Jennifer Stiegler-Balfour discusses benefits of paper over digital planners in BDN

Some people are more comfortable writing things down, while others would rather rely on technology.

Jennifer Stiegler-Balfour, Ph.D., associate professor of psychology, recently discussed with the Bangor Daily News the benefits and drawbacks of paper planners as compared to digital calendars.

While digital calendars may be convenient, there are neurological benefits to writing things down by hand.

“Writing by hand encourages us to slow down and think about what we want to put onto the page, whereas typing typically only involves pressing keys that represent letters,” Stiegler-Balfour said. “Even though we might think that writing and typing are the same, research suggests otherwise. Handwritten notes resulted in significantly better memory for information compared to when they were typed, even when subjects were asked to synthesize information and not write it verbatim.”

Stiegler-Balfour said that context-dependent memory favors the written planner or calendar.

“With a written planner, when you write down appointments and deadlines, you now have an object in which you physically wrote information in a specific spot or manner that is encoded along with what was written,” she explained. “In a digital setting, you may end up encoding less information because each day looks alike, the text is all the same size and the same color.”

But digital calendars are not without their benefits. Stiegler-Balfour says that the ability to sync information across multiple devices, the neat presentation of information, and the automatic reminders can be convenient for users.

No two brains are the same, and Stiegler-Balfour says that each system has its distinct advantages and disadvantages. To figure out what is right for you, Stiegler-Balfour suggests considering what you want to accomplish with your planner, as well as your own personal strengths and weaknesses. You may even want to switch back and forth between the two depending on the context.

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