Planning is not just a never-ending list but is a guideline to maximize your resources and boost productivity on your terms. Though using a paper planner is great, moving to a digital planner is a smart move.
There’s no better time to put all your paper notebooks, stickers, stamps, and stencils away. Feel the freedom of digital life!
What a paperless planner is and what it isn’t
A digital planner is like having your paper planner inside your tablet or iPad! You’ll find the digital planner in these formats: as JPG or as a PDF with or without hyperlinks.
— A paperless planner allows you to capture your endless notes, without worrying that you’ll run out the pages.
HOW IT WORKS:
1. Install a PDF annotations app (also known as note-taking apps – available in AppStore ) on your iPad or Android tablet. Choose between Goodnotes, Noteshelf, Notability, etc. (see the full list at the end of the article).
2. Design your PDF planner or buy & download ready to use PDF or JPG templates (Etsy platform is the best to save time and energy!)
3. Import the JPG or PDF to the chosen annotations app previously installed on your iPad.
And voila – you’re ready to outline your plans!
A digital planner it’s NOT a real app that syncs with other apps like Google Calendars and Outlook. If you’re looking for this functionality, the paperless planners may NOT be for you.
In terms of functionality, this type of planner acts as a physical planner – so if you add an event on your monthly page, you also need to add it to the weekly or daily page. This stuff is not automated (and may never be).
It may seem complicated, but it’s not.
— Digital planners are ideal for all ages and occupations because they are so customizable and easy to use.
Stay-at-home parents, students, entrepreneurs, coaches, school principals, ballon artists, business owners and everyone in between thrive every day using digital planners. If they can, you can use it too!
Why you need digital planners
For some, the plain old calendar app is tedious or distracting. However, carrying bulky planners all the time is also inconvenient.
That’s why people get so excited when they start using digital planners for everyday or long-term activities. Here are some ideas:
- Goal-setting and tracking – use a digital planner as your guide on the steps to take to thrive every single day.
- Track your progress and see if you are left behind your schedule. Keep focused on the goal and measure your to-do list without being distracted.
- Scheduling – Have a lot of events on your calendar? Write them in your digital planner to outline a better picture of your week.
- Habit-forming – Adhering to a schedule would eventually begin helping you form a healthy routine. It will help you see your life outline and laser-focused on simple things that matter.
Advantages of digital planners
There are millions of reasons why you should switch to digital planning. To start, here are my favorites:
It’s convenient – Update or check your planner anywhere, as long as you have your iPad or tablet. Plus, it is easier to carry your gadget than a bulky paper planner.
It’s environment-friendly – The fact that you are using a paperless planner is already a helping hand for healing mother nature.
Can have multiple planners in one device – No more carrying numerous planners when you leave the house. One app can house all your digital planners and workbooks.
Always have enough space for inserts – have a lot to do for one day and need that much space to write your notes? No need to squeeze your handwriting to fit limited paper space. Digital planners can accommodate enough space for the information you need. Adding a page is just one click away with digital planners.
Can reuse stickers – Are you one of those stickers addicts? 🙂 Aren’t you tired of always arranging your physical stickers? Let digital planning save you from that. Use, store, and reuse all your stickers with ease!
It’s cost-efficient – Physical planners usually cost around $30-$50, and if you need 3 or 4, that’s quite a lot to spend; plus, you have to throw them away when they are full. On the other hand, digital planners can be dated or undated. The undated digital planner can be used over and over again. Just import it inside your app when a new year starts, add the dates and start using it. It’ll last you years of use.
It’s mobile-friendly – The PDF annotation apps which allow you to use the digital planner can be synced throughout your devices. Just make sure to choose an app that automatically syncs your files. It’s also crucial that you do weekly manual backups even with syncing enabled.
Some apps can link to websites – Making links available in one click is WOW. Unfortunately, only the ZoomNotes app has this limited feature (as far as I know). Sorry, Goodnotes and Noteshelf users! We’ll have to wait a bit more for this feature to be built by the developers.
It’s highly customizable – add pictures, stickers, pages, type with your favorite fonts, and much more. You can even do freehand writing and drawing directly on the pages. You may have a shock when you discover how different your handwriting will look on the iPad, but it’s just a matter of practice until you master it. It’s time for your creativity to shine!
Make unlimited edits without destroying a page or bleed-through – Misspelled a word? Change of schedule? Want to resize your drawing? On a regular planner, you strike the words using your pen or corrector or just scrap the page altogether. With a digital planner, you can keep your pages neat even after numerous edits.
Limitations of physical planners
- It gets full, so you have to buy a new one
- It’s not very secure, especially if you’re a private person, as anyone can open it
- It can cause a lot of clutter and uses a lot of paper
- It can get wet and easily ruined
- It’s easier to forget and misplace than mobile devices
- The total cost for materials can be expensive, including stickers, tape, pens, pencils, and markers
Limitations of digital planners
- The learning curve for a PDF annotation app (like Goodnotes, Noteshelf, Notability, etc.) is different for everyone
- It doesn’t have the familiar “look and feel” of a physical planner
- You need a bit of extra care not to lose your documents by mistake. So I always suggest my clients to manually backup ALL THE DOCUMENTS imported in their PDF annotations app. Do these weekly backups inside Dropbox or Google Drive, and your documents will be safe
TOP 3 markup apps for digital note-taking — Any of these can host an unlimited number of digital planners and digital notebooks.
While there’s no perfect note-taking app that can cater to everyone’s needs, you can look into these three apps to host your digital planners! See the pros and cons of each:
GoodNotes 5 (iOS)
One of the first digital planner apps, Goodnotes 5 is the best-known app for taking handwritten notes.
People love it: GoodNotes 5 comes in fully packed with amazing editing features and many options for managing document’s pages.
People don’t like: Switching between editing and viewing mode is a bit inconvenient. You have to click an icon to switch between these modes, so the creative process gets interrupted very often.
Noteshelf (iOS, Android)
It may not be known as Goodnotes 5, but Noteshelf is a new, promising app.
People love it: Editing goes flawlessly. The favorites toolbar give you quick access to favorite pens and colors. It also handles bigger PDF files (more than 10 MB) better than other apps.
People don’t like: You can’t easily copy-paste a page from an old location to a new place inside your planner.
Notability (iOS, Android)
People love it: The superior audio recording feature brings Noteshelf on the top. By far, the best app to record your lectures!
People don’t like: Noteshelf does NOT support custom page templates, so you’re pretty limited in being creative with your digital notebooks.
Not sure you’re convinced about these apps. Here’re three other apps to look into:
ZoomNotes (iOS) – It has a lot of note-taking features; however, the User Interface is not the best.
XODO PDF (iOS, Android) – It’s a free to use program that enables editing, annotating, signing, and filling PDF forms.
Metamoji (iOS, Android) – A digital planning app that works across all major mobile platforms; however, it has no iCloud, Google Drive, or Evernote integration.
Overall, the handwriting experience can be different on each app. So, you should test them all and see which one you like.
Start with a digital planner bundle in either LANDSCAPE or PORTRAIT and get ready to fall in love with digital planning. All my digital planners are all-inclusive planners with plenty of sections like:
- Monthly overview
- Weekly overview
- Daily schedule
- Habit Tracker
- Meeting note section
- Journaling section
- Financial tracker
- Meal plan and shopping lists
- Health section
- Books tracking
Let’s get started
Now let’s use digital planners for notes, information, events, memories. Need some inspiration? Check my youtube livestream on how I take notes inside the 2021 Outline Digital Planner.