Philippine economy

Pages over pixels: Why we still use planners

Pia Ranada
While most have moved on to digital calendars, many still cling to the feel and the joy of writing on paper

A SCRAPBOOK, TOO. People still scramble for a cafe planner or that limited-edition Moleskine for a reason. Photo by Pia Ranada

MANILA, Philippines – We live in an age where we can digitize our schedules.

Activities can be inputted in planning apps, digital organizers or cellular phone calendars. You can activate an alarm that will go off at the exact moment you wish to be reminded of a deadline, party or meeting. Touchscreens and intelligent keyboards can now be found in the handiest of devices, further streamlining our digital organizing capabilities. 

Despite all these, the popularity of pen-and-paper planners has not dampened one bit. In fact, the market for them is positively booming.

Coffee brands to clothing labels continue to create their own limited-edition versions and more are joining the planner bandwagon. College undergrads have planners tucked among their textbooks, yuppies scribble on them in restaurants and coffee shops, kids ask their friends to jot down their birthdays on them during recess. 

Many planner owners spend thousands of pesos for their organizers. Others are willing to chug down unhealthy amounts of coffee a day just to get the latest planner from their café of choice

What is it about the carefully bound, calendar-divided, meticulously designed pages of a planner that still captivate people and persuade them to entrust it with the smooth flow of their days?

Rappler asked planner owners why they love their organizers and have not gone over to the “digital” side. Here are their top reasons why good ol’ planners will always have a place in their desks:

1) Highly customizable

Regine Ranada, a 21-year-old college senior and proud planner owner, says, “You can design it and make it your own. You can put lettering, you can make friends write their birthdays. It’s something you can fit to your identity.”

What you can do with any blank page is amazing and more so when the raw materials you have are something you’re familiar with. While tablets and smartphones are becoming more and more customizable, they simply have not achieved the level of freedom possible with planner pages. You can stick anything from Post-its to photographs to movie tickets; doodle, paint, color, rip, anything goes. 

It’s also easier to customize for the majority of people who have not mastered digital designing. Planners also allow you to work with your hands more, becoming as much an arts and craft project as a scrapbook.  

2) Highly personal

Twenty-year-old fresh grad Karen Ceballos says, “The stuff I write in my planner feels so much more personal than something I type in my phone. The way I wrote my reminder, the way I had to open a book, the way I had to put an effort to actually write something makes planning a lot more real and personal.”

Writing in a diary is one of the most personal forms of self-expression. Writing in your planner is almost at that level. Aside from the straight distillation of thoughts and memories from your head to the motion of your writing hand, there is also the uniqueness of hand-writing that no typed word can match.

Another aspect that adds intimacy to writing in planners is that, often, people do it while in their own private spaces or moments. There is joy in having “quiet, alone time” with your planner, whether while tucked in a corner of a busy café or in your own room.

3) Great form of archival

Do you know of people who still need to print out documents instead of just leaving them in their laptops or tablets? People still seem to cling to the idea that if you can’t touch it and hold it right in front of you, it might as well not exist.

Though paper can tear and get blown away by the wind and text messages and digital images can be stored in hard drives for years and years, paper is still the preferred archival material.

Karen admits that reminders on her phone are more easily forgotten than reminders she writes on her planner. Twenty-year-old law student Joanne Ala agrees.

“I usually forget to check my gadgets for reminders. [My planner] usually becomes somewhat like a scrapbook when the year is over.”

With planners, it’s easier to store memorabilia from the year’s best moments. Want to keep something from your first date? You can paste the flower petals from the bouquet he surprised you with. Can’t let go of an epic beach trip? Stick your airplane ticket stubs under the appropriate date!

Some planner owners amass such a collection that they can refer back to any day of any year by grabbing the right planner from their shelves. You can touch the actual prom invite from that memorable night a year ago or the actual Philo class notes you shared with your best friend back when you were a sophomore.

Other than reminding us of important dates and events in our lives, planners remind us that old habits die hard.

Many want it no other way. –

Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada is a senior reporter for Rappler covering Philippine politics and environmental issues. For tips and story suggestions, email her at