Time & Productivity

Paper or Digital? The Best Planners for ADHD Brains

“Digital requires me to turn on a device, and down the rabbit hole I go.” Below, find out why ADDitude readers prefer paper vs. digital organization tools.

Female with pen writing in notebook with morning croissant

Which do you rely on more to keep yourself organized: paper or digital planners?

In a recent ADDitude survey, 61% of readers said they use hardcopy planners, sticky notes, and handwritten lists. The remainder prefer phone alerts and apps that exist across devices and in one virtual space. There’s no right answer, so finding the right system for your ADHD brains often requires trial and error, but the pay-off is big: better performance at work and at home.

Below, learn what ADDitude readers use to stay on track and why.

Paper, Please!

I don’t usually pay attention to what my alarm is supposed to signal on my cell. I just hurry to turn it off. With paper, I have it where I can see it all the time.” — Lisa, Illinois

Growing up during the 1980s and as a Gen Xer, I’m used to reaching for pen and paper instead of a phone or tablet.” — Susan, Georgia

“Handwriting is immediate with pencil and paper feeling like supportive friends. Even tech with which I am familiar freaks me out sometimes: all hard surfaces, not part of me, and a time-consuming world that I don’t care about and get lost in.” — An ADDitude reader

[Find Planners Recommended by ADDitude Readers]

“Digital requires me to turn on a device, and down the rabbit hole I go. For some reason, it seems easier to absorb and retain what I write.” — An ADDitude reader

“I’ve been using the Passion Planner for several years now. In my case, the physical act of writing, pencil in hand, helps me create a routine and gives me a sense of accountability. I’ve tried digital planners and calendars and, for some reason, the platform triggers some anxiety. I feel like something is missing from the digital platform.” — Elena

“There is something about writing it and feeling my pen against the paper that helps me be present as I plan. If I try to plan digitally, my brain tends to keep it all in my head… I do use timers and alarms to keep me on schedule, but my best planning, ‘brain dumps‚’ and journaling are done on paper!” — An ADDitude reader

“A paper calendar or an open notebook is always there in front of my eyes. A digital calendar basically ceases to exist for my brain once closed, so it’s not helpful in reminding me what to do. I seldom remember to open it. I also have high impulsivity and low elaboration speed, so I constantly close the push notifications before I read them.” — Daniela, Italy

[Read: I Hate Calendars – Paper, Electronic, All Kinds]

Dedicated to Digital

“My husband and I share Google calendars and have one for each child. If it’s not in the calendar, it doesn’t happen! It allows me to put in addresses for appointments that I can use to navigate with GPS in my car. I can also check the map first thing in the morning to see how long it’ll take me to get there.” — An ADDitude reader

Anything paper is liable to get lost, crumbled, or destroyed in some way. Most annoyingly, I have to ultimately figure out where it belongs. I do not accept physical papers from my students for the above-mentioned reasons.” — Paper Hater

“Paper is actually better for me, but I started using digital when I had kids. The phone was only one more item I needed to carry with the diaper bag, snack bag, my bag, etc.” — An ADDitude reader

“I would have to keep a paper calendar on me all the time and remember to actually open it. With the phone, I just tell Google Assistant who, what, when, and where, and I am good to go. Google Assistant makes my ADHD and life manageable.” — An ADDitude reader 

My phone is my second brain: it takes care of the reminders and scheduling that I usually can’t keep track of. The effort to use it as someone who grew up with technology is minimal. Planners get lost; my phone is always close.” — An ADDitude reader in Argentina

“The noise of the reminder draws my attention. I have everything from calendar notifications to little reminders to give attention and express appreciation to my children. It has helped me be more patient with myself and with my kids. I need to see things to remember, and seeing these reminders pop up has helped me tremendously.” — Pam

Better to Have Both

Paper to scratch off daily tasks and digital for appointment reminders and birthdays.” — An ADDitude reader 

“I’ve always struggled for the ‘best’ way and am constantly looking for a solution I can stick to!” — An ADDitude reader

“I make a lot of notes on my phone because I bring it with me everywhere, but for things around the house, I use a combination of paper and digital. I have a paper calendar on which I write important dates, events, and deadlines, plus a bunch of sticky notes. Timers, alarms, recurring events and appointments, grocery lists, and errands all get noted on my phone.” — An ADDitude reader

Best Planners for ADHD Brains: Next Steps

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