If you’re a regular reader of my blog, you know I was contemplating dabbling in the digital planning arena. I have to say that while I’m still dabbling, I’m also sprinting back to my paper planner. The thought of going digital was short-lived. There are several reasons for this, the main being that I can’t seem to find an app that is available for both iPhone and iPad, incorporates appointments with to-dos that I can place on a specific day as well as a running list, and keep other projects and notes. It seems that I would need different apps for these different things, and the whole point of having a planner to begin with is to keep everything together.
I looked into different apps to keep me organized, and while there are some that are very good, they just don’t do it for me, not the way my planner does. See, my planner can be what I need it to be, rather than me having to tweak my system so that it fits into the confines of what it can do. I shouldn’t have to rework how I organize and plan just to get something to work. This is not to say that I can’t incorporate certain apps into my planning system, however. In fact, I’ve developed a way to use Apple’s Reminders app to enhance how I use my planner.
Let me start at the beginning…
When I’m at work, my planner sits on my desk (where I spend a majority of my time) or at the reference desk when I’m scheduled to be there. Either way, it’s always within my reach, making it very easy to add appointments and tasks. At home, however, my planner isn’t always near me. I tend to put things in the same place all the time so that I know where everything is. That’s good when I need to find something—very rarely (if ever) do I waste time searching for things I need. One of those objects is my planner. When I get home, I take my bag upstairs to the office/spare bedroom. My planner comes out of my bag and sits open on my desk. If I’m working in the office, or even if I’m in my bedroom, I have easy access to my planner at any given time. I can add things without having to travel very far.
But most evenings I’m downstairs, making dinner, folding laundry, or watching television while knitting. My planner comes downstairs with me only if I’m working on something for which I’ll need it. The reason for that is that I don’t often need it downstairs, plus I want to be able to quickly and easily find it without having to search different rooms or traipsing upstairs, then downstairs, then upstairs again (or vice versa). With that said, there are those moments when I wish it was readily accessible—I might think of something that I want to add to my shopping list but the planner is upstairs and it’s not such a significant thing for me to need to run up and add it right then and there. The consequence to this though is that I often forget to add whatever it is that I had thought of, which leads to the not getting it when I need it phenomenon.
This is where my iPhone and the Reminders app come in. Usually, my phone is downstairs (unless I’m working in the office, in which case it comes upstairs with me). So adding items to the Reminders app is very easy. And since its syncs with iCloud and pops up on the iPad, that makes it double easy. In order to remember to add these items to my planner when I get a chance, I set a(n) (approximate) time when I’ll be near enough to my planner to add the item. For example: say I’m downstairs with my phone but my planner is upstairs. I suddenly remember that I need to add toothpaste to my pharmacy list. Rather than running upstairs the moment I think of it, I will add the item to my reminders list for the day and choose an alert time of 9:30 p.m. (the approximate time of when I’ll head upstairs to get ready for bed, before which I get my planner ready for the following day). When the reminder pops up, I can either add it to the planner at that time, leave the message showing on the phone until I get to it, or if I decide to stay up a little longer, I can rest the time for 10:00 p.m. Once I’m upstairs, I can add the item to the list in my planner and delete it from the Reminders app. Easy peasy. And I don’t forget a thing. I have found that just the act of adding these items to the app helps me to remember to add it to the planner to do whatever the task is.
In addition, I can do this for items that I wouldn’t necessarily keep in my planner. For instance, I wouldn’t necessarily write down to take an hour out of my Sunday to relax and read a book. But I can set the reminders app for 4:00 p.m. to make that time—when the reminder alarm goes off, I’ll finish up what I’m doing, head to my favorite reading chair, and enjoy an hour for myself. Excellent.
I am using the app more and more, and with Siri’s help, it’s easier than I thought it would be. I have been using it non-stop the past week. But what surprised me most is how it’s helping me to use my planner more. One might think that becoming so dependent on an app might sway me in the digital direction, but it’s actually doing the opposite.
I use the app too for certain shopping lists. As mentioned in the previous post, I can’t seem to meld with it for grocery shopping—I have gone back to the paper list for that. It works, I like it, I can cross things off with a line through it rather than a checkmark next to it, I can put the paper and pencil down in my cart without worrying that they might be stolen if I turn my back for too long. I don’t think I’ll move away from the paper and pencil for that. However, every once in a while (once a week or if I’m doing errands), I’ll add items from the shopping lists in my planner to the respective lists within the Reminders app. This is done so that if I run into a store unexpectedly or don’t want to carry my planner with me, I still have access to that list. Once an item from the paper list gets added to the app list, I’ll put a checkmark next to it. This way I know it’s in both places. When I buy an item, it will move from the shopping list on the app to the completed list on the app. And when I’m home, going through my receipts, I will take the time to look at the completed list, cross anything off on the paper list that was purchased, and delete the item from the completed list so that it’s out of the app altogether. It might be more work than if I were to use either method exclusively, but in the end, I think this system will help me—I’m not tied to carrying my planner everywhere I go, yet I don’t miss out on getting things if I happen to be in the store.
I know that planning/productivity apps are meant to make our lives easier. But I have to say that I’m not finding that at all. In fact, I find that it takes more time to get a digital resource up and running than paper and pen. For example: the other day, I was in a meeting at work. I have been using the Google Drive app for keeping meeting notes and various projects—we have wifi in the building, so all I have to do is connect, open the app, open the specific document, hit “Edit,” and away I go with typing my notes. (I do this because it keeps my notes neat and accessible from any computer, in addition to my iPad). But upon arriving at this meeting, it took me longer to do all of that than it did for my coworkers to simply write notes on a piece of paper. By the time I was ready to go, I had already missed a bit of the discussion and had to ask what was just stated in order to get it down in the app. Fail. Of course, if I hadn’t been late to the meeting to begin with, this wouldn’t have been an issue since I would have been set up and ready to go before we ever started. But it’s the principle of the thing. My pen and paper has never failed me in the past, so why have I been so eager to use an app? There’s nothing wrong with using an app, and I may still. But it doesn’t hurt to use the pen and paper method to begin with, then transfer anything needed to a digital file. I guess it depends on the situation.
In any event, my point is that just because there are many fancy apps out there to keep me and my life organized, it doesn’t mean I have to use them. Sometimes the simpler the function, the easier it works and the more dependable it is. This is not anything new to me, but in this digital age where the idea of going “paperless” is being burned into our brains, we might forget that less is indeed more. Life is a delicate balance of just about everything. And the digital versus paper argument is no different—a little of each will go a long way (or a lot of one over the other if that works better for you). And in the world of organizing, the best system is the one that works for the individual. Again, something I have known for a long time. But sometimes I need to be reminded—whether via paper or app—that I don’t need to follow the crowd in order to achieve great things, no matter how small.