Pros & Cons of Paper and Outlook/PDA

I am a planner and purse-a-holic! I cannot believe I have found others out there who consistently scrutinize and rework their planner systems! YEAH! I am so happy I have found you! Now, hopefully you can help me because the huge box that is holding all of my planners that have failed me is getting full and I would like to stop switching from planner to planner each month!

Here is how I see it – there are pros and cons to a paper organizer and an electronic organizer (outlook & pda’s). I lay out my views below. I am hoping someone can help me figure out how to fix the problems I encounter!

Paper Planner System:
*You can see the entire month or week in one view
*You can write a note whenever and wherever you want
*You can doodle, draw and journal

*You have to page through the whole planner to find a note you wrote.
*You cannot add in more pages where you find you need them (like if you are
using a moleskine).
*You cannot save things year to year that you need year to year – unless you rip
out the page you want and glue it into your current yearly planner.

Outlook & PDA’s
*You can do a search for any word you want and receive a list of all the places that
word is!
*You do not have to buy a new planner each year.
*You do not have to “lose” info each year because you have to begin using your
new yearly planner – meaning, year after year, your info is with you!

*I dislike having to look at my schedule day by day – I prefer a full week or a full
month view.
*I have a hard time reading my PDA outside – for some reason, the sun makes the
view impossible???
*When I want to write a quick note, I have to think about what program to use,
choose new, etc. and it takes too long. Then I forget it is there because
everything hides in it’s own little spot when you are done.
*It is difficult to combine work and home when using outlook or a pda because you
have to remember to put it on both calendars (your work computer and your home), or this could be a pro because with a pda you can sync at both home and work (although I have never tried that!).

I am sure there are many more Pros and Cons to each system. My main concern is figuring out a way that will work for me. And I think the only way to do that is to continue to ask what you all do! Hopefully someone’s system will work for me too!

Happy planning,

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Yearly stuff

Hi, the planners you are talking about are obviously not ring binders of some sort right? Otherwise there is no need to rip anything out. Just click the rings open and you can take out the stuff you need.

The search function is indeed the best part of electronic systems. However, if you organize your stuff very strictly, (see the Getting Things Done) method, there are only a very few places you have to search.

Good luck!

Update - Moleskine Purchased

Thank you "humanoid" for the info. I appreciate any help I can get!

So, here is what I did today. I went and bought a Moleskine since it seems like everyone really loves them. I tried to find a 2006 weekly somewhere, but see that they are sold out (unless you want to pay $40 on eBay!!). So, I just bought the pocket size ruled notebook. On the left hand page, I drew lines to make my own weekly calendar (you could glue in one of the templates from this site instead). On the right hand I write all of my reminders and to-do's for the week.

The problem I stated in my first note regarding the notes that I like to keep year to year? Well, Humanoid helped me figure this part out. In the back of the journal there is an envelope. So, I typed out my annual notes and made a few spreadsheets (gift giving and holiday cards sent out, auto maintenance record, etc.) that are about 3X5 size. Then when I was cutting them out, I cut out a tab on the top of the page which will stick out of the envelope. On that tab I wrote the subject of that spreadsheet. So, now I can carry those year to year and do not have to glue them in or rip them out or anything like that! Thanks Humanoid!

So far, I am sticking with the paper planner. I am still having problems with my work planner (I keep work and personal separate as there is too much personal client info in the work planner and I do not feel safe carrying that around all the time). But, I will continue to listen to your ideas and share any that I come up with!


Pros and cons


On the PDA side, there are some software tools you can purchase for your Palm OS PDA that will combine appointments, to-dos, journal entries, and other things all together in one view.

Datebk4 is a software I've had for a while that I really like. It's got daily, weekly, monthly, etc. views (albeit tiny), categories so you can separate your contexts, and it joins appointments with to-dos so you can see everything you have to do on one page. You can also attach icons to your tasks/appointments so you can see them on the calendar view instead of the words if you wish.

Likewise, if you just need to jot a quick note to remind yourself of something later, there's a little program called Diddlebug (free) that will let you do just that--write in your own handwriting on the screen, then set a reminder on it so you don't forget it. I've pinned it to my 'note' button instead of the default system program. I can draw a little picture, write a brief shopping list, take a note from a meeting, or whatever. I can categorize the note if I want (context again). I can keep multiple notes around, protect them from modification, add a text note to one later.. It's a spiffy little program.

