Paper vs Digital Calendars 2

Astronomy universe calendar

Astronomy universe wall calendar

January used to be my time to buy calendars. Just one wall calendar wasn’t enough. I needed one to contemplate while brushing my teeth and another to check while in the kitchen. In addition to buying a calendar, I would try to score a free one from a local shop or company. My criteria: nice images for each month and enough space to write in the blocks for each day. I would also buy a small, lightweight calendar to carry in my handbag.

I am using the past conditional tense for a reason. Paper calendars have been challenged, if not totally eclipsed, by digital ones. That’s why it’s halfway through January and I’m still trying to figure out which way to go, calendar-wise.

Older people often feel a certain fondness for paper, so they tend to be loyal to paper calendars. I do like to write things down. And I like the feeling of turning a page to launch a new week or month. But a down side of paper calendars is their need to be paired with a writing implement. Hence the tradition of attaching a pen with string to a calendar hung on the wall.

Digital calendars do have advantages. Their alarms remind you of appointments and tasks. They can be synced between your phone and other devices.

Electronic or digital calendars synced between a computer, tablet and phone.

Digital calendars can be synced between a computer, tablet and phone.

Something hanging on the wall will blend in to the background and cease to draw the eye. Aside from the new picture each month, I can’t think of a reason to look at the calendar on a regular basis. I use my phone multiple times a day, and my eyes are always looking at it when I begin using it. I don’t have to walk over to a wall and check for changes to the calendar… If you are out of the house, the only way to remember where your spouse is would be to go home and check the calendar. With a smart phone, this information is at your fingertips.

Comment on re: paper or electronic by  NaturalSelectorX

I am a slave to my electronic reminders. I love that I don’t have to check and recheck some paper thing. BEEP – you are needed in 15 mins. AMAZING! so much less distracting and stressful. I never worry about missing a meeting. BEEP – time to descale your Keurig. BEEP – renew your tags today BEEP – it’s your best friend’s birthday on Friday. and so on…

– Response to above from BusyVP

Still, there are things about digital calendars I don’t like. Such as the fact that they can be shared with others. Why would I want my friends to see exactly what I’m up to each day?

I think this debate is less about paper vs digital calendars than it is about different conceptions of time. I come from an era when an appointment was set – not quite in stone but without the notion that it could be easily shifted. I once made an arrangement, via a letter posted overseas, to meet someone in more than a month’s time at a train station, both of us arriving from different countries. With no further confirmation, and without much trepidation, our meeting came off as planned.

Today it would come as no surprise to arrange to meet someone later the same day, only to get a message on your phone at the very time of the meeting saying: “running L8 c u in 15”. You could say that we’re more flexible these days. Or that this kind of attitude is a threat, not only to punctuality, but to one of life’s great pleasures: anticipation.

Antoine de Exupéry put it best in his fable, The Little Prince, when The Fox suggested to his new friend that he plan his visit for a specific time.

It would have been better to come back at the same hour. If, for example, you come at four o’clock in the afternoon, then at three o’clock I shall begin to be happy. I shall feel happier and happier as the hour advances. At four o’clock, I shall already be worrying and jumping about. I shall show you how happy I am! But if you come at just any time, I shall never know at what hour my heart is to be ready to greet you… One must observe the proper rites.

– The Fox in The Little Prince (Le Petit Prince) by Antoine de Saint-Exupery

Drawing from Le Petit Prince by author and aviator Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

Drawing from Le Petit Prince, written and illustrated in New York in 1943 by author and aviator Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, who left France after the 1940 Nazi occupation but disappeared “into thin air” on a reconnaissance flight in 1944

Like the Fox I delight in anticipation, almost more than the actual event anticipated. For me, the act of writing an appointment on a calendar is part of the ritual. I like to circle the date, often in red. I don’t get quite the same feeling from touching a screen.

So I’m going to go with both kinds of calendars. I’ll buy one for the wall and use another on my phone. For the first time ever, I won’t buy a small calendar to carry around and I may have one less in the house. (The free ones from shops are harder to find now.) This comprise will allow me to revel in anticipation as I mark upcoming events on my paper calendar while getting pinged reminders from the digital one.

