Updated: Jan 5
When I talk to ministry team leaders about the concept of a team planner, they often respond, "Well, my team already uses [Google Calendar, Asana, other digital planning tools], so we don't need paper planners."
My answer to them is, yes, of course you can use whatever system you'd like for your team. And digital systems are often very convenient. However, in this increasingly digital world, professionals are finding that using an analog system such as a bound paper planner has many benefits that may not be immediately obvious.
Here are a few of the points I have learned from my recent research on using a paper planner:
Although technically not a scientific article, this personal reflection by Michael Grothaus for Fast Company discusses how he was able to better remember daily tasks and meetings when he wrote them down instead of depending on his phone to remind him, after trying out a planner for two weeks.
In the same article, Maud Purcell, a psychotherapist and journaling expert, tells us, "It appears that writing stimulates an area of the brain called the RAS (reticular activating system), which filters and brings clearly to the fore the information we're focusing on." Writing by hand helps us focus.
Grothaus also mentions that a paper planner "becomes not just a preview of our future, but a record of our past," instead of an event or to do that pops up and then vanishes into nowhere after it's done.
This article by Ferris Jabr in Scientific American mentions studies supporting the claim that people tend to absorb more information when it is presented on paper rather than in digital form. "At least a few studies suggest that ... screens impair comprehension."
It also says, "A reader can focus on a single page of a paper book without losing sight of the whole text." Analog text gives us context and connection.
In a study by Mueller and Oppenheimer, note-taking by hand over on a computer during a lecture led to comparatively superior performance on exams when the participant was allowed to study before taking the test. "This is suggestive evidence that longhand notes may have superior external-storage as well as superior encoding functions," meaning that information is better stored in our brains when we write notes by hand.
According to Dr. James Pennebaker, mentioned in this article, writing by hand "strengthens immune cells... and has been shown to be associated with drops in depression, anxiety, and increases in positive mood..."
Finally, I discovered in my research that the American Optometric Association recognizes a problem called called Computer Vision Syndrome, or Digital Eye Strain, that is caused by depending on screens for too much of the work that we do on a daily basis. It can cause many uncomfortable physical symptoms and be difficult to completely get rid of. The abstract of this study from the Computers in Human Behavior journal also mentions that using screens can create "higher levels of experienced stress and tiredness," perhaps because "working with the computer result[s] in a higher cognitive workload."
These things being said, there are many ways to combine digital and analog organization and planning strategies so that many different kinds of people can benefit. I personally still use daily reminders on my phone so I don't forget to take my nightly medication or post on the PJFY Instagram feed. I still reply to digital event or meeting invitations, too. However, those events or meetings, plus my notes, to dos, and other plans all get transferred into my paper planner, and I can see everything all at the same time instead of having to check multiple apps. I also take time to record what did happen as a short form of journaling (see image below). This is a great way for me to be able to look back and check when it was that I had that doctor's appointment, or overall how the semester went for me.
I am one who wants to find a happy medium, making space for as many benefits as I can. If your team would like to work with me to incorporate the benefits of an analog system with the digital one you are already using, I would be so excited to see what we can come up with together!
Let me know what you're thinking at PlannerJustForYou@gmail.com .
And yes, I am aware of the irony that this post about the benefits of analog writing was written on a computer to be read on a screen :P