On the paper side, I like binders for the ability to be flexible with content. I'm also working on a concept for reusable 'recurring' tasks in the form of pagelifter-like cards that snap in and out of the binder wherever you need them without opening the rings. I'm not personally keen on the fixed-page concept just because I reschedule things, I want special sections, I'm still fishing for the right combo, etc.

To save annual things from year to year, the easiest thing is to have a master list of recurring stuff that's kept outside your schedule (again, ring binder so you can keep a portion). Every month when you set up a new month's worth of pages in your binder, you go to your master list, transcribe onto your new pages anything from your master list that applies--birthdays, holidays, license/registration renewals, mortgage payments and bill schedules, etc.

I will be working this year on a reusable holiday plan. My family celebrates Christmas, so there's gift planning, buying, wrapping, and shipping, as well as meal planning, ingredient buying, decorations, cooking, etc. All of this stuff is similar from year to year--the steps in the process are the same and the general schedule is the same, only the details differ. Now I have children, so I have to coordinate gift plans for them--both sending ideas to all the families and making sure that they 'buy' gifts for everyone else too. Or at least write thank-yous..

Anyway, this kind of stuff is an argument for having a 'snap-in' section I can reuse from year to year without having to rewrite it all by hand. Bleh. Just thinking about it makes my wrist hurt. :)

Your mileage may vary.



Thank you for all of your input! I really like your idea on the reusable holiday plan and annual master list. These are great ideas.
Re: the programs for the PDA. I have tried most of them and I think it just boils down to the fact that I really like paper. I guess it took this site for me to finally admit it!
Thanks again - keep the ideas coming and if you come up with a reusable list, let us all know!
nay nay



Following up on 'reusable'.. I built a holiday kit and posted it in the template section. It's Classic size, but I posted the source so you'd be able to make it into whatever you needed if you want.

For my own binder, I've made the ultimate perpetual calendar. I bought a box of 50 pre-punched page protectors in Classic size (price delivered about $15). I tabbed 43 of them as a tickler set, and the remaining seven are my 'projects' and a few other lists. The holiday kit becomes another tabbed section, along with my price list and contacts sections.

What this pile of plastic does for me is multifaceted..
..I can use hipster cards, compact size, or classic size forms, since they all fit in the page protectors. I could even cut out a non-standard size to make the greatest use of whatever paper I happen to have around. If I felt like it, I could fold Letter forms in half and stuff them in too, so it makes my binder infinitely flexible in page size and orientation.
..I can stuff receipts, sticky notes, paperclips, small coins, tickets, etc. in any day or month pocket with no worries.
..I can reschedule or reuse any form or card, regardless of format, without rewriting anything--just pull it out of one day pocket and stick it in the pocket for the next instance.
..I can use a wet-erase marker on the page protector to 'mark up' the form in the pocket without actually marking on the form. Wipe it off later with water and a tissue. Nice for transitory reminders that need a little extra punch..
..I can still use ordinary punched paper pages next to or along with everything else.

I'm still working out all the details, and still learning about GTD (was a follower of Covey for a long time, then the Slob Sisters, then Julie Morgenstern..), but I think I've got the foundations of something really slick. I'm getting my project and other extra pockets worked out now. Still trying to decide whether I actually need a pocket for "IN" considering that every day folder is itself an "IN"..

Anyway, on the PDA stuff, I tried it all too and the screen is just too dang small. I still use the Diddlebug note/alarm tool constantly to remind myself to get up and trade out laundry loads, take my next dose of medicine, etc. But the rest of the PDA has become a fancy game tool for when I'm standing in line. I used to use it for reading materials (fictionwise is cool), but now I use instead for several reasons. So I don't even use the PDA for reading much anymore. I only mentioned those software tools because not everyone is aware that they exist and they might suit someone.

Anyway, reusable is all about format. You've got your Moleskine and one envelope in back--you could glue envelopes on any page you wanted if you need more than you have now. Or make yourself an 'envelope bookmark' if you want small stuff available on 'today' wherever today is..

