For centuries, we kept track of our time—or how we planned to spend it, at least—by smearing a little ink on a folded piece of paper. The technological advances amounted to ink that didn’t smear as much, full-color photographs of kittens, and reminders of when the full moon is.
Paper calendars full of kittens are cute, I’ll admit, but they’re limited. Made from paper, they can handle anything you throw at them, but you have to take care of it all yourself. Your time—your most precious resource—deserves something better.
Digital calendars, on the other hand, are incredibly powerful. At first, they were little more than a direct translation of their analog ancestors. Features were quickly added to make them more useful.
Once a necessary evil of office life, digital calendars are now pervasive. It’s hard to imagine life without them.
Why did we embrace digital calendars so readily? What makes them better than paper? Here are eight ways a digital calendar will handle your busy schedule better than pen and paper.
- Recurring events are always there. Many of the events on our calendar aren’t something we do once—they’re something we do over and over. When you create a recurring event, every occurrence automatically shows up on your calendar. Book club Tuesdays at 11? Check. Pick up kids from softball alternating Thursdays at 5:30? You’re there. Set the rule up once and your calendar will keep track of each instance for you.
- Move appointments without leaving a mess behind. Do you like your calendar to look pristine? Moving an appointment on a paper calendar means you have to erase the old appointment. If you wrote it in pen, now you have an immovable void in your schedule where you can’t write anything in. With a digital calendar, you just move the event to the new time and it’s like it was always there.
- Never forget you’ve got a meeting. Things slip our minds. When we get into a flow state of mind, we even lose track of time. This is a great state of mind to work in—we’re highly focused and immersed—but someone else might be waiting on us. Instead of constantly checking your clock to see if it’s time to leave, your digital calendar can notify you.
- You’ll get there—on time! When you record the location of an appointment in your digital calendar, it’s trivial to get direction to the event. Even better, your phone or computer can take current traffic conditions into account to make sure you leave in plenty of time.
- Coordinating schedules is a breeze. Managing your own schedule is bad enough. When you have to coordinate with others, a shared digital calendar keeps the problem from becoming exponentially harder. Let your calendar search for the next time everyone is available. Need to move the meeting? Let the calendar notify attendees of rescheduled, relocated, or removed meetings and keep everyone on the same page.
- You can search it. When is your next dentist appointment? When was your last haircut? When do we set the clocks back? Or is it forward? No flipping through page after page, hunting down hiding appointments. A few keystrokes and you’ll find it.
- You can see far into the future. With a paper calendar, you can only schedule meetings a few weeks in advance. You can usually jot down a save-the-date a few months in advance, possibly as far out as next year. But that’s it. A digital calendar lets you go out as far as you need to, see the recurring events you’ll have, and schedule something for 2031 as though it were next week.
- You always have it with you. Probably. As wonderful as a paper planner is, it’s one more thing to carry with you. If you forget it, you’re lost. Your digital calendar comes along for free with the tablet, phone, or smart watch you’re already carrying. The easiest thing to remember is something you don’t have to forget.
Paper calendars have their appeal, and I doubt they’ll ever go away. Nor should they. You can make a digital calendar look more beautiful, but you’re not going to make a paper calendar as feature-rich as a digital calendar is.
If you don’t have a digital calendar, start using one. You’re reading this, so you’ve already got the software you need. Open it up, add the big rocks for the coming week, and set up a few repeating events to reserve time for some high-value activities. Once you start trusting it, you’ll wonder how you ever got by without it.