A Paper Planner is Better Than Any App - Here's Why
I love using a physical paper planner to organize my days. There’s just something about the act of writing down my plan for the week, scheduling my days so I can clearly see what I need to do and what I intend to accomplish.
Being a Rising Sign Virgo, organizing and planning is in my DNA. (Want to know what I’m referencing with my Rising Sign? Check out our Astrology episode with Natalie Holbrook.) I can’t begin to describe to you the joy that I get from knowing my day or week is clearly planned out. But, over the past six months, I’ve found another reason to love using a paper planner. It has become a mindfulness practice in and of itself. I recently started using the Savor Life Planner, and it is the first planner I’ve used that has compelled me to mindfully reflect on my goals & priorities for my days, weeks, and months. In the past I would have focused on just the tasks needing to be done, slotting them in my schedule, and rescheduling as needed. Now I go deeper than that and find it helps me have a better focus and clearer mind when approaching my day-to-day. So, even if you don’t love organization as much as I do, I still think you should consider a paper planner, especially the Savor Life Planner. Here’s why...
Why Have a Paper Planner in the First Place
Numerous researchers have studied the impact of the physical act of writing things down, whether it be goals, lecture notes (if you’re in school), or to do lists. And what these studies ultimately show is that “putting pen to paper” helps you remember things better, focus on the important stuff, and be more mindful. For me, I’ve found that handwriting my plan for each day allows me the extra time to identify my priorities, see how (and if) I can make those priorities happen in the hours that I have available, and adjust as needed. Prior to consistently using a paper planner, I would get halfway through my day and realize that I hadn’t really focused on my priorities. Not to say that you can’t adopt this approach to a digital planner, but science shows that hand-writing is better than typing simply because you process the information better.
Fun fact: In Japan, they have a long tradition of using paper planners to organize their lives, known as “techo culture.” This tradition is practiced by young and old alike, and has started to spread to other Asian countries. (Considering that the Japanese are widely known for being a technologically driven society, even more poignant that organizing their lives is where they would put pen to paper.)
My Favorite Planner: The Savor Life Planner
Ever since I was introduced to assignment notebooks (remember those?) in elementary school, I’ve always loved planners. Thanks to this love, I’ve spent a good chunk of change on planners in my quest for the perfect one. I’ve bought planners that I never used because they were way too involved for me once I sat down to use them. I’ve had planners that I used bits and pieces of, but left whole pages blank because I didn’t want to follow the journal prompts. I’ve even had planners that I used religiously for months and then just completely stopped using one day and never looked back. Honestly, for as much as I love the idea of planners, I’ve had a bit of a love/hate relationship with them because I’ve never found one that suited my needs. Enter the Savor Life Planner.
The Savor Life Planner was created by Angela Jia Kim, founder of Savor Beauty (a plant-based skincare line, inspired by Korean beauty rituals). Angela designed the first iteration of her planner, initially called the Daily Action Planner, as a way to help women organize their “gorgeous chaos.” Over the next seven years, she further refined the planner to not only be an organizational tool, but also to focus on the “next 90 days” and to highlight self-care as a key to success (nourish to flourish as she says in the planner).
Why I love it so much
The first thing that caught my attention with this planner was the philosophy of the planner. (Yes, I know that sounds weird, but stick with me.) There are four components that the planner focuses on which in turn forces you to focus on.
Self-Care First - There are prompts for each day and week that ask you to build in time for self-care. Most days for me this means things like going for a run, reading, taking a bath, or my cacao ritual. Every once in a while, I’ll put something in the planner like getting a massage or going to a float therapy session. But the prompts are meant for you to recognize the importance of little acts of self-care and how that boosts your overall well-being, balance, and success.
90-Day Vision - The planner is set up for 90 days. So you will need a new one every 90 days. The idea behind this is two-fold. First, you can chunk down your bigger goals into smaller goals that are easier to focus on and achieve in 90 days. Second, you get to re-evaluate your goals and vision four times a year which helps you further refine them rather than doing it once (maybe twice) a year.
