3 reasons paper planners are relevant in the digital age

written by Erica Quam

I've tried to go paperless in my life - as much as possible. I scan & digitally save receipts & documents. I use Evernote to clip articles, bookmark websites, and even compile my favorite quotes. What I haven't been able to do is go paperless for my planner.

I find it incredibly valuable to plan out my month and outline my weeks - in advance. Writing it down on paper helps me work through challenges and solidify things in my brain. 

I also believe in the power of purposeful reflection. At the end of the month it's helpful to go back, look over the month and think about what went well, what didn't go well, and what you can do differently in the month ahead. It doesn't work for me the same way if I type it all in. The probability of getting distracted by an alert, an incoming email, or some random fact to google goes way down if my planner is open, laptop is closed, and phone is away.

I have a few regular practices I've developed since starting my own business that have been essential ingredients to my success. I teach these same habits to athletic coaches:

1) Be proactive vs. reactive

When you take the time to write out your goals, break them into actionable steps, and look at them on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis...you are much more likely to achieve them. We know this, yet how often do we do it?

Using a paper planner with prompts that guide you through a goal-setting process has helped me consistently set more goals and work towards them.

I also find it valuable to begin each day with intention. It's a daily practice to choose your mindset. Make a habit of deciding your attitude. When you get into this routine you play an active role in creating your life - instead of life happening to you

2) List and reflect on your accomplishments - build momentum & confidence

It's easy to get to the end of your day and feel like you've gotten nothing done. Especially for a coach. Coaches are meant to set high standards. Even if something was pretty good...there's always room to raise the bar a little higher. There's always room for some small improvement. Perfection is elusive.

Yet, if you always end your day feeling "less than" or "not enough" and you don't take the time to acknowledge things you're doing well...you're confidence will fade and anxiety will flourish. 

It gets tricky! Studies show our brains tend to dwell on the negative instead of finding the positive. There's a lot of negativity today - all around us. If we're not careful, we can spiral downward instead of upward.

Another recent study found when we complain, our neurons build bridges that make it easier to complain even more: "synapses that fire together, wire together". The cycle of complaining releases cortisol in our bodies that can lead to an all fight or flight response.

To combat all the negativity, we have to be proactive and search for the positive. It can be as simple as listing things you accomplished at the end of the day. Write down things you got done, conversations you had, and things you are proud of - no matter how small they may seem. The small things you write down will help you build confidence until you become more aware of the positive impact you make

3) Decide and schedule your priorities - both personal and professional

There are a lot of things we COULD do each day. There are a lot of distractions that come up along the way. If we know the most important thing we want to accomplish and direct our focus and energy on that priority - chances are pretty good that it will get done. 

Setting a priority involves making a decision. Deciding what to do next that will make the biggest difference. Determine rank. Some of us have a hard time making decisions - and procrastinate. Instead of making a simple decision we allow ourselves to get distracted, we splatter our attention all over the place, and get pulled in a million different directions. If you don't prioritize that long list of to-do's...you're giving everything on the list the same level of importance. When everything is important, nothing is important. 

When you can get into a habit of setting your priorities, you begin to train your brain to make decisions faster and easier. Go after the very next step that will get you where you want to go and focus on it 100%. Once you're done, move on to the next priority. Lather, rinse, repeat.

There are an overwhelming number of productivity tools out there to choose from these days. I've used a variety of different planners and haven't found "the one" for me yet. So, I decided to create my own. Want to try it? Click here. It may just be the very thing you need to get you inspired and organized for 2017! 

This weekend, take 10 minutes to reflect on your week and set your intention for the week ahead. Leave a comment and let me know how it helps. (Need a little kickstart? Download a helpful free tool here.)