Pulp Magic

JANUARY 9, 2018

Time for a New Day Planner

With dozens of free day planning apps available online, what explains the continued popularity of paper planners? The answer is a combination of history and haptics.

According to The New York Times, sales of appointment books and planners are actually growing by about 10% per year making it a $340 million business. This despite all the varieties of digital apps available for your phone.

The range of options is not surprising. Americans have always been obsessed with day planners. George Washington famously kept a planner until the day he died to record his appointments, the weather, and all the things he needed do on the farm.PaperPlanners_low

In fact, one of the best-selling books in Colonial America was Poor Richard’s Almanac, a compendium of useful information that included blank pages where you could make notes and write down reminders.

By the time of the Revolution, Robert Aitken of Philadelphia published a daily planner with the days and weeks laid out in a format similar to the ones you can buy in a stationery store today.

Daily planners became even more widely popular following the Civil War when civilians adopted the habit of soldiers who carried pocket-sized planners into battle. Could it be that there’s just something quintessentially human about keeping track of your time?

Today, there is a whole subculture of devotees who swear by their paper planners – booklets in which you can write entries by hand. One such acolyte wrote recently in The Wall Street Journal about the joy she has always felt when writing in her planner. “I doodled in my planners with brightly colored pens and highlighters, made elaborate countdowns for my babysitter’s wedding and my siblings’ birthdays, and dutifully recorded my friends’ phone numbers in the address book section.”

We know from behavioral studies that the act of writing on paper helps you understand and remember the concepts you’re recording. It’s almost as though writing by hand rewires your brain in important ways.

Don’t get me wrong. I couldn’t be as organized at work without the calendar on my computer but I wouldn’t be able to function without my paper planner to jot down everything from ideas and inspirations to my daily “to do” list.

As we begin a new year there’s no better time than now to get a nice new day planner and reconnect with history . . . and with yourself.