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Productivity planners — digital vs. handwritten

Productivity planners help you organize and manage tasks, deadlines, meetings, and more. Find out whether a digital or a handwritten planner is right for you.
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Juggling all your work responsibilities can be tricky. You've got to stay on top of meetings, deadlines, presentations, and more. Stressed yet?! Here's the good news: A planner can help you track your important tasks, ensure efficiency, and boost productivity — and you've got loads of planners to browse.

First on your to-do list is deciding whether you want a digital planner or a handwritten planner. This guide discusses the pros and cons of each option, making it easier for you to pick the right productivity planner for your needs.

How can planners help productivity?

A planner can help you track daily tasks, assignments, meetings, and deadlines. By ensuring you don't forget any of your important responsibilities, your planner helps you avoid procrastination and boost productivity.

Additionally, a planner can help you organize your time strategically. Better time management also enhances productivity. For example, you can prioritize tasks that take the most time and concentration for those times of day when you're most alert — whether that's after your morning coffee or your post-lunch nap (shh, we won't tell).

Planners can also help with big-picture productivity, letting you set goals and sketch out a strategic plan to work toward them. Large-scale, intelligent change requires lots of smaller actions over an extended time, and a planner can help you visualize how little actions add up to big transformations.

Digital vs. handwritten productivity planners: What’s the difference?

When choosing a planner, you have literally thousands of options to check out. Start by deciding whether you want a handwritten productivity planner or a digital productivity planner. Read on to find out more about your options so you can choose the best productivity planner for you.

Handwritten productivity planners

Handwritten productivity planners require you to keep track of your tasks the old-fashioned way — by writing them down. Different types of handwritten productivity planners serve different needs:

  • Bullet journal. A bullet journal provides pages with ready-made bullet points for you to fill in with your appointments, tasks, or other highlights. It's perfect if you like to create short and snappy to-do lists.
  • Monthly planner. A monthly planner usually spans a full calendar year, with pages organized in weeks and months over 365 days. It's ideal if you want to use your planner as a scheduling tool. Daily planners and weekly planners are also options you can choose from.
  • Undated planner. Planners don't have to be dated. An undated daily planner or undated weekly planner is timeless. You can pick one up at any time, even if the year is halfway over. No money wasted on pages you won't use!
  • Goal-setting planner. A goal planner is all about meeting your objectives. You can use it to plan smaller daily steps that you'll take to reach larger monthly goals. This option is perfect if you’re chasing big dreams (aren't we all?).
  • Work-life planner. A work-life planner includes pages specifically for both your personal and professional lives, so all of your obligations are in one place. This lets you cut down on the number of planners or agendas you need.
  • School planner. Still studying? A school planner is for you. These planners tend to be organized by semesters instead of calendar years. They may also have resources specifically for students, like bookmarks and stickers for note-taking.
  • Gratitude journal. A gratitude journal gives you a space to write what you're thankful for every day. It might also include daily pages with inspirational quotes or affirmations to keep you motivated and striving to be your best self.
  • Self-care journal. A self-care journal is all about prioritizing your well-being. Instead of focusing on time management, it includes space for tracking your healthy habits at a glance, such as exercise, sleep, and meals. It might also suggest a self-care activity for each day of the week.

Retain memory

A handwritten planner can be helpful if you're forgetful. Research suggests that when we write something down, we're more likely to recall it. The information imprints on the brain through the physical task of writing. Inputting something digitally doesn't have the same impact.

Avoid distraction

Digital planners need to be accessed via a device like your phone or tablet. This means you'll have to face all of the digital distractions such devices offer every time you want to access your planner. A written planner demands your full focus on your daily or weekly planning, minimizing procrastination.

Write better notes

For some people, note-taking remains easier with a pen or pencil and paper than with electronic means. Digital tools may not offer sufficient space to jot down a lot of material, which can be a drag if you want to include a lot of information in your planner.

Write the stress away 

Many people find that writing is a great way to reduce stress. Journaling is a great example. Boost gratitude by jotting down a positive thing that happened in your day before going to bed. Simply doodling in your paper planner can also be a great stress-buster.

