Why Your Phone Can Never Replace Your Planner

I’ve been called a lot of things; some good (thanks, clients!), some bad (no thanks, internet trolls!).

One thing I hear on a pretty regular basis is the term “old school.” I may run an online business, but some of my coaching techniques are downright low-tech, maybe even retro.

But sorry, no break dancing.

My peeps get their first glimpse at my old school ways when I ask them to map out their goals and desires on one of my many self-development worksheets.

And if the reader forgets to read my FAQs, I’ll usually get an email saying, “Um, I can’t type my answers in your worksheet.”


I purposefully make all my worksheets and guidebooks un-editable PDFs because I strongly believe in the power of writing by hand. By sticking to my guns on this issue, I attract other old school folks who like to keep things clean and simple.

I always encourage my clients to keep hard copy planners, calendars, and journals too. Not surprisingly, some of my peeps feel a lot of resistance to this idea because their smart phones almost feel like extensions of themselves.

Kind of creepy when you think about it… Not creepy in an acid-washed jeans and neon high tops kind of way, but still weird.

You shouldn’t get rid of your phone, of course, but don’t make the mistake of believing that a phone can give you the same benefits as a hard copy planner with real pages that you can write on.

Still skeptical?

Here are my top reasons why your phone can never replace your planner.

It Helps You See the Big Picture (Literally)

I don’t care how big the screen on your phone is, there’s no way you get a good look at what’s coming up in the next week or month on that teeny tiny display. The worst part is those illegible truncated descriptions in the calendar where you have to click on each appointment just to read what it is.

When you’re planning your life’s goals and breaking down all the mini steps to move you in the right direction, you need the space to plan. I like to use a planner with standard full-size pages, extra sticky notes, plus a wall calendar so I can get the big picture view.

It Gives You the Benefits From Writing By Hand

When you write down what you want in your own handwriting, you take ownership of your results. There’s a lack of ownership when you’re simply tap-tap-tapping on a keyboard.

Time and time again, my clients reach their desired results when they see their intentions written by them. This is especially true if they sign their names on the paper. Writing by hand is a way for you to make a promise to yourself because there’s no denying that you wrote it.

A typed declaration buried in your phone’s note-taking app just doesn’t have the same impact.

It’s a Distraction-Free Zone

People love their phones because they can do it all—email, internet, games, texting, calling, and a million apps for anything you can imagine. But that’s exactly why a phone is not a good place to keep track of your to-do list, goals, and life plans.

The bells and whistles on your phone can distract you from what’s truly important. In contrast, a hard copy planner won’t start beeping with an unexpected email, and there are no pop-up ads to block your view.

I like to use the quiet time in the morning before everyone else has gotten up to go through my planner and set my intention for the day. There’s nothing to pull my attention away from my main priorities.

It Won’t Appeal to a Thief

Sadly, I know a few too many friends who have lost their phones or had them stolen. A smart phone is really appealing to a thief, but you don’t run that risk with a real planner.

Unless you’re writing research notes about a cure for cancer or you’ve got Justin Bieber’s phone number scrawled in your planner (why?), it’s unlikely that anyone would want to steal your planner. Who’d want something covered in someone else’s handwriting?

Those are my top reasons why you should invest in a hard copy planner instead of relying solely on your phone for keeping track of your life. I hope I convinced you even though I didn’t show you my outrageous 80s dance moves.

Do you use a hard copy planner?

In the comments below, share your best tips for planning your goals for the year.


  1. Nela on August 11, 2014 at 6:01 am

    I know I’m a year late to comment, but I wanted to add a different opinion, since every other comment agrees with you 100%, and I think a little healthy dialogue is always a good thing 🙂

    I agree with you on all the reasons, which is why I sketch on paper and write a journal and first blog drafts on paper!

    – I need to be able to move things around – flexibility is essential!
    – I love easy color coding
    – I do all this on the computer because it’s easier, my phone comes secondary. So no problem with the “at a glance thing” – I can easily see the big picture or the details.

