We are incredibly fortunate to live in the age of digital planning, project management, and organization. We have access to tremendous tools that empower us to be more efficient and effective than we probably ever imagined possible.

We can track a 3-year project down to each nail or screw. We can get a notification 15 minutes before our next meeting starts. We can send someone 3 months’ worth of marketing content at the touch of a button.

And yet, just like with so many of our technological advances, you have probably noticed that these services also have a downside.

Ever feel like those services end up making you feel unmotivated? As if you know the task exists, but your brain doesn’t feel particularly responsible for completing it? Or, you recognize the project deadline is coming up, but your brain is jumping ahead rather than focusing on the immediate steps necessary to accomplish it?

Our human brains have not quite kept up with the technology around us. We see this in the way we’ve allowed social media to hijack our attention and our time, and also in the way we organize and plan.

We often overlook the importance of the hand-brain connection. Our hands are full of nerves that create an information superhighway to our brain. When we write something down by hand it provides our brain with valuable motor feedback that can help us feel more ownership over the task and allows our brain to start thinking about the next steps. Research shows that writing something down makes us 40% more likely to complete it.

Digital and Paper Planning

So does this mean that you shouldn’t use tools like Asana, Google Calendar, Trello, Monday, Calendly, To-Do, or Click-up? Absolutely not. They benefit us in so many ways!

What it means is that you need to learn how to optimize the benefits of both paper and digital planning, so that they complement each other rather than compete with each other.

Try thinking of it this way:

Digital planning is for organizing. Your digital tools are a place for big picture planning and ongoing task management.

Paper planning is for execution. Your paper planner is the place to parse that information “out of the cloud” each day so that your attention is focused in one place.

Here’s my suggested method in more detail:

In the morning – Sit down and open up the digital services and calendars you use (my favorites are listed below). With your planner or notepad open, parse out any events for the day and assess which projects and tasks need to be prioritized. Then close out of those services for the rest of the day — no need to have them distracting you. All the information you need is on your page, and writing it down has provided your brain with valuable motor feedback so that you feel ownership over the work and have started working out how to complete each task.

At the end of the dayOpen those same services back up and reconcile them with what you were able to accomplish on your page. Update your tasks and projects and add any new meetings or events to your calendar. Then spend just 3 minutes thinking about tomorrow and add just a few things to tomorrow’s page — write down a few tasks, maybe wellness plans, or something to look forward to. This will help you relax, enjoy your evening, sleep better, and wake up feeling motivated to start the day.

This method utilizes the unique benefits of each form of planning and combines them in a way that will help make you more efficient, organized, and motivated. You can still take advantage of all the benefits digital planning offers while ensuring your brain is benefiting from writing things down on paper, as well. Before long you’ll notice that not only are you getting way more done, you actually enjoy using those tools and can see how they benefit you and your work.

If you’re wondering what services I personally use, here they are:

  1. I use Google Calendar for scheduling meetings, events, and appointments.
  2. I use Microsoft To-Do for tracking projects, lists, and ideas.
  3. I use The Daily Page planner to create my daily to-do list and prioritize it alongside important aspects of wellness such as hydration and mental health.

If you’d like further reading on this topic, I’d suggest The Checklist Manifesto by Atul Gawande, or Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport.

The Benefits of Digital and Paper Planning

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