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Dating the diary

Despite the explosion of productivity apps, there are many who still prefer planning on paper with the help of journals

Manoj Sharma

In the last week of December last year, Archana Singh bought, as she does every year, a new page-a-day format paper planner, one with a pink ribbon as a marker, pop art on the cover, neatly laid out art pages

Singh, who runs TravelSeeWrite, a popular travel blog, is otherwise a digital evangelist, but when it comes to a planner, the paper vs digital debate is a no brainer for her.

“I have been using a paper planner since my college days; it helped me define who I am, containing everything from my to-do lists, class assignments, to books I wanted to read. You are more clear-headed when you plan with pen on paper,” says Singh. “And I never shop for it online. I need to touch and feel it before I buy it; sometimes it takes me quite a few hours to select one. “

In fact, there are a number of proponents of paper planners like her, who might use their smartphone for everything from making calls, taking photos, to messaging friends and family, but when it comes to planning their day, they continue to rely on the good old paper planner.

And a planner, they will tell you, is not just about schedules, but is a tool for keeping at bay a sense of drift; creating a blueprint for a successful life, and a tool for self-expression.

“I love this analog way of time management. There is something about writing on paper that makes you think deep and hard, something which you do not do when you type on a smartphone screen,” adds Aditya Sharma, 44, a lawyer by day and a writer by night.

In the past few years, there has been an explosion of planner apps – most branded as “productivity apps” – such as Google Calendar, iCal Organiser HD, To Do List, TickTic. While these feature-rich apps come with enticing interfaces and an infinite amount of space, allowing people to add events, texts, contacts, maps, pictures, those dating the diaries say they do not want to be distracted in a maze of browser tabs and noise of notifications.

“I tried switching to a digital calendar on my phone last year but returned to my paper planner in a day. I lost a sense of purpose; somehow, when writing tasks in the paper planner, I feel I am more focused on the job at hand,” says Manish Sharma, 39, a graphic designer.

Paper planners, he says, do not irritate you with constant notifications; don’t put a strain on your eyes, and you do not have to worry about battery. Plus, they don’t tell you to upgrade regularly. “You do not have to create an account and give a company access to your daily schedule,” says Singh, adding, “Somehow, using a paper planner also allows me to visualise my days, weeks and months in advance as I plan them, which gives me a sense of control over my schedule.”

In fact, for many, the daily act of scheduling includes not just writing down meetings and appointments, but also a wide range of other matters, small and big – shopping list, meal planning, books to read, TV shows and films to watch, tracking fitness and finance goals.

“I write an inspirational quote every Monday in case I am having a bad day or feel like I’m going off track, and need some inspiration,” says Sharma.

Debraj Shome, a cosmetic surgeon, says the first thing he does every day at 5:30 am is to look at his paper planner, which has his notes on surgeries. “I glance through my notes which I took a day before – what I will need during surgery, the personality type of the patient, the particular nurse or assistant I would need, any particular instrument I will need. They kind of help me visualise surgeries in advance,” says Shome. “I carry my planner to the operation theatre (OT). A lot of OTs are in basements where the internet connection is bad. So, I just cannot take the risk of using
digital planners.”

Paper planners have also evolved over the years in term of paper quality, binding, cover design, inside layouts that allow for different sections for various tasks, goals and wish lists. Now we also have coffee journals, travel almanacs, the book lover’s journal, road trip planners; and the companies that design and produce them say they are flying off the shelves.

“Our sales have gone up at least four times in the past four years. Most buyers are young corporate executives; our page layout focuses on functionality more than anything else. Weekly planners are most in demand,” says Ajay Batra, founder, myPaperclip, a company that produces a range of planners, journals and notebooks.

“There is a growing demand for a well-curated planner and journals for specific purposes such as travel,” says Pushkar Thakur, founder, Origin One, a stationary brand.

These days, bullet diaries – or bullet journal

(BuJo) are a rage too. For the uninitiated, it is a journaling system created by Ryder Caroll, a New York-based digital product designer, who, having been diagnosed with learning disabilities early in life, was forced to figure out alternate ways to be focused and

According to Caroll, the BuJo, which essentially involves writing down information as bulleted lists, is the art of intentional living – a mindfulness practice disguised as a
productivity system.

Unlike the regular dated paper planner, a bullet journal doesn’t have any pre-laid-out boxes and sections. “I create my index, keys, future logs using colour gel pens. A bullet journal is a work of art; a more evolved, more customised version of basic bullet-point writing,” says Prachi Gupta, 27, a Gurgaon-based teacher, who has been keeping a bullet journal for a year.

In fact, Caroll’s book ‘The Bullet Journal Method: Track the Past, Order the Present, Design the Future’, which came out in October, became an instant bestseller in the US.

Apart from this book, there have been several books on the subject of paper planners and journal writing which have come out – some deal with their history, others teach how to keep a planner or a bullet journal for a better life. ‘The Accidental Diarist: A History of the Daily Planner in America’, by Molly McCarthy has been hailed as an “appealing history of the daily act of self-reckoning, and timekeeping”. Another talked about book is the updated ‘The New Diary: How To Use a Journal for Self-guidance and Expanded Creativity’ by Tristine Rainer.

But even as paper planners and journals continue to be popular, there are many like 26-year-old Rohit Taneja, who feel that paper planners are nothing but extra luggage. “I am likely to leave my diary at home, but not my phone, so why not use a planner app instead,” says IT professional, Taneja. But Aditya Sharma says he depends a lot on a diary for his emotional well-being too. After a long day, crossing out items on his to-do list with a pen gives a sense of achievement.      

 (HT Media)

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