Despite my love for technology, there are certain aspects of life in which I prefer more analogue or traditional approach. One of them is managing my schedules, for which I use a traditional paper calendar.

For the past four years I have been using National Geographic desk calendars. They came in a form of a hardcover stitch-bound book with golden page edges and a textile bookmark. I appreciated their elegance and beauty, and I loved how each week was accompanied by a photograph with a brief description, often showing some interesting places at the opposite side of the globe. I had been writing down all my appointments, meetings and any time-related tasks in that calendar, creating a comprehensive schedule for both professional and private aspects of my life. I realised some time ago that such an approach really works for me. In 2020 I decided to conduct an experiment in the form of Year of Analogue — that is, making sure I prioritise the use of traditional and analogue techniques over their modern counterparts. As a result, for a year I was using a paper calendar instead of the Calendar app on my phone. What I discovered was, it actually made me more productive to use a traditional form of writing down important time-related informations instead of relying on Apple Calendar. It might be counterintuitive at first, but it turned out that writing down details of meetings, appointments, projects, etc. improved my memory and ability to analyse, coordinate and compare informations. The sole act of writing down a piece of information activates different regions of brain than the touch typing or dictating the note to a voice assistant. It makes details more memorable and easier to process afterwards.

I have benefited from using a paper calendar for the entire year 2020, and once it was close to an end, I decided to permanently move on to paper calendars as a replacement for the Calendar app. Because I enjoyed using National Geographic calendar so much, I bought the same type for the new year and used it in a similar manner. National Geographic desk calendar had an additional bonus of space designed to write down phone numbers, contact informations, important anniversaries and birthdays. Writing those informations down not only made them easy to recall afterwards, it also served as a backup in case my phone is lost or suffers a catastrophic failure that renders me unable to access informations stored therein. At the beginning of each year I was copying those important informations to a new calendar, which also served as a review: informations no longer needed in the next year were left behind, and new addresses, phone numbers and important dates were added whenever I deemed it necessary. In some way those calendars acted as yearly chronicles, reflecting my friends moving out, some people changing their phone numbers, some contacts being lost and new ones acquired.

On multiple occasions I was happy to keep the old calendars at hand, when I needed to check up some details from the past, like the exact date of a certain meeting or an old address of a friend who moved away. The identical layout of all National Geographic Calendars facilitated retrieving informations quickly and efficiently, while allowing me for some retrospections and reflections on the past. I journal on a semi-regular basis, but often I found some important informations in calendars from past years rather than in my journal. I got into a habit of writing down titles of books, novels and fan fictions I was reading at the time, as well as movies seen in the cinema or concerts attended. Reviewing my activities from two or three years ago was refreshing.

Sadly, 2023 was the last year when National Geographic Calendar was available. There is no version for 2024, so after four years I had to switch to a different brand. Now I use a mountain-themed calendar I got as a Christmas gift. While not as beautiful as National Geographic, it is still a useful tool in my everyday life and I am wondering how much I will like it overall once the full year will have passed. I know for sure that I will not return to digital calendars in the form of an app anytime soon. They are fast and convenient, but they are not as good for helping one retain informations, plus they lack soul. That is why I still predominantly use fountain pens, refilled with bottled ink like in the old days, instead of regular pens. In the modern world, full of quick feedback and ever-present stimuli, using analogue tools and techniques helps one to slow down and can be considered a form of practising mindfulness.

I will continue to use paper calendars as long as I can find one. Perhaps one day i will find the perfect replacement for National Geographic calendars, but even if not — any calendar that allows me to write down important informations will be more useful than a piece of software. There is beauty in simplicity and elegance of the old ways of writing.

This is article no. 3 from the 100 Days To Offload series.