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On using a paper journal for a year…

At some point in late 2019, I was trying to find an event I knew was in my Google Calendar and could not. Search as I would, the event was not found. It was maddening. I was os careful with my calendar entries and had everything in there. I took special care to associate keywords that I knew I’d think of later so I could be sure to find things with searching. But this event I knew was in my calendar was not coming up. That day, I vowed to not use online calendars anymore. I would work with paper, I told myself. Like the good old days. And, to be fair to Google, it turns out there was some kind of outage that day preventing searches from working. Just a fluke that I happened to need to find something during it.

Anyway, I love writing with pen on paper and decided, I was going to get a journal for 2020 and use it (ended up with a Mead 2020 Daily Appointments book, spiral bound, great product for a great price). After almost a year of using a paper calendar/journal, I found it was fine but I think I am done now. I will not be buying a 2021 journal/calendar. It wasn’t so much that I had trouble with it, I just don’t find it is better than online.

Because I grew up doing this, it wasn’t difficult to do and I didn’t have to learn how to use it but I did employ some new techniques inspired by my use of Google Calendar:

I did find it inconvenient in some ways but not as much as you would think. Because I didn’t do this for my job, which would be nuts because of the many appointments and the way we integrate calendar into meeting scheduling, the most important things to schedule for me are medical (and other) appointments and trips, so infrequent events. For medical appointments, this is happening in an office. I would book the appointment just on gut feel and if it conflicted with something else, I would just call the office and rebook. It happened a couple of times and was not a big deal.

For trip planning, you usually have this information well in advance. It is easy to keep track of in the calendar. I would do things like write my itinerary on the travel day pages, or maybe tape a folded, printed sheet into the day with some info on it (ticket numbers, instructions for an AirBnB, etc). This is very helpful but not more helpful than an app on your phone or just carrying the paper in your wallet or pocket. One thing that bothered me is if our plans changed, I would need to go back and move things around or cross things out. Compared to digital this is tedious.

As COVID rages on, I am doing less and less away from the computer that involves a calendar entry. I found this meant I would ignore my calendar for days at a time. I would typically “catch up” on Friday and flip forward through the next week, etc. This was fine, I didn’t miss anything. I had planned to journal each day into the calendar but I didn’t end up doing this much. When I did, I enjoyed it but the end result was a mostly empty book. If I do this again, I would just use a notebook with a two-page spread for each month. I think that would be enough for me to track any upcoming events, etc. I didn’t keep my TODO list in the calendar so I only need “events” and they don’t take much room.