Managing Your Time: Digital vs. Analog

There are countless gadgets, apps and paper products available today to manage your time, keep a calendar, etc. In addition to the traditional journals, calendars and day books on paper (analog) there are hundreds if not thousands of digital products that do the same things but somewhat differently.

Michael Hyatt recently posted on his blog a good article comparing some of the advantages of digital and analog time management devices. He is selling a paper planner he calls the Full Focus Planner, so his article is aimed at promoting that product a bit. Hyatt uses both analog and digital approaches and explains why.

Pros and Cons

Technology has its advantages for sure. It is very efficient. You can schedule a repeating event once and it will continue to appear on future dates where you want it, for the rest of the year or many years to come. You can use most digital products on all your devices: phone, tablet, computer. Most of them have reminder features that will alert you in advance about a deadline or appointment. Web based products allow multiple people to use and have access to the same calendar. Most digital products have search capability that will help you find that future (or past) event, appointment or reminder that you cannot find.

Technology also has its disadvantages. It depends on electricity: either hard wired or batteries which can run down. It often depends on access to the internet. Digital devices can be distracting. Entering information on them can be more difficult. It is much more difficult to preserve a permanent record of what you have done – all digital memory is vulnerable. Digital devices are more delicate than paper products if dropped, crushed or rained on.

Paper products or analog as it is now called has advantages. There is a comfort in using pen and paper that cannot be duplicated on a device. Perhaps more importantly is that recent scientific studies show that writing things down engages the brain in more effective ways then entering information on a digital device. These studies show that the mechanical process of writing engages different parts of the brain, may cause you to think about things more fully, creates better memory and recall and can enhance understanding. Paper products do not beep and do not distract.

Analog products cannot be as easily shared by others. Repeating events must be manually entered one after another for all future dates and most of them only allow planning out for one year. Paper is vulnerable to water damage (as are digital products), and there are no search systems, you have to manually look through the paper product to find things which can take some extra time.

The last factor the distinguishes technology from paper is what I call the trust factor. Yes, you can lose your paper planner and if you do lose it (and cannot find it) you are out of luck. Everything in it, except for what you can remember, is lost for good. You could also lose your digital device but they are usually backed up (perhaps on the cloud) which makes it easy to recover the contents. In over 40 years of carrying around paper planners and digital devices I’ve never lost either. I keep track of them. For me the risk of losing them is very small.

What is not so small is the risk of dysfunction. If I enter information in a paper planner it will always be there. And the planner will always display the information when I open it. There are no batteries to run down, no system failure, no crashing, and no loss of connection to the internet, all of which can plague a digital device.

One last thing: small digital devices display information in a relatively small space. You cannot look at an entire month and clearly see everything planned out as you can with a paper planner. I use an iPhone and have until recently used the calendar that comes with the phone. Recently I converted to the Google Calendar and I prefer it. It still does not show a full month of events in a way that clearly maps out day long events contrasted with hourly events. They all look the same. I wish the Google Calendar would allow you to color the entire day to show it has a daylong event.

The Best of Both

Hyatt advises that we use both to gain the benefits of both. The digital device is better for repeating events and appointments in general. The paper planner is better suited to thoughtful planning, reflection, goal setting, etc. I have at times used a paper planner as a backup to the digital device. The disadvantage to that is one must enter everything twice. The advantage is a sense of security – you are not likely to lose information if it is in both.

I like Hyatt’s suggestion of using paper (analog) for planning, goals, etc. and using the digital device for reminders, appointments and repeating events. This method is more expensive and requires more time but more time planning and thinking about how we use our time is not necessarily a bad thing.

Each person will have their own needs and their own preferences. Many people will not want to have two systems. If you are open to the idea though I suggest you try it. You may well find Hyatt’s suggestions useful. Read Hyatt’s full article here. Try using both a paper planner to capture big picture ideas and planning and your digital device for appointments and repeating events. You may find it very useful.

Learn how to manage your time to achieve more of what you want to do in my book, Effective Time Management. Get free lessons on how to use your time more effectively with my Effective Time Management Lessons.

Wishing you well,

Daniel R. Murphy
Educating people for building wealth, adapting to a changing future and personal development.