From Digital planner to Paper planner – why?


I started out with a Casio in about 1995 but I don’t think I have it anymore because I couldn’t find it. The Mac Newton is around but I don’t know where. I can only find the accessories for it at the moment. Here they are, complete with dust!


I had two different Psions but I could only find one of them. These ran on penlight batteries and the battery cover did not fit all that tightly. Twice I lose all my information when the batteries fell out. The first time I threw myself on my bed and sobbed my eyes out. The second time, I switched to Palm Pilot. But I had sync problems with both my V and my Tungsten where the calendar source file was corrupted and I tried to sync over backup but it corrupted all the data and I had to re-enter everything.

I used a Palm Pilot for years. My students all used to use paper at that stage. I was so good at the Palm Pilot alphabet that when the Palm Life Drive came out I couldn’t use the regular alphabet anymore. At the end of the LifeDrive era the Palm Treo came out which was a bad phone with a good PDA. The other choice was a good phone with a bad PDA.

So it was back to Filofax for me (I have always preferred ring binders over bound planners) and I have never looked back. I won’t go back to digital in a hurry. So, if you used digital before, why did you switch back to paper? And if you use a combination, how do you integrate paper and digital?

If you use a combination organiser + iPad cover, which one do you use and how do you like it?

All of them have flat batteries now but the rubber on the Psion has degraded so that it is tacky and everything sticks to it which is why the surface looks so weird.

Author: Janet Carr

Fashion, beauty and animal loving language consultant from South Africa living in Stockholm, Sweden.

17 thoughts

  1. I need to see where my time goes. Loved my Palm, then my Blackberry. iCal and Google have messed me up to many times , won’t go into those horror stories. Other than audio reminder alerts, it’s analog for me. I’ve christened my black binder “Analog Blackberry.”

      1. Unfortunately the raison d’etre of any electronic device…the calendar. While using iCal, I had rescheduled a doctor’s appointment for the next month and made the appropriate changes. Then when I showed up for my appointment, I was told my time slot was for the previous week. Not only was the original entry still there, but there were random entries for the next 7 months. Switched over to Google, this time my flight schedule. Thank goodness for the printed itinerary, or I would have missed my flight. Multiplying bunnies and ghosts. At least when it happens in my planner, I know it’s my fault, and what I did NOT do.

  2. that brings back memories … I used an A5 bound calender since the mid/end 80s… my dad got several each year and only needed kne, so I grabbed one I liked with DpP – continued using them, later buying them myself until switching to a ringbound planner around beginning/mid 90s and finally in 1999 a Knightsbridge filofax. and than the Palm Vx came along … I had an ‘thingy’ where I could put it into my Filofax. it was always up front. I liked the idea of digital, am a techno-phile person, I stored my shift schedule and appointments in it but mostly used it for my contact data – and did my weekly planning with pen&paper. after there were no more updates to the palm got back to paper completely. I bought my first mobile phone quite late and after several years and a change to iMac … I used iCal additionally. With the arrival of the first iPad I thought: YAY, all digital – how cool is that?!?!?! After three months I was a wreck, I had no feeling towards how full my week is, if there is space for a meeting or a short trip. I could see it all, daily, weekly, monthy, …. but it did not “speak” to me. As much as I love these tech gimmicks, they don’t work out for planning for me … so I returned to an A5 bound planner, first moleskine, some years later after they changed the monthly layout, to mark’s,jp tokyo edge (both 1W2P with notes). and guess what, one day I found out: facebook has got groups you can participate in – philofaxy here I come !! And I re-activated my filofax after discovering you can print and design whatever you like!! philofaxy had the perfect inserts (W2P with notes) … a good half year later my world turned aound again: I liked to downsize my Filofax after finally getting hold of a 30mm Cavendish -> A6 is now my favourite size, be it van der Spek or my new Mulberry Agenda!

    so it will ALWAYS be paper for me to plan, to put in my shift schedule and my appointments… paper speaks to me and I just love to touch it and browse through it … I love my mobile phone all the same and have evrything stored in iCal as well – and won’t miss it especially for all the contact data (which used to be my Palm). But I cannot and will not rely on digital only. It does not make me happy as looking at my binder does.

  3. I started off with paper as a young girl in high school, having seen and fallen in love with a classic-sized, zip-around navy blue Day Runner. I carried that everywhere, because I wrote constantly. A few years later, I sustained several injuries to my cervical spine. No more writing. No more reading. No more bending my head or carrying heavy handbags. I turned my attentions to the burgeoning field (then) of home computers and personal data management and, being the forward-looking Aquarian that I am, dove headfirst (no pun intended) into digital.

    But I couldn’t take it everywhere; I didn’t do the PDA, but found myself writing on scraps and such–then losing them. On a trip to London, I scooped up a personal Filofax, and was happy again. Then that became too small, and once again I attempted to digitize my life. But the feel, the touch, the scent, the weight of paper kept tugging at me. I think I own a planner of every size and configuration. I can digitize my reading library with only a minimal amount of resistance, mostly out of practicality. The movers that just relocated us from Rhode Island to Texas clocked our book collection in at just a bit over 2000 lbs. That’s a lot of books for a chick with a busted neck to handle, so I kept the precious ones and am digitizing the others. As for planners, I am all about the analog. I need that pencil in my hand (or pen, or watercolor pencil). I can create a planner that suits my needs at the time, or I can use something from my stock. The best of both worlds…..

