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In praise of paper planners


A merging of high-tech and high-touch

Hand-held electronic computers can boost productivity immensely. But they are computers, not planners. Don’t throw away the kitchen sink just because you buy a dishwasher.

With a hard copy planner you can see your entire week, complete with scheduled tasks and your “things to do” list at a single glance. Flipping of a page brings you a whole new week of plans, appointments and projects. You can see your activities take shape, become completed and remain visibly intact as permanent trophies to your weekly accomplishments. A hardcopy planner also serves as a journal, reflecting not only your past activities, but your uniqueness – taking on your personality, character, and philosophy. It reveals your habits and style as well as your priorities. Color coding, sticky notes, self-adhesive labels and hand written notes can form a permanent footprint of your presence in this world and the impact you made.

Nobody wants to be left behind in this information age where technology is king; but it’s not a case of either using an electronic handheld device or using a paper planner. They both have their place. You can continue to plan and schedule using a paper planner while using your handheld device for contact information, databases, electronic communications, Internet access, and the dozens of other functions used on a regular basis such as GPS, photography, ebooks, email, banking and Google searches.

As the article titled “The Upgrade Game” in the June, 2015 issue of Scientific American claims, “No tech company would create a product just once, designed perfectly for its task, and just sell the version forever with, making only compatibility tweaks as necessary.”

But that’s exactly what we have done with the Taylor Planner – designed over 30 years ago, and only tweaked as necessary based on feedback from its users. It won’t turn on your TV set, provide directions to the nearest shopping mall or search the Internet. It does one thing only, and does it well – helps you to plan your days and weeks so you get the important things done while keeping your life in balance. No upgrades necessary.

According to the Scientific American article mentioned above, since Word was distributed in the 1980s, they have offered upgraded versions 14 times, and if you bought Photoshop in 1990 and bought all the upgrades, you would have paid over $4,000 by now.

I try not to compare a paper planner with a handheld computer because they are not even in the same league. A paper planner plans, it doesn’t compute. But just be aware that the electronic gadgets will continue to add new features whether you need them or even want them. And eventually your older model won’t even be supported by the newer operating systems. But what really bothers me from a time management perspective is that the planner portion of an electronic device is becoming lost among the myriad of other features.

And what bothers me even more is the truth of the statement made by David Pogue, the anchor columnist for Yahoo Tech, and author of the Scientific American article: “Each time (that you upgrade) you lose a few days of productivity as you learn the new layout.”

Balancing high-tech with high- touch can strengthen our brain-based “executive skills, and technology writer Danny O’Brien, who interviewed top achievers, found one thing in common that may account for their increased productivity. They all used some sort low-tech tool, such as a written “To Do” list or a plain paper pad.

The Caveman Principle, as explained by Michio Kaku, professor of theoretical physics at the City College and City University of New York, says that given a choice between high-tech and high-touch, we opt for high-touch every time. For example, would you rather see a celebrity performer sing at a concert or watch a DVD of the same performance? Or how about a live sporting even vs. a re-run on TV?

In addition to the planner I use a hard copy Telephone & E-mail Log in which to make notes when I talk to people on the telephone or review my email. I find more people are using this as we get further into the digital age – probably because it prevents multitasking while on the telephone, improves concentration, shows co-workers you are actually busy and not available to them, and most important, insures that you don’t forget all the things that require follow-up as you switch from call to call and from one email message to another. And it’s like a breath of fresh air to your overloaded brain.

I’m not advocating a return to paperwork; but I do advocate the merging of high-tech and high-touch. There is no need to apologize for using paperwork when it actually serves you better and improves your efficiency. It’s even more important to have an organized mind than an organized working environment – although they do complement each other.

Some predictions about the future have been proven wrong – such as the “paperless office.” There is actually more paper since the advent of computers. People trust concrete evidence more than they do electrons on a computer screen that disappear when you turn off the screen. That’s probably another reason I still prefer to use a paper planner.

