It’s planner season again, and I know a lot of people are excited about becoming more productive and organized in the coming year. While the 2017 Starbucks planner (especially the teal mermaid one!! ūüėć) is super cute, I’ve given up on using pen and paper a long time ago for planning my days/weeks/months, making lists, and taking notes. Using apps just work better for me, for a number of reasons:

  1. Notifications. Not a lot of people know this, but I’m actually super forgetful. So if I forget to log a meeting or an event I plan to attend on my calendar, there’s a pretty good chance I won’t make it there. The solution I’ve found to this is to religiously use app notifications to remind me of everything I need to do and attend to.
  2. Cloud-based backups and syncs. No matter where I am or what device I’m using (that has internet connection), I can access all my important stuff. Plus any of my devices could break or crash (or heaven forbid get lost/stolen), but I won’t need to worry about losing my data.
  3. Sharing. Most productivity apps lets me share lists and calendars with my husband so it’s easier for us to do groceries and other chores when we’re not physically together.
  4. Repeats. On a digital planner, setting up repeating events like birthdays and anniversaries as well as reminders for regular housekeeping activities (changing bath towels or bed sheets, having laundry picked up/delivered, etc.) is so much easier than having to write them over and over on an physical one.
  5. I always have my phone with me. I’d forget my wallet, keys, or my purse, but almost never my phone.
  6. Unlimited space. Digital organizers practically don’t run out of “space”, so I don’t need to worry about not having enough writing room for my to-do’s.

With that, here are my favorite mobile productivity apps that have replaced my old use of planners and notebooks.

Fantastical (iOS)

Some of the best money¬†I ever spent. Fantastical combines the iOS/Mac Calendar and Reminders app in one nifty app‚ÄĒand more. For example, you can type in ‘natural language’ like “Meeting with Yan¬†at Dal Cielo UPLB 2pm on Monday” and Fantastical ¬†does the work for you. The iOS app also comes with a nice widget so you can quickly view your to-do’s and events for the day without having to unlock your phone and open the app. You’ll just have to learn more about it and use it yourself to appreciate it.

If you’re not ready to spend money on something like Fantastical, the iOS Calendar and Reminders app do pretty much the most important things, only separately.¬†I’m sure Android and other mobile apps have similar built-in (or at least free alternatives), too. :)

AnyList (iOS)

BEST grocery/shopping list app ever. I know there are dozens (maybe even hundreds) of apps you can use to list things‚ÄĒbelieve me, I’ve downloaded and tried a LOT of them‚ÄĒbut nothing tops AnyList. So many list apps try to do many things at once, but AnyList was made specifically for doing groceries and other shopping and that’s what made it work.

AnyList lets you categorize items any way you want, but the default categories are already pretty useful (set by supermarket sections such as Produce, Frozen Foods, Dairy, Meat, etc.). Another great feature is that adding in items that include common words get added to a category automatically, e.g. English Breakfast Tea goes under Beverages without having to set it. Moreover, you can organize the categories in the order of your favorite supermarket so it’s easier to tick off items without having to constantly scroll up and down.

It also has a useful share feature which lets my husband and I quickly share grocery/shopping lists that are synced between our accounts.

If you’re on Android, you can check out this list of alternatives for AnyList¬†(I think Out of Milk is also a pretty popular choice).

Pocket Expense (iOS, Android)

For about a year my husband and I used a $0.99 app called¬†Money¬†to track our expenses and income. It’s great: it lets you create multiple accounts (say, an ATM savings account, a checking account, and a credit card account) and displays your net total, lets you set a daily budget, create categories for expenses and incomes, provides¬†charts and bar graphs for your financial reports, an exporting feature, cloud syncs, etc. Then, we¬†switched to Spendio some time after the developer decided to make his app subscription-based with monthly/yearly fees). Then,¬†after just a month I decided Spendio¬†(even with the paid upgrade) lacks a number of things that I like in a finance tracking app.

Then I discovered Pocket Expense. It’s got all the things I loved in Money, plus more! It includes a feature that lets you set budgets per category for¬†a particular¬†time period, e.g. monthly, weekly (I personally find the per-category budgets more useful than just a daily/weekly general budget)¬†and, this is my favorite, billing reminders.

The free version of Pocket Expense is as feature-packed as the paid one, but I decided it’s an awesome app and it’s worth supporting the developers with a few dollars. Also, the Pro version means no ads.

Notes (iOS)

There are a lot of note-taking apps out there (Evernote possibly being the most popular and feature-rich), but I personally ¬†like using the native iOS/Mac Notes app because I like its¬†simple interface for all sorts of note-taking. As of iOS 9 and recently 10, it’s had a number of improvements that I particularly liked, too: rich text (title, heading, body, bullets, numbering), folders for organizing notes, password lock for specific notes, sharing, etc.

A few things I use my Notes app for include recipes I’ve come up with, meeting notes, and account and government ID numbers (now made secure by the password lock), and occasional journal entries.


If you’ve read all the way to this point, I’d love to hear about your own way of planning your days! Do you still use a pen-and-paper planner (and if so, what planner are you keen on getting for 2017)? If you’ve switched to digital like me, what apps do you use? Sound off in the comments! :)

4 thoughts on “Why I’ve Given Up on Physical Planners

  1. Trelli is another promising productivity app! Especially for planning and projects that you need to share and have other ppl update their respective tasks :3

    1. Haha! Used Trello before when I was still working full time. Great app! Pero it’s one of those apps din that try to do everything. Hehe

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