Handwriting Equals Thinking: Or, Why I Use a Paper Planner

The virtual world is a disembodied one, and promotes the lie that we do not need our bodies to think. I believe it is no coincidence that researchers keep discovering that use of the body preserves the mind; your risk of developing dementia is lowered with exercise, lowered with keeping and caring for a pet if you live alone, lowered with the richness of in-person social connection which relies on all kinds of bodily cues.

The virtual world can also promote mindlessness in dealing with information. To a large degree, we can collect and move digital information without having to think. I reflexively click a button and the “read-it-later” app that collects digital articles for me instantly copies and saves it. (I go on to read perhaps 10% of the articles I click, generously estimating.) Moving information around digitally can even be automated, making it literally a mindless task.

But analog forces you to THINK, because it forces you to use your body* and use physical materials.

The analog world pulls in the cooperation of the body, and thus, the mind. We think with our whole bodies. Walking is a time-honored aid to thinking; and so is handwriting.

The digital world offers such overwhelming amounts of information that handwriting acts as a curator. Handwriting is slower. Handwriting takes more effort than hitting the hot keys for copy-paste commands. The effort of handwriting creates an automatic editing function.

Is something important enough for you to handwrite it down? Then it is probably important enough to act on.

At the end of each week, I create a handwritten plan for the week – calendar appointments and tasks. (I’ve changed how I do this a little bit, but that link shows the basic practice.)

At the end of each day, I look at my digital work calendar and my digital personal calendar with all their Zoom and Teams invites, and handwrite my appointments for the next day. I also look at my handwritten task list for the weeks, and handwrite the ones I hope to finish the next day.

My task and project lists are handwritten, because it is just too easy for me to get lost in a to-do app which automatically – mindlessly! – populates and replicates and sorts and copies.


I need to do that sorting and copying and revising by hand.

I need to activate my brain to make my real world, real life plans. And this means I need to activate my body, by handwriting my plans down, in physical paper books.


* I do think the virtual world has a lot to offer people whose bodies don’t allow them to move with ease. For example, being able to write with a dictation app if you cannot use your hands to write, or being able to communicate by using a mouth stick and a tablet.

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