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Radical Time Management: Use a Smartphone AND a Paper Organizer

Updated on November 14, 2012

A Paper Organizer


A Smart Phone Organizer


Managing Time with The PaperPlus System - The Best of Both Worlds

Nothing—nothing—has a greater impact on your time than a well-maintained appointment calendar combined with your to-do list. Screw up your calendar, and you waste time showing up for appointments at the wrong time. Neglect your to-do list, and you spend your time in a befuddled daze. It’s self-evident that you need to keep an orderly calendar and list of things to do. This is basic time management.

But what should you use, a paper organizer such as a Day-Timer or Day-Runner or a smartphone? We are all fixed in our ways, and over time, we tend to do things that have worked for us in the past. Simply said we develop habits, and this is not a bad thing. Some are so accustomed to their Day-Timers that to abandon it puts a torpedo through their familiar way of doing things. Stop beating yourself up and thinking that you’re a Luddite just because you are accustomed to an old fashioned paper-based calendar and list system. Some habits are good, and just because you’re in the habit of writing stuff down and crossing things off you’re not crazy.

Most people, however, recognize that technology has created useful new ways of keeping them organized. Smartphones are wonderful instruments. In one little device, such as a Blackberry or an IPhone, you have a telephone, a camera, a calendar, a to-do list, pictures of your kids and grandkids, not to mention the Internet including e-mail. If you’re waiting in a line, you can view the news, check your portfolio or, if you’re really bored, play a game. You can synchronize your Outlook calendar, to-do list, and contact list between your desktop computer and your smartphone. Your office is in your pocket! In the “old days” (not too long ago), if you were on the road and had to call someone, you would pull to the side of the road, find a phone booth, feed coins into the phone, and make the call. Talk about wasting time! The smartphone has revolutionized time management, and as voice recognition software constantly improves, it’s only going to get better. And it’s quite good now. Pick up your smartphone and say “call Pete Miller.” It beats looking up a phone number. Yes, the smartphone is here to stay.

But what about people, especially Baby Boomers, who have been raised on paper organizers? Remember the Palm Pilot? It was the big daddy of PDAs (Personal Digital Assistant). PDAs were the precursors of the smartphone; they weren’t phones but they had much of the organizing wizardry that we now take for granted. Many a Baby Boomer cancelled his or her subscription to their beloved Day-Timers because they wanted to embrace the digital age. Not for long. Some people gradually realized that years of reliance on their Day-Timers had become habit forming—good habits. They missed the physical satisfaction of scribbling down an idea, or checking off a completed task or crossing off an unnecessary item. When something important came up you would simply jot it down. The Palm Pilot had an interesting feature called Graffiti, which was a sort of stenographic language that enabled you to scribble words right on the screen. Many never mastered it and found that it was frustrating. It wasn’t saving time; it was wasting it. Smartphones users type with their thumbs, and many hate it. A bad, but true, pun is that Baby Boomers are all thumbs. Finally people relented and ordered a new set of Day-Timer monthly books.

A Radical Idea—PaperPlus—Use Your Paper Organizer AND Your Smartphone

You probably think it’s a waste of time to use both a smartphone and a paper organizer. It isn’t. Exception: If you are comfortable with thumbing stuff into your smartphone and consider paper a bother, do not change what you are doing. Just as Boomers were raised on paper, X-Gens, Y-Gens, and Millennials have been raised on digital devices. As paper is natural to some people, a digital device is natural to others. Note the word natural. If you try to adopt a practice that isn’t natural to you, frustration awaits. For those of you who don’t like or need a paper organizer, the best advice is to do regular hand exercises to avoid future arthritis. For those of you who are wedded to your paper organizer but recognize the obvious benefits of digital devices, let’s see how PaperPlus works.

Put your to-do or task list into your paper organizer. You can add things while you’re having breakfast in a diner without spilling coffee on your Blackberry. As you complete tasks, perform your old familiar procedure by checking it off or crossing it out. Also, put appointments into the calendar section. If you get new contact information from someone, put that down in the notes section. Have an idea? Jot it down as a note.

