This semester, try using a paper planner

Varun Joshi, a senior double-majoring in economics and math, is a Hatchet opinions writer.

I never used to be particularly organized, or had my entire life put together. Though my desk and closet are still less than perfect, the many pencil and highlighter markings in my planner reveal a different story.

But why have I ‒ in an age when our smartphones and desktops are more than efficient at outlining our daily routines ‒ opted for a paper planner over an iPhone calendar? Contrary to the popular belief that physical planners are outdated and passé, I’ve discovered their many benefits. If you haven’t tried using a planner yet, you should: You might be surprised at how much you like it.

My first three years in college were an odyssey of unsuccessful experimentation with different Android apps and digital calendars. Fresh out of high school, the mere notion of walking around campus with a pen and calendar seemed old-fashioned and ludicrous. Physical planners were, after all, unnecessary extra baggage when I already had a smartphone and a laptop.

However, as some recent studies demonstrate, the physical act of writing actually has a strong correlation to memory and learning. Our mind’s filter for what we end up remembering is activated when we simply put our pen to paper.

In contrast, typing requires far less brain energy and engages fewer regions of the brain. That makes us far more likely to forget words that are typed than handwritten – something you may have heard a few of your professors preach on the first day of class.

I have also found digital planners to paradoxically make the very act of planning less efficient. Any appointment or meeting could be written down on a calendar quickly. Conversely, adding an event on almost any app involves filling out entry fields as expansive as a DMV form – including checkboxes for times, options to tag people and tedious location input.

But worst of all is the flurry of messages, beeps and notifications that accompany almost any digitized schedule. As tied as I was to technology, I now know the benefits of possessing a schedule bereft of notification bars and a finite battery life. And while you’re studying in Gelman Library, rest assured your paper planner will never distract you.

Having come to depend on my physical planner now, and seeing how my work ethic has improved, I know that there’s no going back for me. As we head into the second month of our fall semester, keep in mind that the pen is indeed mightier than the keyboard.

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