Some drawbacks of handwritten productivity planners

Although handwritten productivity planners have plenty of benefits, they also have drawbacks. They can get cluttered quickly if you have large handwriting. It can also be tedious updating paper planners, as you'll have to cross out or erase words.

Another drawback of handwritten planners is that you have to carry them with you if you want access to them. Digital tools are usually accessible via your phone — which, let's face it, you probably have at your fingertips 24/7.

It's also possible to lose a paper planner, which can be a huge hassle. Last but not least, paper planners are less eco-friendly than digital tools. For those who want to do a small part to save the Earth, ditching paper is a plus.

Examples of physical productivity planning tools

There are a few different types of physical productivity planning tools. Large-scale desk planners are designed to cover your desk's surface, like a desk mat, so all your tasks are in sight at all times.

In contrast, pocket planners are small enough to take on the go, which can be convenient if you like to have your planner always handy. There are also larger book-style planners (for example, one with a leather cover) with pages for you to write on, bound together with a spine or coils.

Digital productivity planners

Digital productivity planners don't require you to write by hand. Instead, you input your tasks via an electronic device, like your tablet, laptop, or phone. Different digital productivity planners serve different needs:

  • Habit tracker. A habit tracker lets you monitor everyday habits like your exercise routine, dietary intake, and sleep. If you're trying to improve daily habits (say, you want to quit smoking), tracking them can be a good starting point.
  • Monthly planner. Monthly digital planners are similar to monthly written planners.They provide a monthly calendar that you can flip through and adjust according to your preferences (daily, weekly, monthly, or even annually).
  • Goal planner. You probably have some long-term goals you want to achieve, from buying a house to running a marathon. A digital goal planner lets you record those personal goals and the smaller steps (like daily goals or weekly goals) you're taking to achieve them.
  • Daily productivity. When you're more productive at work or school, you get your tasks done faster — meaning you get to do fun things like have dinner with friends sooner! A productivity planner lets you track tasks and can even include perks to help you be more efficient such as a Pomodoro technique timer.
  • To-do planner. If you're obsessed with to-do lists, this is the planner for you.You can list all your tasks and then check them off digitally. Plus, you can set reminders for yourself for upcoming tasks you don't want to forget.

Save money 

Everybody loves to save a buck where they can — especially when it comes to office supplies. A digital planning tool is usually a one-time investment that you can use indefinitely, which can help you save money in the long term. That means more money to spend on the fun stuff in life (like after-work drinks)!

Edit as needed 

With a digital planner, there's no need to erase or cross out points. You can easily update and edit your tasks whenever you want, however often you want. This is a big bonus for people who have constantly evolving schedules.

Collaborate with others

Another pro of digital planning tools is that more than one person can access them at a time. For example, an entire team of employees can access a shared calendar-style monthly planner, so everyone can track project deliverable deadlines. URL-sharing tools such as OSlash are another example of how digital productivity tools make it easier to work together.

Set reminders 

Most digital planners let you set automated reminders. You'll then get a notification on your device, like your phone or tablet, alerting you of your upcoming task, deadline, meeting, or other note. 

Enjoy its portability 

You can access digital planners anytime, anywhere via your electronic device. This is helpful for people who like to have a portable planner they can check whenever necessary. From students to business travelers, portability is a big plus for many.

Examples of digital productivity planning tools 

Loads of digital productivity planning tools can help improve communication, efficiency, and productivity. Google Calendar is an example of a monthly agenda-style planner that multiple people can access. Meanwhile, Asana is a project planning software that makes it easy to assign, track, and check off deliverables.

For great personal productivity planners, you can check out Someday, Todoist, or Papier. 

For employees with many links to keep track of (and who doesn't these days?), OSlash can help. This tool takes complex URLs and transforms them into easy-to-remember tidbits, like o/hr, o/accounting, and o/meeting.

Streamline productivity with OSlash

Now that you have the digital productivity planner of your choice, make it super easy to access any time you want with OSlash! OSlash can help you convert any URL into easy-to-remember words that are intuitive and simple to recall. 

With o/to-do-list, o/weekly-priorities, or o/habit-tracker, stay on top of your daily plan and see your productivity soar. 

You can even download this yearly habit tracker to keep track of what you’re up to day in & day out. 

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