    1. Great comment! Thanks Denise! What digital device do you use to read your books – Kindle? I am at the moment reading Kindle books on my MacBook but I really prefer paper because it is true escapism. On my MacBook the Internet and Amazon and email and Facebook is always distracting me.

      1. Thanks, Janet! I have a Nook HD+ for travel (getting a bit too heavy for me these days, these new devices), but I have a Kindle app on my laptop. Having the same book on both is an awful lot like code-switching, so 2 books open always. I think I might need a lighter device than the Nook; it usually causes some pain to neck and arm after a while. Paperbacks still find their way into the house, and I just read for as long as I’m able.

  4. I owned 2 Newtons and 8 different Palm OS devices and was quite the tech addict for about a decade. The thrill of the new devices coming out all the time, and trying new apps! I was especially partial to the Sony Cliés, as they were more ergonomic, and had color screens before the Palms. I was also quite good at Graffitti (and hated Graffiti 2 so I switched to devices with keyboards). My last two were Treos. My favorite was an awesome orange color. My only issue with the Treos was battery life – if I forgot to charge it every night it didn’t last the next day, so I kept a charger at work.

    I made the switch back to paper in 2009. The final nail in the Treo’s coffin was when work shutdown syncing of personal devices. Mac Hotsync at home was always a mess and Palm hadn’t updated the app to sync with the latest Mac OS.

    I miss the simplicity of the Palm Desktop. I could see my calendar, tasks and notes all in one view. Due to the patent issues surrounding a lot of the Palm software, all the current smartphones had to “start over” when developing new apps, so they’re all a little clunkier than they need to be., plus a touchscreen isn’t always better. And I say this as a life-long Mac user. The demise of the Palm OS makes an excellent business case study.

    I used a Quo Vadis Visual (bound) as my segue back to paper, with a spiral notebook for work notes, and lots of post it notes and iCal to share with the husband. I kludged along with iPhone (personal) and Visual (work) for 5 years. Then my kids started school and it all fell apart. I’ve been toying with different planner systems in the 2 1/2 years since. I started with a Filofax Compact Calypso and have descended into madness since.

    I still haven’t decided if the problem is me not finding a system that works or the massive chaos that is family life. All those systems that worked so well in the past (Palm, GTD, Visual) were all working when I only had to worry about my stuff.

  5. I use an Android calendar app, but just as a calendar, because it combines my personal calendar with my work calendar and some online calendars from groups that I am a member or officer of. When those are all working properly (most of the time they are) it lets me see changes the organizations have made immediately. It also means I can see it on my phone as well as from any PC I log into my account from, and access contact lists. I don’t use the electronic calendar for task or project planning. Most of the time my paper calendar ends up as a historical record, rather than a forward-looking tool.

    I have used a range of electronic devices similar to yours. 2 Palm OS Treos, 1 Windows OS Treo, at least one Palm Pilot, a Philips Velo, a couple of HP 100s, an HP 200 – and those are only the ones that predated the smartphone, though I guess for the time, the Treos were smart phones. I’m guessing you were using GSM Treos. Mine were CDMA and were actually very good phones.

  6. Janet, you should be aware if you have a working (or workable) Apple Newton, it’s worth a range of $1,000 – $2,500 USD, depending on the model – original Messagepads are worth more, the later Messagepad 100/110 somewhat less. A few years ago, I was seeing them go for more than $3,000, but prices have come down. $1,000 buys a lot of haute leather!…:)

    1. Really? I had no idea. I must really scratch mine out. It is workable, still in the box, with all the accessories, still in the box. I will take photos of the accessories that I do have at hand and post them in the article. Edit: added photo below for you so you can see the model. Complete with dust from…cough….archival storage all these years….

  7. Oh no! It all looks so very familiar. I have all of mine packed away in their original packaging. It was the Palm V Vaja case that I bought over the internet from Argentina that I loved the most.

    1. I remember admiring all those Vaja and Sena cases in scrumptious leather, but I was always upgrading devices so I never invested in nice cases.

  8. I owned way too many of these. The nicest looking was a Psion 5 in a Mulberry Congo leather Sleeve.mthe Psion was a sort of sea green, the rarer colour. I have an Apple Newton about somewhere and a several old Palm Pilots. I don’t miss them much, except an old Psion Netbook which ran the best Money software, for personal use, that I have see. Being in accountancy I used to have to buy accountancy software for my company, none beat Psion Money.
    The main problem with all digital records is battery and or disk longevity, paper doesn’t erase itself or get corrupted.

    1. That Psion sounds gorgeous! I loved the Happy Birthdays facility on the Palm Pilot. I loved it. Never forgot one while I was using that. I wished it was transferable. I still have it on my old computer. Now I rely on Facebook to tell me when it is someone’s birthday!

      1. Yes, I had the Palm Tungsten, I liked it at the time, but like all PDAs prone to battery failure and card corruption. That’s why I loved the Psion, it used AA batteries that lasted for a week! Even my iPad can’t manage that.

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