A publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Beth Underwood: Get out your planner — paper or digital; time to get ready for the New Year

Can you believe we’re days away from a new year? In some respects, it seems like 2017 just got started. Nevertheless, here we are, about to usher in 2018.

I don’t know about you, but for me, the new year means one thing: time for a new daily, weekly, or monthly planner. Because we have big goals, you and I. We have places to go and people to see. And everyone knows big dreams require big-time planning to make them happen.

The process by which we keep track of our big plans varies from person to person. For the most part, though, we tend to line up in one of two camps: paper planners versus digital planners.

It’s not unlike the paper-or-plastic crowds that formed several decades ago after plastic bags burst onto the shopping scene. The reigning king of grocery carriers, otherwise known as the paper bag, had enjoyed a monopoly for nearly 150 years. They were reliable across the board, from transporting food and wrapping textbooks to jumpstarting fires and forming the canvas for Halloween costumes. Paper bags could do it all.

Except that plastic bags offered a distinct advantage: handles. And who among us wants to be limited to carrying two or three paper bags when we can lug in 10 plastic ones?

So it was that a nation split into two camps: the paper camp and the plastic camp.

The same can be said for planning. After being dethroned in recent years by computers, cell phones and tablets, pen and paper have taken a backseat for planning and note-taking.

In fact, some people are so fully committed to digital that they use paper and pen only under extreme circumstances (while experiencing personal duress.) Others, however, remain staunchly embedded in the paper camp, never without an instrument to write with or a piece of paper to write on. And then there are the people like me, whose loyalty lays with neither option. I am a fence straddler.

It hasn’t always been that way. There was a time when I thought I had to choose. That I had to make a break with paper and pen and engage the digital side or vice versa — to go full tilt either way, lest the writing police show up and fine me for not picking sides.

Luckily — and I am ashamed to add after years of indecision and planner paralysis — I learned the power of the word ‘and’. Instead of weighing the merits of paper OR technology, I learned to employ both by trusting my own gut instincts.

These days, I keep appointments and events on my phone (with handy-dandy reminder alarms), while most of my to-do’s and general journaling find their way onto paper.

And get this: sometimes I put information in both places. Oh, sure, the purists are probably out there screaming about how the sky is falling, but I’ve turned a deaf ear to it all. I use the same approach for the great grocery bag controversy. Sometimes I use plastic and sometimes I use paper. And on those rare occasions when I remember to take them, I employ reusable bags.

Bottom line is that all these products are nothing more than vehicles to get us from one place to the other. It’s about trying them out, seeing which ones seem to fit best with our lifestyle, and putting systems in place that work for us.

In other words, the best system for keeping tabs on your life—whether you’re tracking progress on major goals or keeping up with your daily tasks—is the system you are committed to using. As the new year begins, don’t be afraid to experiment with both digital and paper planning. Maybe you’ll prefer one or the other, or maybe you’ll employ both. Whatever system you use, I hope it paves the way to your best year ever.

If you’d like to check out a few of my favorite apps for planning and tracking, visit bethwrightunderwood.com.

Beth Underwood is an award-winning journalist whose work has appeared in numerous newspapers and magazines. She shares stories of everyday life that entertain, inspire, and encourage others. Her books include Gravity, a narrative nonfiction account of a small group of Tennessee National Guardsmen, and Talk Bourbon to Me, a lighthearted look at Kentucky’s native spirit. Drop her a line at beth@bethwrightunderwood.com, or visit her website at bethwrightunderwood.com.

Related Posts

Leave a Comment