Is a digital or physical planner best? A brief guide

Is a digital or physical planner best? A brief guide - Hemlock & Oak

It might be tough deciding whether physical or digital planners are better for you.

Do you prefer the act of opening a physical book and settling down away from a screen, or do you prefer to get it all done on your iPad?

This guide is meant to help narrow it down!

Physical planners and notebooks


  • There’s just something about physically writing on paper. In fact, studies show that writing on paper is linked to increased brain activity when later recalling that information[1]!

  • You can craft to your heart’s content. Washi, stickers, art markers galore! There are similar things now available in the digital world, but it’s not quite the same experience. Similarly, there are tons of options for pens, and this allows you to really hone in on your personal style, whereas using an Apple Pencil, for example, is generally a more standard experience.

  • Getting away from screens! In 2021, Canadians spent over six hours a day using the internet[2]! With screen time so intertwined in our lives between work and school, as well as personal device use, finding time to get away can be challenging – physical planning is an excellent time to do that without being distracted by notifications and alerts.

  • People have been using physical books for writing for decades. Just toss it in your bag and go! No need to worry about lugging around an expensive iPad that needs a case or worrying about it getting damaged or stolen.

  • May be easier for some to form planning habits with a dedicated physical planner or notebook that is always in reach.

  • This might be kind of weird, but we love the smell of locally made stationery.


  • Physical planning can be pricey, as compared to digital downloads. H&O planners are made in Canada, and although they are priced competitively with other specialty brands, it is certainly pricey to manufacture locally and that shows up in the product cost. When you combine a planner with accessories, covers, and so on, planning can become more of a hobby.

  • There’s no cloud backup for your planner (unless you share photos of your spreads on Instagram or another platform!). So, if your planner is lost or damaged, it might not be possible to salvage it. Please keep your planners safe!

  • There are many ways in which we try to make planning sustainable - local production, plastic-free shipping, post-consumer waste materials. In general, though, the production of physical goods is less environmentally friendly than using something digital.

Digital planners and notebooks


  • Could be backed up to your go-to cloud solution or offline storage.

  • Eco-friendly, when we consider the specific use case of using digital vs. physical planners. If you purchase a device specifically for planning, this can become a topic of debate!

  • Cheaper than physical planners, although a combination of digital inserts and sticker packs can also add up.

  • Could be more convenient to navigate than a physical counterpart if the file being used is well-designed and fully hyperlinked.

  • Possibly more colour options that can come bundled in a digital set, and possibly more space/customization possibilities.


  • Possibly less convenient to take to other locations such as coffee shops than popping your favourite planner or notebook into a purse or backpack.

  • Completely different experience than physical planning. For example, the tactile experience of using a distress oxide or washi isn’t really something that can be mimicked with a digital product.

  • Might be easier to forget to do your planning if it’s on a device you use for other things.



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