July 12, 2002
I have always had a paper planner. At first, it was a little square calendar booklet that the Hallmark stores gave away, a new one each year. Those did me just fine in junior high and high school; I didn’t have a lot to plan in those days (or maybe I was just better at remembering things). When I started working, I got a company-provided leatherette bound planner to keep track of my hours, which had to go on my timesheet every two weeks so the proper customer billing could be done. Everyone else had a similar planner; no one had computers on their desks, much less in their briefcases or pockets. After I left public accounting, keeping track of my hours wasn’t really necessary anymore, but I was in the planner habit. I bought a DayRunner system. I don’t remember why I chose that particular brand over the others; probably it was just the easiest to get at the places I shopped. My first binder was burgundy vinyl, one of the smallest and simplest ones available, then later I upgraded to a slightly larger black zippered binder, still with the 6-3/4 by 3-3/4 inch pages. After I left big company life, I bought a new binder, a more casual style in plum nylon fabric, to symbolize that I was no longer a serious corporate drone. I also switched from the sober gray calendar pages to ones with a pink and purple floral border. I still use that same binder and that same style of pages, even though I’m back to work full time and must track my hours for billing purposes once again.
But now I work for a tech company, and personal digital assistants are everywhere. Why don’t I have one? I’ve certainly taken to other new ways of doing things, like making travel arrangements and buying stuff and making friends online. I love my laptop (well, the laptop the company lets me use as if it were mine) and my digital camera. So why don’t I want a PDA? (Other than because the abbreviation makes me giggle, causing me to flash back to high school, when PDA meant only “public displays of attention” and was a serious issue—who’d been seen kissing who and where had they been doing it?)
Flipping through old magazines last weekend, I came across an article by Julie Morgenstern that supports my preference. (Of course, if it didn’t, I’d ignore it, so much do I love my little binder.) “Choose a paper planner,” she writes, “if you write your to-dos in categories
My to do lists are supplemented by a liberal use of sticky notes. Post-Its are my solution for things I must remember at a certain time or in a certain situation. I can put them in the place I’m most likely to see the reminder—sometimes in my planner, sometimes on my bathroom mirror, sometimes on the dash of my car. The slate blue marbled Post-It on my Weight Watchers food journal (which lives in the back of my planner, and which I know I’ll look at every night because I have to write down the points for dinner), reminded me to bring my Bible and study guide to work, so I’d have it for the much postponed meeting. Having a PDA wouldn’t have prevented me from putting that sticky note on my WW journal, but it would prevent me from putting them on my calendar pages in order to highlight a particular to do item. A brightly colored piece of paper attracts more of my attention than a note on the page itself, even one written in a funky color.
So a PDA couldn’t effectively replace my Post-It notes, and a peek into my planner immediately shows more things a PDA couldn’t replicate. Where in a PDA would I put my banana sticker collection, assembled from hotel continental breakfast spreads in at least three states? And what about the wrappers from the Japanese plum candy? Where would they go, with their varied designs that can be arranged to form the illustrations for a romantic tale of a young geisha dreaming of love with a handsome chauffeur and finally, as the story ends, gathering the courage to approach him? And a PDA couldn’t store the address labels and postage stamps and business cards I have tucked into other pockets.
I suppose the PDA’s case could hold all these little bits and pieces, while the PDA itself handled the calendar and phone book and notes sections I have now. But I enjoy looking at those sections in my paper planner. I like to buy and use the little packs of paper in different colors and designs. My planner is a wonderful mix of color and pattern, like a scrap quilt. It has an overall theme of plum and pink and gray, but I don’t let that limit me. Waiting to be used behind the “blank paper” tab right now: a fall leaves design in green and golds and russets, mint green, lilac, and pink plain lined papers, pale pink with a white border, roses in pink and gray, a standard issue gray and white with berry design, and gray on white grid paper.
I guess it come down to this: I like having a paper planner. I like office supplies, and the planner is an excuse to buy and use them. I like writing things out by hand. I like the visual stimulation of a paper planner. It’s me. A PDA is not.