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We live in an age of unparalleled computerisation. Only a decade ago, the idea of a smartphone was science fiction. A tablet was something you took to stave off the worst effects of a hangover. Now we can hold something as powerful as the computer that took the Apollo astronauts to the moon in the palms of our hands and this progress shows no sign of slowing. Year upon year, technology companies roll out devices of increasing sophistication.

These developments pose a question:  Is there still a place in our lives for paper diaries and calendars? The short answer is yes – and perhaps there always will be. For many, there is a satisfaction that comes from the act of writing things down. It simply feels better – and if your life involves a lot of schedule management, this is no insignificant quality.

Despite the efforts of Apple, Samsung and more, a computerised planner will simply never be as intuitive as making markings with a pen (or pencil, if you are so inclined) and so the humble diary endures. They are an accepted feature of our kitchens (in many cases) where the whole family can view and add to them. They are also useful in terms of wall calendars in offices and communal areas for the same reasons. You cannot crowd round a tablet quite the same as you can crowd around their paper equivalent.

Undoubtedly, technological innovations have made life significantly easier for those who use them. The help they offer in organising one’s life is significant. They sync seamlessly with the diary on other devices in your life – as part of the so-called ‘internet of things’. Their contents are backed up automatically – and so secured against damage caused by water, fire and theft. The contacts contained in an address book can be kept in sync with those in your phone, making life even easier.

For many, these advantages are huge. For others, they are less so. A diary can have enormous sentimental value and part of this value can stem from its uniqueness. As well as this, its contents are restricted to a single place. A diary or notebook can be copied, but not with the same ease that its digital counterpart can.

Similarly, a wall-mounted calendar can be of great import to all of those who use it. In a family home, it can provide a unifying thread which ties the family’s affairs together throughout the year. In an office environment, the effect can be similarly unifying.

A final, though by no means insignificant, point in favour of paper-based solutions, is that of their cost. A tablet computer or smartphone can cost hundreds of pounds, while a calendar or diary can cost less than a Big Mac.

Further Advice

Personal preference will inform the choice, for the most part. If you have a particular preference in either direction, you will likely already know about it:  technophiles in particular will probably be reading this article on their device of choice. There are a couple of pieces of objective advice which can be imparted, however:

Keep all of your records in a single place.

It would be very useful if digital devices could find a way to interface with more traditional pen-and-paper diaries. Unfortunately, this technology has yet to be developed.  This means that, for the most part, it is best to stick to one medium.

If you are going to keep a paper calendar or diary – then you should try and stick to a single one and abstain from the digital version altogether. The last thing you want is the confusion which will inevitably result from recording multiple appointments in multiple places at once. Make your life easier – just don’t do it!

Don’t be afraid to experiment!

If you are committed to pen-and-paper, you may be reticent to branch out into the digital domain.  As the maxim holds: if it isn’t broke, then don’t fix it! However understandable this hesitancy may be, it might be the case that it is misguided. Modern touchscreen technologies are far more intuitive than they have ever been and so branching out can make life easier – even for those too set in their ways to do so.

Similarly, for those so wedded to their smartphones that they might as well be surgically joined to them, the prospect of a pen-and-paper solution might seem anathema. It is worth branching out, though. The act of writing taps creative powers which would otherwise have remained dormant.

There are strengths in our digital and paper organisers and it really comes down to personal choice. It is great to see the traditional calendar being used still and at the same time the innovation of integrated smartphone, tablet and computer diaries is truly incredible. There is no limit to the level of organisation you can now invite into your life and the paper diary will always have its fans, as will the digital diary.

We would love to hear your thoughts on this. Which do you favour?