Weekly + Daily Rituals - Put another way, this component is all about creating habits that help you work smarter, not harder. There are built in prompts for you to reflect on the past week in order to help you plan for the upcoming week, “detox your brain” or list out all of the must do’s for your week, schedule in daily self-care, and define your top 3 priorities for the week. (While I sometimes skip over these prompts when I think I’m too busy to do them, I find that being purposeful in completing them has helped me to create habits that support my mental and physical well-being.)
Organize Your “Gorgeous Chaos” - The planner has extra space built in each week for writing out extra to-do’s, your grocery list/weekly meal plan, notes from meetings, etc. These are also several blank, lined pages at the end of the planner that can be used for more notes. At first I barely used these pages, but now I rely on them more and more to organize my projects, thoughts, and errands.
The other thing that sold me on this planner is the specific focus it puts each day on “pulling weeds” and “planting seeds.”
“Pulling weeds” refers to those tasks that we often don’t want to do or that we put off doing because we have “more important things to do.” This section appears each day so you can make sure you are getting these not so fun tasks done and out of the way so that you can enjoy your day/week without constantly carrying a big to-do list with you. Plus, knowing that this section is there for each day rather than the week as a whole has helped reduce my feelings of overwhelm, as I can list only a few tasks each day rather than stare at a big list for the week.
The “planting seeds” daily section is all about tackling at least one thing each day that has potential to help you grow, either personally or professionally. Bonus points if this “seed” will help you move toward accomplishing your 90-day goal(s). I absolutely love this section as it’s brought awareness to the importance of doing something each day that moves me towards my goals or helps me grow.
My Tips for Actually Using Your Planner
Research the right planner for your needs, but don’t base your decision on the reviews. The best planner for you is the one that you actually use. Here are some things to consider when researching planners:
Do you want your planner to also serve as a place to take and keep notes from meetings, ideas you’ve had, etc?
Do you want there to be journal prompts to help you plan your goals and reflect on your day/week/month?
What is the maximum (or minimum) size you want the planner to be?
Do you want each day to have it's own page?
Do you want the planner to encourage creativity by including stickers or coloring/doodling pages?
Keep your planner with you. That’s not to say you should bring it with you if you’re going out to dinner or heading to workout. But make sure to have it at work, school, and easily accessible at home. If it’s within your line of sight, you are more likely to use it/refer to it/make it part of your routine.
Schedule time to use it. My personal preference is to take 20 minutes each Sunday to review the previous week and plan for the week ahead. Then I take 5-10 minutes at the start of each day to review my planner - what I have listed as priorities, what meetings/appointments I have, what is on my to do list, etc - and make any adjustments to my daily plan. Finally, I try to set aside another 20 minutes at the end of each month to reflect on the month (but if I don’t get to this, I don’t worry about it.)
Use a pencil when scheduling your day in the planner. I recently discovered that it was very discouraging for me when I had written my daily schedule in pen and then something changed. For me, having things scratched out or written over was too messy looking. So I started using a pencil because my daily plans change far too often. Being able to erase and re-write out the new daily plan feels less cluttered and more organized.
Zhuzh up your planner with different colors (highlighters, pencils, pens), stickers, drawings, etc. I’ve had a few different planners that I’ve used in recent years come with stickers, and I absolutely love using them (turns out that we are all just kids at heart no matter how old we get.) And I’ve played around with color-coding using different pen colors or highlighters. I haven’t quite worked out the right system for using different colors, but having the colors just makes me happy. The more fun to look at that you can make your planner, the more you will want to use it.
Using a planner should be a “value add” to your life, not feel like another thing you have to do. And while I do believe that it takes a little time and effort at first to get into a groove with using a paper planner, I also know that it can feel daunting and exhausting, especially when we all have endless to-do lists. So, even if you aren’t eager to run out and buy a planner, I hope you take away the motivation to spend a few minutes each day to mindfully review your priorities and purposefully plan your day - no paper required.
Want to learn more?
Check out the Savor Life Planner blog for my tips & tricks to using a planner, setting goals, embracing self-care as a tool for success, and other insights.
Check out this article by Fast Company on Why 90 Day Goals Are Better Than Year Long Ones