This is Key

Every day—every day—set time aside to transcribe what you put into your paper organizer into your computer. Note: this assumes that you synchronize your computer with your smartphone. Unless you’re a two-finger typist, this transcription process should take only a few minutes. Here’s what happens: while you are adding an additional chore to your day, you are beginning a practice that so many people ignore; you are reviewing what happened. This causes you to prioritize things as your review the day. Some matters are trivial and should not be transcribed; errands such as “pick up milk.” Some things are very important and will continue to be so: “Call accountant about audit.”

When you use the PaperPlus procedure you’re empowering your good old habit of jotting stuff down but, by transcribing the important information, you’re accomplishing something you couldn’t do with your paper organizer: you are creating a searchable database of information that you can to access in the future. In the mid-1980s there was a popular audiotape course on the correct use of a Day-Timer. The instructor suggested putting paper clips on pages that contained important information that you may need to retrieve. Lame! The Day-Timer is a great system but not for retrieving archival information. Digital totally trumps paper here.

So, you’re creating time by using this system not wasting it. You save hours by not having to look up an item on paper, but most important, you’re adopting a killer time management practice. Review your day, every day. It is time well invested.


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    • rfmoran profile imageAUTHOR

      Russ Moran - The Write Stuff 

      7 years ago from Long Island, New York

      Thanks for your input Kathryn. Yes, there is no rule for using the new and the old.

    • rfmoran profile imageAUTHOR

      Russ Moran - The Write Stuff 

      7 years ago from Long Island, New York

      Thanks for visiting Jean. We shouldn't fight our natural way of doing things.

    • profile image

      Jean Valerie Kotzur nee Stoneman 

      7 years ago from Germany

      I am pre-babyboomer, (just a couple of years) but I understand very well where you are coming from. I write like everyone else on this site and I have to remember and juggle a lot of things during the course of a day. The computer is my constant companion, I also have my to-do list in a computer file, BUT, and this is a big one, everything is duplicated on a memory stick and on paper and my to-do list is also on paper and isolated from everything else. My father used to call it Belt and Breeches.

      Excellent Hub.


    • Kathryn Stratford profile image


      7 years ago from Windsor, Connecticut

      I love articles on time management. I am pretty good at it already, and absolutely love to keep track of things in my planner AND my computer, but I always like to read about other views and ideas that I might not have thought of. Great hub!

    • rfmoran profile imageAUTHOR

      Russ Moran - The Write Stuff 

      7 years ago from Long Island, New York

      Thanks Tamara for your visit. I find that this system works. Nobody can pry my Daytimer from fingers!

    • tamarawilhite profile image

      Tamara Wilhite 

      7 years ago from Fort Worth, Texas

      Excellent advice. I personally rely on paper more. Make a new list each day. If it isn't important enough to write down again, it shouldn't be carried forward.

    • rfmoran profile imageAUTHOR

      Russ Moran - The Write Stuff 

      7 years ago from Long Island, New York

      Thanks Brett and Cindi. I used to feel like a Luddite bedcause I couldnt' ditch my Day-Timer. Now I use both worlds.

    • Cyndi10 profile image

      Cynthia B Turner 

      7 years ago from Georgia

      I'm with you. I find both to be useful. Good observations about matching technology to the manual way. voted up.

    • Brett.Tesol profile image

      Brett C 

      7 years ago from Asia

      An interesting and useful hub. Personally I set the important things on my smartphone, the stuff that isn't urgent or doesn't need to be done by any particular time goes on paper.

      Shared, up, useful, tweeted, and pinned.

    • rfmoran profile imageAUTHOR

      Russ Moran - The Write Stuff 

      7 years ago from Long Island, New York

      Thanks for visiting and your comment. No we're not crazy

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Thanks you, I thought I was the only one going crazy trying to transition 25 years of paper time management to smart phone.


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