It’s hard to know how my calendar solution compares with the rest of the world’s. Statistics showing loyalty to paper calendars seem to come mainly from the industry that sells them.

In an ever-increasing technological age, it’s important to know that the printed advertising calendar is still very relevant, very wanted. Birthdays, holidays, special days, any days. From the momentous to the mundane, the dates we can’t forget are recorded on our calendars. But, in a world dominated by digital everything, does the printed version of our record keeping still have a place?

According to PPAI studies Calendar Usage In The Workplace and Calendar Usage In U.S. Households, the answer is absolutely. A 1981 study conducted by the Calendar Advertising Council showed that printed calendars were a mainstay in the home and office. Fast forward three decades and not much has changed.
1981 – 98% of homes had a printed calendar and nearly every business had one
2011 – 79% of homes and 78% of businesses still have a printed calendar—that’s only a 19% drop in 30 years and major advancements in technology. Calendars be very inexpensive way of advertising and keeping your company brand in front of your customers and for up to 2 years.

“The Printed Advertising Calendar is Still King”, May 2014

On the other hand, just because you download a calendar doesn’t mean that’s all you use.

I’ve struck a nice balance between Google Calendar and a paper calendar.  I still put my appointment details (like addresses and phone numbers) in Google Calendar so I can access that information when I’m out and traveling without my calendar. But my To Do lists go in the paper calendar. So far, my desk is MUCH neater, I’ve eliminated all those Post Its, and I have a clearer picture of what needs to be done when. I don’t think I’ll ever go back to just using an online calendar!, February 2014

Smartphone or tablet or computer calendars to organize lives and keep reminders for people can work well, but there can be value in adding a physical paper calendar to the mix. One with at minimum one month per page, with a fair amount of white space in each date to write things, hanging in a central spot, and with a pen-on-a-string or close nearby, can be quite useful.


  • When you’re home, it’s an at-a-glance look at what’s coming up over the next few weeks, something most electronic calendars aren’t that good at. Much faster to lift a page than scroll to a date view to see what’s happening.
  • If you’re on the phone talking about scheduling something, you can quickly jot dates down that someone gives you, and add them to your electronic calendar later.
  • You’re more likely to find a decent birthday gift for that friend or relative if you spot their birthday’s a few weeks out than if the reminder comes up that day. (Sure you could put a two-week reminder in your e-calendar, but that usually only pops up and bugs you once).
  • If you are living with a partner, they can see what big things you’re going to be up to (er… at least, those big things you want them to know about), and avoid “You didn’t tell me about…” arguments.

It’s not perfect (doesn’t work so well on the 31st when next week requires a page-flip to see, for example), but sometimes that little bit more visibility to when things are due or are coming up can help organize and manage better.

reddit – LifeProTips

Some conclusions about who’s buying print and who’s choosing digital can be drawn from’s 2015 list of best-selling wall calendars. (Listed as “new and used” – people sell used calendars? Are these unappreciated Christmas presents?)

There are no month-by-month views of Kim Kardashian’s rear end among the Top 10, no pix of Jennifer Lawrence, famed for “breaking the internet” with searches of her leaked nude photos. In fact, none of these calendars feature celebrities adored by the youth. The most popular calendars include no “pin-up calendar girls” (if you remember that staple of wall calendars for men).

Betty Grable was top pin-up girl of World War II (

Singer, dancer and actress but known most for her legs, Betty Grable was the top pin-up girl of World War II (

Most of Amazon’s 2015 top-selling wall calendars feature no photos of people at all, only shots of nature. These calendars are brought to you by vintage environmental causes: the Sierra Club (founded in 1892), the Audobon Society (founded 1905) and wilderness photographer Ansel Adams (1902-84). If the buyers of those calendars are anywhere near as old, the paper calendar may indeed be an endangered species.

Audobon Center for Endangered Species



2 thoughts on “Paper vs Digital Calendars

  1. Reply Lanna Jan 14,2015 6:09 pm

    You’ve covered all the angles-pro and con; however, habits are hard to break! I will always carry one paper calendar in my purse and keep another in the kitchen with an attached pen right beside the ancient wall phone! Sooo comforting and keeps me on time- more or less.

  2. Pingback: Call me a Luddite but I choose paper - My New Old Self

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