It doesn’t have to be a planner. Some people are being so rapidly bombarded by instant tasks, requests and assignments that they find it literally impossible to schedule much of anything in a planner. For those people we have designed a Priority Planner Pad – a one-page system that accommodates the hectic lifestyle of someone constantly on the move. You can view them both at our website,



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5 Reasons a hardcopy paper day planner is better than an electronic one (iPad, iPhone, android, tablet, etc.)



Is an electronic planner as good as a paper planner?

In the age of the gadget there’s really no limit to what your device can do. And though it can do a lot there’s a lot it doesn’t do well. And that brings us to the title of this article – is your device a good planning tool? Here are 5 reasons how a paper planner is better than your device.

  1. Speed

  2. Bet you weren’t expecting that one!
    But think about it, I can flip my planner open to today’s date before you even get your device out of its case. Not to mention you have to turn it on, enter a password, find the app, launch it etc. And before you’ve done all this I have already scheduled my appointment and closed my planner. A paper planner is designed to do one thing, plan. And it does it very well! Which brings us to the next point…

  3. The best tool for the job

  4. You can use the handle of a screwdriver to bang in a nail, but why would you?
    When you open your planner it’s for one purpose only, to plan. You are either looking at the week and making mental assessments of what’s coming up, what’s important, what’s left to do or you are scheduling upcoming events and tasks. The short story, you’re planning. When you turn on your device you are bombarded with distractions, email notifications, Facebook alerts and a hundred other possible ways to get lost in the digital abyss. One false move and you are lost for an hour falling further and further down the rabbit hole! If you want to bang in a nail, use a hammer!

  5. Field of Vision

  6. Seeing a plan in full gives you a clear idea of how you will get from A to B.
    Have you ever Googled an address and clicked on the map only to be shown the exact location as an intersection on a map?! You then spend the next few seconds zooming out and out and out… ah that’s where it is! When you look at a planner on a device (and I don’t care if it’s a 6.6 x 9.4 inch iPad screen) you never seem to get the whole picture. You’re always swiping, pinching and scrolling to try and get the best view. Not so with a paper planner. You open it, and you have a complete view of your week complete with your tasks, priorities and schedule. A good paper planner will open up to the equivalent of a 15” computer monitor!

  7. Memory

  8. A good memory is more effective than a bad one!
    It’s well accepted and backed by research that writing things down helps commit them to memory. And being able to mentally envision your schedule and tasks helps keep them in mind. You may argue that typing them into a device achieves the same thing; but in fact this is not true. Pam Mueller of Princeton University and Daniel Oppenheimer of UCLA studied college students in classrooms where some used laptops and others traditional notebooks for taking class notes, and guess what they discovered? Yep, the note-takers scored higher on the test, understood and recalled more.

  9. Custom fit

  10. Planning is 90% personality
    Although every planner comes off the printing press identical the similarities stop when it reaches your hand. The way you use sticky notes and color coding, the highlighting and personal notes all reflect you and you as an individual. Your planner becomes a creative footprint of who you are as a person and how you plan to get where you’re going – your way. And the best planning system is one that you adapt yourself to work for you. A paper planner gives you the flexibility to mold it into your own personal planning system without the limitations of some app programmed by computer experts rather than designed by planning professionals.

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Wisdom does not devalue with time


Never judge a book by its birthdate

 In one of my articles I mentioned my love of books and my tendency to hang onto them. I have been criticized more than once for citing time management reference books that were over ten years old – as though ideas had a “Best before” date. Let me refer you to a few “old” ideas that have just as much relevance today.

The oldest time management book in my now dwindling library, How to live on 24 hours a day, was published in 1910. The author Arnold Bennett reminds us of an important fact of life that time can often be used to produce money; but money can never be used to produce time. Since we tend to waste or squander time, Bennett urges us to claim 90 minutes a day for at least 3 days per week, and to use that time for self-improvement. It’s hard to argue that such advice is outdated – for we have the same 24 hours a day in 2013 that Bennett had over 100 years ago

Skipping to 1947, and the book published that year, The Technique of Getting Things Done, author Donald Laird voiced the same opinion as most modern time management experts when it comes to tackling the unpleasant tasks first. “He does not dread the next task for the unpleasant task is behind him.” He also emphasized the importance of self-discipline in getting started on any task: “The beginning is the chief point of resistance in any task – this is when one’s full will power needs to be turned on.”

