think you’re thinking of it this simply, but is it really to have a beautiful paper planner, or is it to have that clarity and things like that? That’s where I really just think a digital calendar shines.

Now, I will throw out there that I’ve worked with clients on kind of getting creative in the middle here to some degree. So, for example, some of my clients do the full Bright Method on a digital calendar because of all of the things we’ve talked about, but then on a daily basis, they might print out, on a paper, just literally the day’s schedule so they can write all over it as the day goes on, and that can help kind of bridge that if you really love paper but also using that digital calendar. I don’t recommend that if your calendar shifts a lot. You know, there are some work environments where meetings get moved to the day of all the time, and you know you’re gonna be a little hand strung on that front if that’s you. But you would be hand strung on that in a paper planner as well. So you just kind of want to think about, “Are there some creative ways that I could still satisfy the paper-lover part of me in this, but also get the benefits of managing my time and my tasks in a digital platform?”

Now, again, as I said, I still process by writing, and I even write to-do lists and things like that in the moment. It’s just, then, that I bridge them into my calendar so that I’m plugging those into a realistic gameplan to make sure that it’s realistic for me to do them, realistic for me to understand how long they might take and things like that, but I want you to really understand that I do still write and want you to keep that habit going for you if that works for you. We just, then, want to bridge it into a digital calendar.

So I hope that makes sense for you. If you have any questions, I really love thinking about this stuff. As I’ve said in the past, I really believe time management is so personal. So if you have questions on how to tailor it to you, reach out to me. Send me an email at ke***@ke********.com. Reach out to me on Instagram if you’d like to do that there. I really love talking about this stuff and helping people start feeling comfortable about how they can see how this could mold to them and work for them, especially for the long haul.

I’ve used this system, man, I haven’t even counted how many years, but from being single as an attorney to now married to two kids as a business owner. It’s helped mold to my life in so many different ways. And so, I want to help you understand how it could mold to you. If you need help kind of setting up a digital calendar for the first time, understanding how it works, understanding how your Google can talk to your Outlook if we can make that work with your work privacy settings and security settings and all of that. Things like that are what we do inside The Bright Method for people who need that. For people who don’t, there’s plenty of other stuff that we do as well. But if you do need that extra support, that is definitely something I do and I really enjoy helping people set up and understand.

So, if you’re interested, jump into my next program. You can learn more about it at www.kellynolan.com/bright, and I am happy to answer any questions. Regardless, I hope you’ve enjoyed this episode. I hope you’ve gleaned something and that I’ve given you a little food for thought, and if you have any questions, reach out to me. I’ll catch you in the next episode!

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