Strategies & Tactics

Paper or Plastic? Why Old-School Planners Are Making a Comeback

July 1, 2019

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Paper planning booklets, those symbols of the pre-digital era, are enjoying a resurgence. Amid rising sales, retailers including Target and Michaels are now devoting more shelf space to paper planners, The Wall Street Journal reported on June 8.

The popularity goes beyond an uptick at cash registers. On Instagram, #planneraddict has nearly 4.5 million mentions. A May conference drew 1,400 paper-planner enthusiasts to Las Vegas.

Fans say buying a physical planner is a first step toward organizing life’s messiness. To compartmentalize and manage their responsibilities, devotees often have more than one planner and dedicate each to a different subject. Planner covers, inserts and stickers offer soothing or motivational sayings, such as “Today is another chance to get better” and “Plan a happy life.”

“Paper is so calming,” says Shelby Abrahamsen, a 26-year-old lifestyle blogger who lives in Champaign, Ill. She tried using her phone’s calendar but didn’t like being constantly interrupted by Facebook and Instagram notifications. “I’d find myself down a rabbit hole and not remember what it was I was trying to do,” she says.

Using paper planners has “a therapeutic aspect, a wellness aspect and a productivity aspect,” says Eileen Miller, a Michaels vice president. Despite expectations that planning by hand would disappear in the digital age, “it’s really rebounded,” says Amy Steel Vanden-Eykel, vice president of merchandising for Staples. Rob Will, a merchandising manager for Jo-Ann Stores, says he attributes increased sales of paper planners to millennial and Generation X consumers wanting to “step back to an analog mentality.” — Greg Beaubien

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