In his 1957 book, How to enjoy work & get more done, O.A. Battista made the observation that we are most likely to lose our health at the peak of our career when our future looks the brightest, prompting this warning “There are two major dangers about which you must always be vigilant because they are likely to be held against you: overwork & overweight.” Those two hazards are still in the news today, and one of the major concerns is that obesity is becoming an epidemic.

How outdated is Robert Updegraff’s 1958 book (All the time you need) where he decries the conventional approach of business people of reading their morning mail (now email) before taking up the important business of the day? To quote, “The freshest hour or two of the day is consumed in routine activities instead of with concerns which might mean much in accomplishment and purpose.”

Joseph Cooper, in his 1962 book, How to get more done in less time, addressing working environments and distractions, makes a statement that bests any year 2015 suggestions on how to be productive in a chaotic environment:” If you are highly motivated to get on with your work, it is amazing how much of the outside world you can shut out of your mind.” The relatively recent “Gorilla Experiments” described in the 2009 book by Christopher Chabris and Daniel Simons, The Invisible Gorilla, proves beyond a doubt the truth in that statement.

Even the original version of my 1981 book, Making Time Work for You, contains ideas that cause me to think, “I don’t do that anymore. I should have a more structured “time policy.”

Never judge a book by its birthdate.


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Life is a trade-off


You can’t have everything; but you can have anything

It’s a life of trade-offs.  If you pay someone to cut the grass while you work late at the office, you’re trading one job for another.  If you’re paid overtime, you might come out ahead in the trade. If you pay someone to babysit the kids while you go on a business trip, you are again trading one activity for another. You may or may not come out ahead, depending on the frequency of the trades and how you value the two activities.

To barter effectively, you must be aware of your values. Don’t trade indiscriminately.  Determine what is important to you in life and prioritize those tasks or activities.  If something is important to you and you don’t have the time to spend on it, ask yourself what you could trade for it.  Is it really important to spend more time with the family? Perhaps you can trade money for it by taking a lower paid job with fewer hours.  Or trade recreation for it by giving up a few TV programs, computer games or time on the Internet.

Is it important to be physically fit?  Perhaps you can trade a few dinner meetings, some newspapers, a magazine or two for the time it takes to walk every morning.  Is money really important to you? Perhaps you can trade some personal time or travel time, or social activities for a part-time job.

It’s a life of trade-offs. You cannot create more time; there are only 24 hours in a day.  And it’s being completely used up already.  Sure, you can manage your time better, become more efficient, and do things faster.  But there’s a limit to how efficient you can become – even with the help of technology. The important thing to realize is that you have complete control over the use of your time.  It’s a case of sacrificing something of lesser value in order to spend the time on something more meaningful.

Time management experts will never be able to do it for you. You are the only expert there is when it comes to deciding what is important to you.  And you are the only one who really knows what it is you can give up. Sometimes the sacrifice doesn’t have to be too great. You might be able to give up shuffling papers, being indecisive, procrastinating, daydreaming and all those other timewasters that time management experts talk about.  But you’ll never eliminate them completely. And the amount of time you save may actually be negli­gible.

The real payoff is in the trade-offs.  Large chunks of time can be released by simply deciding that some things are not all that important when compared to those things that can be achieved or experienced in the same amount of time.

Want to write a book? Travel around the world? Become a lawyer, doctor or an expert in a specific discipline? Want to be president of your company? Fluent in two or three languages? A leader of your country? Want to be a successful entrepreneur? A super parent? Missionary? Prayer warrior? Million­aire? Decide what it is you really want. Then decide what you are willing to trade in order to get it.  You can’t have everything.

But you can have anything.