Organize your life with a desk calendar

Don’t ditch your desk calendar: The benefits of handwriting events and tasks

My guest blogger this week is Jessica Pyykkonen.

Even with hundreds of available apps to help organize your life, a paper desk calendar may be just what you need to stay on top of your work schedule. Despite dire predictions, desk calendars are thriving in the digital age. Furthermore, desk calendars may even be gaining some ground. Between 2014 and 2016, the sales of calendars jumped 8 percent and the sales of planners grew 10 percent.

Why are people sticking with or rediscovering paper? As organizational guru David Allen says, “There’s still no tool better than a paper planner.” Scheduling with pen and paper even offers some advantages over digital calendars. Keep reading to learn about the benefits of analog scheduling and discover tips to improve your desk calendar.

The brain-hand connection

Typing and handwriting may seem similar, but our brains handle the two activities differently. Because handwriting requires you to make sequential strokes to form each letter, it activates large regions of the brain involved in thinking, language, and working memory. The same is not true for typing a letter on a keyboard.

In one study, pre-literate children were split into groups and taught how to draw letters by hand, trace letters, or type letters on a keyboard. Later they looked at the same letters while their brains were scanned in a functional MRI machine. Networks of the brain known to support successful reading activated in the students who’d written the letters, but not in the students who’d typed or traced.

The benefits of handwriting are also evident later in life. Older students comprehend lectures better when taking notes by hand rather than on a laptop. Moreover, adults are better able to learn a new alphabet when they practice letters by hand rather than on a computer.

What does this research on the brain-hand connection mean for your work calendar? You may remember your appointments better if you write them down on paper rather than typing them.

You could even think of jotting down tasks and appointments as exercise for your brain. “One of the advantages of moving away from the keyboard and doing something that requires greater flexibility in how we use our hands is that it also requires greater flexibility in how we use our brains,” writes Nancy Darling, a psychology professor at Oberlin College.

A desk calendar also provides a place to doodle. Scribbling idly may seem like a waste of time, but it’s a powerful way to improve concentration during boring tasks. In one study, people who were randomly assigned to doodle during an intentionally dull phone call remembered 29 percent more of the information transmitted on the call afterward. Doodling also quickly calms the mind, and most people find it enjoyable.

Dash digital fatigue

Of course, using a paper planner or calendar offers a way to step away from screens during your busy work day. If you feel like you spend too much time on mobile devices and are drowning in notifications and alerts, you’re not alone.

Devices are designed to be addictive. Our brains secrete the feel-good chemical dopamine when we hear a notification, and we experience real symptoms of anxiety if we can’t respond. American adults spend nearly 11 hours per day staring at screens, and iPhone users unlock their phones up to 80 times a day.

You may be suffering from spending too much time on technology without realizing it. The more time teens spend online, the more likely they are to say they’re unhappy. Adults randomly assigned to give up Facebook for a week ended up happier, less lonely, and less depressed at the end of the week than those who used Facebook.

Former tech employees are even raising an alarm about the negative impacts of the technology they helped create. A group of them started an organization called Center for Humane Technology; they feel too much technology erodes mental health and social relationships. Stepping away from your laptop and phone to schedule on paper is one way to decrease your time on digital devices at work.

Plan and personalize

Using a desk calendar may help with big-picture planning and organization because it’s easy to see all your appointments at a glance. Many people prefer the tangible feeling of paper. For instance, 92 percent of college students prefer to read print books versus reading on a digital device.

Furthermore, whether you love minimalist, elegant, or cute desk calendars, your calendar becomes as unique as you are once you put pen to paper. Personalize it exactly how you want and don’t be afraid to transform it into an efficient, artistic extension of your brain. Once you have your calendar, stock up on different highlighterssticky notes, and colorful pens.


Long live the desk calendar

Digital devices aren’t going anywhere. Chances are you use some sort of online calendar, and you may want to continue doing so. But don’t ditch your desk calendar just yet. Many people use both a paper planning system and an online calendar because each offers different benefits. Writing down appointments helps you remember them better, gives you an opportunity to step away from screens, lends itself to big-picture planning and organizing, and offers a myriad of personalization options. Moreover, putting pen to paper may help you stay calmer and more focused.

Check-out this article for more information about the benefits of handwriting, Is handwriting dead? Hardly. We need it more than ever.

Do you agree with this article? Paper or electronic what works best for you?

Julie Stobbe, professional organizerJulie Stobbe is a Trained Professional Organizer and Lifestyle Organizing Coach who brings happiness to homes and organization to offices,  virtually. She has been working with clients since 2006 to provide customized organizing solutions to suit their individual needs and situation. She uses her love of physical activity to reduce clutter, in your home and office. She guides and supports you to manage your time. If you’re in a difficult transition Julie can coach you to break-free of emotional clutter constraining you from living life on your terms. Online courses are available to help instruct, coach and support your organizing projects. Get started by downloading Tips for Reorganizing 9 Rooms.

Contact her at

Click here to learn more about her online course Create an Organized Home.

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  1. Seana Turner on November 12, 2018 at 9:01 am

    I am a paper girl, although I believe any system can work very well if you commit to it. Also, I understand the appeal of having a calendar that can be accessed from multiple locations and shared. For me, the paper just suits me. I get tired of looking at screens, and my planner provides a place for keeping business cards, checks, and other paper I pick up. I like the ability to doodle and highlight on paper. I guess I also love that I could interact with my planner regardless of the strength of my wifi signal or cell service.

    • Julie Stobbe on November 12, 2018 at 9:53 pm

      I agree with all your comments. I use my planner to temporarily hold items until I get them and file them and I don’t need wifi to book an appointment.

  2. Sabrina Quairoli on November 12, 2018 at 11:53 am

    This is a very interesting article, Kim. Thanks for sharing.

    Writing tasks down is super important to me. While digital calendars are helpful to remind me about recurring appointments, when I write different tasks on my paper calendar, it helps me to visualize what I need to do next within that process. It helps me flow from one task to the other more efficiently as well.

    • Julie Stobbe on November 12, 2018 at 9:47 pm

      Writing it down gives me a better sense of how my week will flow I think it is because the page is more open. On an electronic calendar I just get overwhelmed with all lines and boxes and feel like I will be too busy.

  3. Janet Barclay on November 12, 2018 at 12:53 pm

    I’m all digital but I do miss some of the benefits of paper, specifically

    (a) starting each new year with a fresh slate

    (b) being able to enter information quickly – My book club often schedules several meetings at a time, and it’s hard for me to create the event on my phone, then add the location and title, without missing the next one.

    • Julie Stobbe on November 12, 2018 at 9:44 pm

      I completely agree with both your points. I find adding appointments to a paper calendar so much faster than doing it electronically. I never thought about the psychological factor of starting a new year with a fresh slate. That would be a very important point for some people.

  4. Julie Stobbe on November 12, 2018 at 9:50 pm

    I am old school as well, it is easier for me to update it, make changes, reorganize days and remember a week when I see it on paper.

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