Why Buy a Paper Planner in the Digital Age? Part 3: The Paradox of Choice

Scott Brown

This post is part of an ongoing series entitled Why Buy a Paper Planner in the Digital Age.

Check out our previous entries:

"The more constraints one imposes, the more one frees one's self." Igor Stravinsky

In the early days of this self-isolation that most of us are currently practicing due to COVID-19, I ventured out to the nearby grocery store. I had heard about gutted aisles on the news, but my wife and I still optimistically wrote out a detailed and specific shopping list as if the store would be fully stocked. One of the items on the list was spaghetti sauce. Low sodium tomato basil spaghetti sauce, to be exact.

Once I saw for myself how nearly everything had been picked clean, the specificity of the spaghetti sauce seemed ridiculous. The eight-foot pasta sauce section had exactly one kind of sauce: plain tomato sauce. I took one from the shelf and made my way to the next item on the list, which probably also required some kind compromise or tangential replacement.

It reminded me of a Ted Talk I watched a few years earlier called The Paradox of Choice given by psychologist Barry Schwartz (Coincidentally, Malcom Gladwell also spoke about choice in a talk called On Spaghetti Sauce, although that talk is less relevant despite the title). The upshot of Schwartz's talk was that with greater choice comes higher expectations that we will find something perfectly suited for us. Paradoxically, this leads to greater dissatisfaction than if we had only one option to choose from to begin with.

Did the pasta made with plain tomato sauce taste as good as it would have if the store had been stocked with the tomato basil spaghetti sauce? Yes, in the end, because we added our own spices to the sauce and ended up with a meal that suited our tastes to a tee.

What does this have to do with planning?

With the variety of planning and calendar apps that are out there, it can be daunting to take on the task of finding the one that works for you, what Schwartz calls "paralysis of choice". Getting past the paralysis, you'll then find that apps are very close to what you need, but not quite there. This one's missing a scheduling feature. That one doesn't have a calendar view. Your reasonable expectation -- that in a sea of apps there must be one that has everything you're looking for -- often won't be met.

This is where the ability to customize and minimalist design of a paper planner like ours comes to the rescue. It doesn't have all of the digital bells and whistles of an app, but it does offer the perfect base on which you can make it exactly what you need to have a rewarding planning practice.


This post is part of an ongoing series entitled Why Buy a Paper Planner in the Digital Age. Read part 4 here!

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