I saw some index cards at the store today that were billed as 'bookmark' index cards. They had a slot cut in the shape of a smile near the top of the card. This would allow the slot to 'straddle' a page. The card would stick up above the top of the page as well. You could make all sorts of things work if you only had an anchor into your book.


pictures of your pockets?

I think I really like this idea of the plastic pockets. I'm having a hard time deciding how I want everything to fit together. Right now it's sort of a mish mash of dates and notes and todo lists and things. I thought I'd really like having the notes near the date they were relevant on, but now it just seems cluttered.

A friend of mine and I were comparing daytimers yesterday. I'm fascinated to see how other people do it. We've tentatively agreed to have a daytimer party at my mum's bookshop to compare books.

The never-ending search

Hi nay-nay! I too am a purseaholic and planaholic. I can't believe there are other people with this disease, my family thinks I am completely ridiculous.

I've struggled for years with the paper/electronic thing. I was a devoted PDA user for about 10 years, but now my eyes just can't deal with the small screen, so I've gone *mostly* paper. I do computers as my job, and I find it refreshing to have a change by using my paper planner. I think better on paper. And I, too, had the problem with things falling thru the cracks on a PDA, because for me, out of sight is out of mind.

The one big remaining problem I have is that my schedule *has* to be kept in Outlook. I mostly solved this by getting a Timex Datalink USB watch at Walmart, and syncing my schedule (and phone numbers) to the watch. It's portable, lightweight, and always with me so that I don't miss meetings because my PDA was beeping an alert while sitting on my desk instead of with me. So far this is working pretty well, and I can even put apps on the watch like a simple Yahtzee game to entertain myself if need be.

The downside of the watch is that it needs to be physically connected to my laptop to do the syncing, and doesn't always handle repeating appointments very well.

I think that in the end, there is not a perfect solution. Similarly, I've come to realize that there is no perfect purse, and that I will always want to change purses every few months. It's just a fact of life!! :D

I'm not the only one!

Thank heavens. My friends and family call me the 'bag lady' becaue I have so many purses. :D

I haven't seen the datalink watch, I may have to check that out. I use my handheld PC (Jornada 720) synced with my computer most reliably, but it's getting old and I don't like the Palm-style computers. My handwriting sucks too much. I need my keyboard.

I love the ability to sync the calendar - I have info from years ago, that I have because I thought to back up. :)

I'd guess a paper planner

I'd guess a paper planner would be a more environmentally friendly choice than a PDA: Planners don't actually use that much paper. My weekly "At-A-Glance" has about 80 pages -- each about a sixth the size of a sheet of ordinary letter paper -- and allows me to map out all my plans for the years AND I get to have a safe place to keep my Opera Tickets. That's about 14 sheets of normal paper, plus a spiral to keep it together and an infinitely reusable carrying case.

I use both

I have a smart phone that acts as my email, contact list and calendar, but I use a letter size Circa for my notes, task lists, etc. I do understand your issue with appointments being hard to see on a pda at times, so I print my Outlook (both weekly and monthly) each Friday for the next week. For the weekly view, I print it on just one 1/2 of the paper, and the other 1/2 is for the calls/emails/letters that I need to do that week. I pop that into the front of my Circa and am good to go. I can glance at a weekly view.

I think whether you use either or both, you just need to realize that no one method is the best or is going to replace everything. So look for strengths in each, and combine when necessary. The quickest way to set yourself up for failure is to say "I'm going to just use this one method" and ignore other solutions.

Me too

Nay Nay,

I concur with Mad Izzy. I also use a bit of a hybrid system with an electronic/paper planner mix.

Palm Desktop/PDA (transitioning to an iPhone):
* I kept my calendar and contacts on Palm Desktop on my work PC rather than Outlook, but it's effectively the same.
* Sync the PDA to it and sync the PDA to my Mac at home. Synchronizes calendar and contacts, as well as serves as a backup.
* Print out monthly calendars frequently to punch and put in my Circa Junior notebook.
* Capture quick notes and action items.
* With iPhone: read and send email, update schedule and contacts, surf webpages, make and receive phone calls, listen to music and watch videos, plan driving routes with Google Map, etc.