    If I did the old school thing, it could only be done through the use of post-its (which is a method I use for my big yearly wall calendar), and this makes the entire thing to complex to do while I’m out & about (plus, do they even make post-its in 9 different colors?).

    Also, I already carry my sketchbook around, so another notebook would have to be really small, which isn’t ideal.

    It’s important for people to find a method that suits their needs.
    I have a few friends that are married to their paper planners, and it works great for them.
    But I tried several different systems, and none of them worked, except Google Calendar, which I love.
    I know several other artists (notoriously low-tech people) that do the same for pretty much the same reasons, so I suppose it can’t be that wrong 😉

  2. Sarah @ Long Island Nerd on November 26, 2013 at 4:19 pm

    You are so right Sage!! Sadly, I try to get organized with a planner every year but I seem to fall apart by the second week of January! I don’t know where that Virgo trait is hiding but I’ve always been so bad at keeping a planner. However, I do know the importance of NOT using a phone as I’ve had several appointments mysteriously disappear from my Calendar! Maybe this year I’ll try buying a pretty planner and that’ll be incentive for me to actually use it rather than just look at it on my shelf.

    • Sage Grayson on November 26, 2013 at 5:27 pm

      Eek! Maybe there’s a ghost in your phone. 🙂 I’ve found that I actually use my planner when it’s pretty and I have plenty of my favorite pens and stickers to use with it. Keep searching and trying different things until you find the system that works with your personality, not against it. And don’t worry about your plans falling apart at the end of the month. That’s why you should reassess your goals at least monthly (if not weekly)!

  3. Jennifer Kennedy on November 26, 2013 at 3:47 pm

    Yup, I’m an old school planner. I love writing things down with paper and pencil — I tend to internalize the information more. And, to me, it’s much easier to flip to a date in my agenda book than to unlock my phone, open the app, and then look for a specific date!

    For my yearly planning, I plan to brainstorm all of the projects I want to complete and then attach them to a completion date. Once that’s done, I can work backwards and include the Action Items I need to take in order to complete that project.

    Thanks for the ideas!

    • Sage Grayson on November 26, 2013 at 5:24 pm

      Yearly (and quarterly, and monthly) planning is so important, and you’re right about choosing an end date and working backwards. I like to add my vacations and holidays into my master plan too so I make sure to leave some wiggle room for fun.

  4. Darcy on November 26, 2013 at 11:03 am

    I purchase a new planner every year! There’s just something about having it all written down out it front of you and being able to see it all. Can’t wait for my new one to arrive!

    • Sage Grayson on November 26, 2013 at 5:21 pm

      Planners are awesome, and I have about a million notebooks too. I think people who write a lot are more creative and able to dream bigger.

  5. Lori on November 26, 2013 at 11:08 am

    Excellent! I have a calendar where I write all my blog posts for the month, but sometimes I get lazy and revert to writing things in my phone. It seems easier in that moment, but I realize that I’m less likely to stick to my posting goals when I simply have it saved in my phone. There truly is something wonderful about writing it down the old fashioned way!

    • Sage Grayson on November 26, 2013 at 5:22 pm

      Yes! Let’s hear it for old fashioned ways of doing things. 🙂 I forget about stuff I put into my phone, but it’s much harder to ignore a planner on my desk covered in my handwriting.

  6. Bethie the Boo on November 26, 2013 at 7:03 am

    I agree – I use my phone for a lot of things, but I still like a good old fashioned planner and calendar!

    • Sage Grayson on November 26, 2013 at 5:19 pm

      We’re old school chicks. 🙂

  7. Nneka, Working Mystic on November 26, 2013 at 6:16 am

    So true Sage! I spent last Sunday filling in my business schedule for 2014. Now, I can just look up and see when I’m doing a teleseminar, or client calls. I can even see my 2-week cruise in the Canaries. What an incentive!!!

    It’s all right there in front of me:-)

    I must admit though that my phone is now attached to my palm. So, I had to put everything in there too. Just in case 🙂

    • Sage Grayson on November 26, 2013 at 5:19 pm

      Haha, yes I totally get that and I still use my phone for a lot of things too. I love it that you planned your whole year including vacations! That sounds perfect. 🙂