I have friends who swear by their paper planners. Literally wouldn’t think of going anywhere without them and can’t imagine switching to all digital.
That’s not me, though. I’m an instructional designer, so it’s in my nature (and a big part of my job) to experiment with and use the newest technology available for these sorts of things. (Asana is my current favorite thing.) Despite being nearly physically attached to my planner all through school, it now gives me anxiety to think about going back to that. Put my most important appointments in an object I could easily lose? No thanks!
So when I saw the headline The Case for Using a Paper Planner, I figured there wouldn’t be much for me in it. But the argument for writing things down by hand extends far beyond whether you use a paper planner.
There’s a lot of evidence that writing things down on real paper helps us be more mindful. Furthermore, it helps us generate and retain ideas better.
That’s one of the big reasons I’m sure a huge fan of snail mail. So much of our communication now is rapid-fire. Unless you’re my little brother, or that one friend we all have, you’re probably going to respond to texts within a day at the very most. If I’m not responding to you within the hour, I’m probably dead and you should call my husband and let him know he should feed the cat.
Social media is (sometimes) great! If used correctly, it can help us speak and listen to large groups of people, to find our tribe, to feel less alone. It helps me stay in touch and not forget what your faces look like. But for platforms that are designed specifically for us to talk about ourselves and what’s important to us, they can feel oddly…impersonal. And sometimes that’s fine.
But that’s not what I want to do with all of my communication. Sometimes I want to sit down and really think about why I value a friendship and what my friend needs to hear in that moment. I want to speak directly to that friend without an audience. It’s hard to do that on a computer. It’s hard for an email or a message or a post to mean as much as I sometimes want it to.
Isn’t it neat to read old letters? My parents are in the process of moving out of my childhood home after 40+ years, and I’m in the process of trying to sort through 40+ years of stuff. You know what the best stuff is? The stuff I’ll never throw away? 50 years of Valentines and Birthday and Just Because cards my parents gave to each other. Old letters from my grandmother. Not-so-beautiful handmade cards I made for my parents.
There’s something to treasure about the words we can hold in our hands—something that feels more real about them, more meaningful.
So, that’s why one of my goals this year is to write 52 letters to 52 different people. I do this every year, and I find it reminds me how incredibly lucky I am to know all of you, of all the ways in which you have loved and inspired and shaped me. And in turn, that gives me energy to keep doing what I do.
It’s 2018, and there are a million ways to communicate. But to me, the value of a good old-fashioned letter will never change.
I hope you find some time this year to write to the people you love and tell them why you love them. I hope it reminds you how loved you are, too.