Paper (Circa Junior notebook):
* Keep a monthly schedule updated with a frequent printout.
* Print notes pages from DIYplanner templates.
* Take notes, scribbles, sketches.
* File notes from meetings or projects into folders.
* Plan projects.
* Task list/Action Items.
* Log phone calls.
* Add and swap pages as necessary.

So, there's a bit of overlap, but not much. I try to use the best of each method and they complement each other well. Doesn't have to be Outlook/PDA OR Paper, it can be Outlook/PDA AND paper!


The only reason for time is so that everything doesn't happen at once.
B. Banzai?

Change & Rearrange!

Well, I have been on this site for a while and I really think I have tried one of everything! And since this post of mine is almost a year old, it goes to show how I usually end up where I started... I am currently pondering this very same question, once again!

I am back to using Outlook for Calendar, Contacts, Task List, Notes & of course Email. I have it set up at work (Business) and a separate system at home (Personal).

For personal stuff, I print out my calendar and task list in a "filofax" size which fits nicely into my billfold (I use a rolodex business card holder). I print about 3 months for the calendar and write on it throughout the month. Then when the month is over, I update everything (including my task list) at home and print out a letter size calendar and the months finished tasks and throw those in a 3 ring binder for my final hard copy.

For work, I pretty much just work off of the computer instead of printing out my calendar and task list. Mainly because it changes throughout the day, so instead of printing a new calendar and task list everyday, I just work off the screen. Hard to do for someone who loves notebooks so much!

Right now I am doing this because I need to simplify! I also need to do searches for work related stuff as to what I did last year for this or that.

I also like the ability to make recurring tasks and appointments. For example, I am looking around my yard right now wondering what I did last year to "winterize" it. I just feel like I am going to forget to do something and will be in trouble in the SPring. So, I am starting a task list for these items and set it up to repeat a year from now. Fun stuff.

Just thought I would throw an update out there. I appreciate everyone's comments - keep 'em coming!

happy day,
nay nay :)

hmmm ideas

Right now i'm carrying a simple stack of index cards ... i list the dogs i have in day care each day and the hours i work (time in and out twice).

I'm curious... so you write on your personal monthly calendars and then rewrite at the end of the month? i wonder if this would help me out... hmmm... :)

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write & rewrite

I print out the current month (and maybe the next couple months) and then throughout the month I make additions or notes on it. When the month is over a type all of the info back into Outlook and print a final for my "journal" 3 ring binder. That way I have a hard copy, but I can also do a search in Outlook if I am looking for something specific.
Does that make sense?
nay nay :)


Yup... makes complete sense! I cannot believe this didnt occur to me earlier..

Thanks a ton!

(I dont use outlook at home but i think i may just to have a hard copy to print. Any other calendar applications anyone would recommend?)

my artwork | my blog


iCal! Sorry, couldn't resist. I'm assuming you want something cheap or free. Google Calendar is great if you want to go the web-based route. I personally don't want to have something that important go away if my internet connection does.

Check out Sunbird a calendar being developed by the same people that do FireFox. Or, if you use Thunderbird for your email, they have Sunbird available as a Thunderbird plugin.



I actually started using 30 boxes ... i like being able to type in notes that appear when i print :D

i'll have to take a peak at your recommendations. :D Thanks!

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sell me on 30Boxes!

Sara - I've tried to like 30Boxes, but just can't fully embrace it. I keep coming back to GCal, and now that I've tried Spanning Sync to sync with iCal, it's hard to like anything else. However, the fact that your notes show when you print may make me take another look. I haven't figured out if or how that happens with GCal, though in iCal notes will print in a daily or list view.
Tell me more good things about 30Boxes!

never mind...

so I spent a little time fiddling around with 30 Boxes today, and am finding that there are a lot of things to like about it - still would love to hear what folks have to say about it, though!

iCal + GCal :D

Since Google Calendar can sync with iCal, you get the best of both. I use that combo and it works a treat. I get up to date info on my home computer as well as up to date info when I'm out and about with my laptop or iPhone (and I forgot to sync before I left). At least so far, they work very nicely together.

(Might be moot with Leopard... have to wait until the 26th to find out.)

I do the same

I print the "final" version of the monthly calendar and to do list and use that as my index for the month when putting it in the archival notebook.