Hybrid Approach: Balancing Digital & Paper Planning Systems

By Bob Sadowski, APR, Public Relations & Social Media Manager, ACCO Brands

With smartphones becoming smarter, laptops getting smaller yet more powerful, and tablets taking over the book, magazine and newspaper industries, it’s no surprise that electronic planning and its popularity with users of those devices is growing as well. With all the calendaring apps that come standard with most electronic devices, it seems like the natural progression from paper to digital is inevitable. But is perception a reality in this case?

Not really—paper is still alive and well, and it’s actually still the preferred medium in many industries and for tasks like records storage. Within the planning and organizing industry, paper is still thriving as well, according to our customers. Moms, students, business people, professional organizers—they all collectively tell us, “We’d be lost without our planners!”

As a result, we’ve discovered an interesting level of coexistence between the two. Certainly, there are still those who use electronic only, and the same goes for paper-only users; however, the vast majority of users are taking a hybrid approach to their planning.

What is unique and advantageous about a paper/electronic organization and planning approach is you get the best of both worlds while avoiding the pitfalls associated with either of the mediums. For example, electronic planning using a system like Outlook, Gmail, Yahoo! Mail or the like gives you instantaneous access and updates via digital delivery. Since a good portion of your daily planning tends to revolve around email and the information/news delivered by these messages, immediate updates that affect your calendar and to-do lists are vital.

Another example is the big picture that a paper planning system gives you. Accessible at any time—including in “dead spots” where electronic devices are all but useless—you can easily access your calendar, to-do list, notes from meetings and conversations, and so much more. Unless you have a photographic memory, a paper planner is a must for comprehensive information retention.

There are several steps and actions you can take to make this hybrid approach work for you. Here are some tips that will get you moving in the right direction:

  • Maintain two lists. This may seem counterproductive, as we’re usually stressing conciseness and consolidation of tasks, but with two mediums, two lists are needed. The first will be your “master task list” on Outlook or your system of choice; the second is your daily “to-do” list which is maintained in your planner.
  • Provide instructions with your tasks. Each task needs to be properly labeled, categorized and have a deadline attached to it.
  • At the start of each day, create your daily to-do list using the information from your electronic system. But don’t overbook yourself—choose only 3-5 tasks that must get done during the day, and 3-5 that would be nice to complete but are not critical.
  • Prioritize your to-do list. This is where the above information like deadlines and categories (i.e., work, home, family, projects) come into play.
  • Finalize your day’s to-do list and put it on paper. That list in your planner then becomes your roadmap for the rest of the day.

Following these steps in this hybrid approach will help ensure you’ll be armed with all the planning tools and information you need to lead a productive day. Do you already use a hybrid system? What type(s) of solutions do you have on balancing your electronic system and paper planner? Share your thoughts and ideas.

[photo by antianki]

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