Why Buy a Paper Planner in the Digital Age? Part 7: Down the Memory Hole

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:

In my last post, I argued that the ease with which we can add tasks and appointments gives us an unrealistic view of how much we should add to a day's task list, and by extension how many goals we can realistically pursue in a given time. This keeps us from prioritizing our goals in terms of assigning time to them, which reduces the odds that we will achieve the goals that we actually hold most dear.

This post piggy-backs off of this idea that the ease that planning apps offer in terms of entry manipulation is actually a detriment to your goals, not a feature.

For most to-do list apps, changing the day that you intend on finishing a task is always a few taps away. Maybe the task isn't due for a few days, but you had scheduled it for today to give yourself ample time for review. Maybe you're moving it because you've had a long day and you're ready to log off, or because something else came up and you prioritized the task that just popped up. Tap tap tap. The task is now scheduled for tomorrow without any trace that it was ever scheduled for today.

Deleting a task is just as easy, and if the task that you're deleting is something that is legitimately no longer necessary, there's no harm in throwing it in the memory hole, never to be seen again. However, if this is a task that you intend on completing each day (taking a walk, meditating, checking in on a sick loved one, etc), the benefits that you expected to gain from performing this task each day will be delayed or tarnished.

In the case of either moving or deleting a task, your reason for doing so may be completely valid. Things come up. Priorities change. But the danger with apps is that there is no record of this completely valid reason. No record of how often things come up that cause you to move and delete tasks, as well as no record of how often tasks are moved just because you didn't feel like doing them. No record, and no accountability. Tap tap tap (worse yet, some apps automatically move unfinished tasks to the next day, disengaging you from the decision altogether).

Contrast that experience with rescheduling tasks in a paper planner. You likely will have to cross out a task that you've already written (I also write a small note next to the crossed-out item documenting the reason for the change). You will also have to rewrite the task on the appropriate day (here, I may also add something like "moved from previous day" or something). There is accountability and a record of your actions. Two pieces missing from to-do list apps.

Because of this paper trail, you will most likely feel a bit more conflicted when making these changes. You will have to decide if it's "worth it" for you to add an untidy strikethrough to a task and go through the effort of rewriting the task on different day and making any necessary notes. Often, if I'm considering moving a task or deleting it simply because I don't feel like doing it, these impediments move me to complete the task as scheduled in order to keep my record clean.

This record will also allow you to look back, whenever you want, at how many times you have moved tasks, and for what reason. If you find yourself moving tasks often because you don't feel like doing them, this is an opportunity to ask yourself what you can do to either eliminate that task from your responsibilities, or make that task more enjoyable to perform. If you see that often new priorities pop up and force you to re-shuffle, it might benefit you to ask yourself if you're appropriately prioritizing your time. Just because a problem is new, that shouldn't automatically vault it to the front of the priority list. Your priorities should always be sorted by "most important," not "most recent."

The bottom line is this: The decision to reschedule or remove tasks from your list of responsibilities shouldn't be taken lightly. Paper planning forces a higher level of accountability, which over time will help to keep you better on track toward achieving your goals. 


This post is part of an ongoing series entitled Why Buy a Paper Planner in the Digital Age. Read part 8 here!

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