Paper Love in a Digital World

Posted by Jennifer Lasik on

When someone utters "planner", "calendar", or even "tracker", be still my heart - they're speakin' my love language.  When I fell for planners, I fell HARD.

Then I learned about washi tape and "to do" stickers - a planner girl's aphrodisiacs. And when I discovered Staedtler fine triplus fineliners, I was in heaven.  

I have an aunt who swears she can smell the rise in her husband's testoterone the minute they go through the sliding doors of Home Depot.  The man has a thing for tools. Me too.  But my hammer is a planner and my work journal is my drill.  Ooh, baby.

My planner, which is a 6-ring A5 binder style, keeps my calendar, helps me track expenses and to-do lists, and is my "note taker" on the fly.  I love paper planners, for so many reasons (you can read some of the benefits here.)  I used to buy one every year in December (Merry Christmas to me!!!), researching them for months beforehand, believing 100% that my entire life would be in perfect order if I could just find the right planner.  (Eventually, I designed my own, and here we are today, but that's a whole 'nother story.)

On the other hand, for projects and work planning, my go-to is my work journal.  It's a mostly chronological work diary that has notes from every project, contacts, business cards, ideas, sketches -- you name it.  I tape sticky notes and magazine articles to the pages. It's basically a living document of the evolution of any projects, programs or presentations I create.

This system served me perfectly in college, as a teacher, and for the five years I served as a cultural arts director in Wyoming.  

But when I arrived in Evanston, IL to oversee their cultural arts community, the city bureaucracy had sophisticated technology in place for internal organization, community engagement, and data storage.  Evanston was also a progressive community that worked hard to embrace best practices in sustainability and resiliency, which meant they avoided making and using hard (paper) copies as much as possible. And me a paper lover.  It was quite a paradigm shift.

The very first week, my new boss asked me to draft a work plan.  A few days later, I approached him, draft finished and printed complete with color coding and a chart.  When I tried to hand it to him, he jumped back with his hands raised as if to say, "Whoa, what are you doing?"  Come to think of it, that may be exactly what he asked. "What are you doing?"

I told him it was the work plan he asked for and tried to hand it to him again.

"Dont. EVER. Hand. Me. Paper.  Email this to me. Thanks."  I was speechless and felt strangely sheepish and ashamed about the whole incident.

Suddenly I was thrown into the world of not only email and contacts, but shared calendars among all my colleagues, online surveys, asana teams software and google drives.  Everyone else showed up to department head meetings with their tablets or laptops.  Then I would walk in with my notebook and pen.  Well, my notebook, full array of colored markers, multiple spools of washi tape, highlighters and planner sticker sets.

Let's just say I wasn't inconspicuous.  Good thing art directors are supposed to be quirky and.... artsy.

Unfortunately, I couldn't maintain collegial relationships or use any of the city systems without being fully engaged with technology.


It was a struggle.  I found digital calendars clumsy and difficult to access.  I had trouble remembering where I had "filed" things electronically.  I couldn't acclamate to typing notes -- as a visual person, my notes were always filled with headings, arrows, bullet points and sketches.  When I typed my notes, I just couldn't recall them as well.  I also found digital filing to be problematic -- out of sight, out of mind was a huge problem for me.

By the time, three years later, I had launched my planner company, I had become proficient if not ecstatic about electronic organization. But I didn't realize just how well I had adapted until I started feeling more than a little frustrated with my business partners  over technology-based issues. One partner wasn't technology savvy, and the other one was a straight up luddite.  As a planner girl running a planner company, I understood their disdain for posting on social media.  I also understood doing everyting from note-taking to design and layout by hand.  I mean, I too am a lover of paper.

But... a love for paper, and even the organizational benefits of using a paper planner system do not always translate into efficient, effective teamwork.  I've also discovered that for me it's not always -- and it really pains me to say this -- even the best method for personal organization.  Oh, the horror.  I'm not sure I've actually said those words aloud, and I'm not gonna lie -- my fingers hovered over my keyboard a while before typing them.  (Girl, know your audience!!)

And yet.... 

I have reconciled my paper love (which will never die) with the advantages sometimes offered by digital organization, and have figured out how to merge the two into a system that works for me.

I'm going to detail that system in my next post, but for now I would love to know -- who else finds their organizing divided messily between paper and pixels?  How do you manage it?  What tools work best for what pieces of planning?

Chime in below, and happy planning, however you do it!

Thanks for stopping by the blog.





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