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It's Time to Shop for Your 2021 Planner - Should It Be Digital or Paper?

Updated: Dec 14, 2020

2020 seemed both eternal and a flip of the page at the same time. As the year is swiftly approaching its close, it's time to set up your 2021 planner. Time to write in those birthdays, anniversaries, and 2021 goals. But the biggest question of all - what planner to get? And in the digital age, do you even buy a traditional planner when there are so many digital options available? We're going to talk you through the pros and cons of digital and paper planning, and then share some of our favorite planner options.

What is Digital Planning?

Digital planning works best if you already own an iPad and a stylus that makes writing on an iPad easy. Goodnotes is widely considered the best app to use if you want the paper planner experience without the paper. The app costs $7.99, which isn't too bad considering the best paper planners start at around $30 - and go up from there if you want customized formats. On Goodnotes everything you write is indexed and easily searchable. You can move and resize your handwriting, add digital stickers, and draw perfect shapes in the app. Goodnotes comes with multiple planner options, but if none of those work for you, there is a massive creative community making beautiful, customizable digital planners that are made to be imported to Goodnotes. Check out the vast options available on Etsy. Artists have created full planners, single pages that are broken down to half hour increments, and digital stickers to mark and organize every occasion.

Digital Planning Pros

When you plan digitally, you can achieve the level of customization you dream of without having the physical supplies required cluttering up your workspace. You can say goodbye to 10+ colored pens, washi tape, and post-it notes. All of that will exist on your iPad screen. Don't want to take your iPad or your paper planner with you everywhere you go? The Goodnotes app also works on your iPhone, so you can access your planner anytime, anywhere. This option is paper free - making your impact on the environment lighter. You can use your stylus to write or you can use the typing feature on your iPad to create text.

Digital Planning Cons

The most obvious con is that if you don't have an iPad or larger tablet, this option is unavailable to you. We definitely don't recommend buying an iPad for the sole purpose of digital planning. Digital planning is a nice add on if you already use and consistently utilize tablet technology. Digital planning means you up your screen time everyday, which isn't great on the eyes. Because of the endless customization options, it can be easy to get overwhelmed and consumed with creating the aesthetic you dream of - instead of planning and goal setting. Also, if you forget to charge your devices and they die, you can't access your schedule - which would never happen with a paper planner.

Paper Planning Pros

It's a well known fact that writing down things by hand helps us remember them better. When you use a paper planner, you get this benefit with every stroke of your pen, letting you refer to your planner less often because your brain is retaining your tasks and events. Paper planners are extremely simple to use and don't require the learning curve that comes along with digital planning. Paper planners allow a much bigger page size, and if you have a disc-bound planner, you can pull out pages and lay them side by side to compare weekly schedules and tasks - something you can't do on an iPad screen. It's much easier to write on paper than it is on an iPad because we've been writing on paper since we learned the skill.

Paper Planning Cons

If you want to keep detailed plans (daily pages, broken down into half hour increments), you're going to be lugging around a heavy paper planner or multiple planners. If you use ink and mess up, your options are whiteout or crossing out what you've written - both of which are not ✨aesthetic✨. Often pens and highlighters will bleed through the page, making it harder to plan on the other side. Worst of all, if you lose your planner, there is no way to access the information you put in it. It's simply gone. And if you want to use your planner for additional tasks, like habit tracking, budgeting, and journaling - the paper is going to run out quickly, as opposed to the limitless pages available in digital planning.

So what do we recommend? Digital or paper?

This is completely dependent on your lifestyle and what works best for you. If you're tech savvy and most of your life already exists digitally, switching to digital planning is probably a great idea for you. Most of us are working from home as we try to stop the spread of the corona virus, so taking a planner to and from work isn't really a concern right now. But when we all do get back to our offices, switching to a digital planner could definitely lighten the weight of your work bag. If you have a small apartment, removing the supplies required to plan on paper could really free up some desk space.

Is your job work from home even when there isn't a pandemic? Then the weight of a paper planner is no problem. If you always work from home, you probably have a dedicated office space - so you already have a dedicated space for planning supplies. At the end of the day, don't force yourself to transition to a kind of planning that doesn't work for you.

Our Favorite Paper Planners

Amandina's go to planner is by Erin Condren. Erin Condren's line of planners are customizable and allow for extremely detailed planning. She even has a quiz you can take to figure out your planning personality. Amandina used the customizable Metallic Painted Petals Lifeplanner for her 2020-2021 planning. For additional Media A La Carte planning, she uses another customizable planner option from called the Soleia. Paper planning gets Amandina away from the screen and gives her a reprieve from the digital world she works in all day. And because she isn't going into the office during the pandemic, no worries about carrying two planners around.

Most years, I snag a planner by Blue Sky. They have beautiful cover designs and a plethora of inner layout options. Blue Sky is available online, but they also sell their planners at Target. I love being able to physically look at a planner before committing to a notebook I'll have with me for a whole year. Both of our picks (Erin Condren and Blue Sky) landed on the NY Times article "Our Favorite Paper Planners".

BONUS TIP🔥: If you're new to planning, and want to start your 2021 in a more organized way but don't want to invest big bucks into a planner yet, we have a hack for you. Head to TJ Maxx or Marshalls and go to the home goods section. They have tons of beautiful planner options that start as low as $3.99 and only rise to about $10. You can try it out without hurting your wallet. Check out this 2 year planner that I grabbed to help organize my Media A La Carte schedule for $4.99.

Media A La Carte already utilizes Google Calendar to coordinate our schedules and meetings with clients. I already have one foot in the digital world when it comes to my schedule, and with all the buzz around digital planning, I just may take the full step into digital planning and finally click the checkout button on my Etsy cart full of digital planning supplies. We'll see. After a year like 2020, who knows what 2021 will hold. We can try planning it out, but really we just have to take it one day and one planner page at a time.

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