12 Months of Sustainable Living / Paper

2019, The Year of the Non-Paper Diary

The Year of the Non-Paper Diary

It’s 2019 and despite 99% of us spending the majority of our waking day on our phones or computers, we still use paper diaries. For me this year is different. I’m going the non-paper diary way and embracing the technologies we’ve, until now, been using mostly for entertainment.

Before we begin let’s get two things out of the way…

  1. I am the biggest list person ever and I absolutely love the thrill of ticking something off my list. However, that doesn’t mean that it has to be done with pen on paper. There are other ways to make lists.
  2. We are all so obsessed with wanting to cut down our screen time, but isn’t the real issue cutting down on mindless screen use? There is a big difference between using technology to turn your brain to mush while scrolling through social media, and using it to enhance your life. Don’t be a doomsday prophet going on about screen time when you’ve never even used the errands or tasks apps on your phone. Embrace the technology that literally comes with your device for free for a change.

Now that we’ve got that out of the way you’re probably wondering how on earth I’m going to go a whole year without a diary. Well I’m not going without a diary, I’m just not going to buy a paper one. Sure the paper ones are very beautiful and the little high we get from writing down our goals and tasks on our weekly planners are great, but remember, that’s still paper you’re writing on. Paper, that came from trees that had to be cut down, fresh pulp, and paper that will have to be thrown away at the end of the week, month or year.

A few other things to remember about your beautiful paper diaries and week planners:

  1. Most of them are joined together at the spine with glue – This glue can most likely not be recycled (except if you can find some eco-friendly adhesive alternative) along with the paper. So if you’re thinking it’s ok to just chuck the used paper in the bin, first take the glue off the spine or top of your page.
  2. Diaries have hardback covers most likely – These are beautiful with embossing, colours, even glitter, and they are most likely covered in a thin layer of plastic to protect it from wear and tear. These covers cannot be recycled. If you are going to take the time to recycle your diary, remember to take the covers off at least.
2018 was the last year I used a paper diary
2018 was the last year I used a paper diary

Thinking about all of the above I decided that for me the simplest way to be sustainable and organised was to start using technology for my daily scheduling. I divided my new tech diaries into Personal and Work (yes, I used to have two paper diaries as well) and found the best tech for each. Here’s how I did it:


In my personal life my diary is filled with more appointments than actual tasks, but I still have a couple of tasks that change from day to day depending on what I’m doing. I also like to always stay on top of what is coming up for the week so I need my personal diary to be easily accessible. Finally, I am a creative person so I wanted to add some fun to my digital diary, some colour and not just words.

The Phone App Diary

I decided to download an app on my phone for my persona ldiary which allowed me to schedule appointment and tasks, but keep it simple at the same time. I tried a couple but the one that worked best for me was Errands for iOS. It’s free and allows me to add icons to each task so I keep it creative and fun. You can even add different tasks in different folders when they become too much for one page. I set a due time for every task, appointment or errand and I get a gentle reminder ping. And on those days I don’t get the tasks done I’d planned I don’t need to scratch out anything, ending up with a page so full of black pen I can barely see my own tasks on. No, I simply click on the task and reschedule or update it. You can customize the colouring and view to your heart’s content.

Errands iOS app
Errands is creative and easy to use

Despite what you might think having my personal tasks on my phone (and on my Apple Watch as well as it’s synched) has not been intrusive at all because it’s not a constant reminder like with social media. Also, the little rush of adrenaline you get comes from completing the task, not just simply opening a post. It’s much more gratifying and a more healthy technology high.

Errands iOS app organiser
Errands makes keeping your tasks organised easy

The Phone List App – Google Keep

Google Keep is another great one. I mostly use it for lists, especially grocery lists, but you can also set reminders for tasks. What I love about it is that even after ticking off an item Google Keep remembers the item and then when you want to recreate the list, you can jump to the bottom of the list and simply untick the items you want to add again. One of the reasons I love is for the grocery list. You can also add participants with their emails which means collaborative working on a list, once again great for grocery lists. It’s less creative than a tasks list app like Errands, but it’s simple, free, functional and works on all devices and platforms.

Google Keep used for a grocery list
Google Keep is perfect for a grocery list


For me, work is very much about tasks. I have appointments, but I’m sure you will agree that these have been incorporated in my Outlook (or other email service) calendar since day one. Email services have made it so easy for us to schedule meetings via email and add it to our calendars with a reminder, that really it feels like second nature. So why not add your daily tasks to your calendar as well.

Outlook Tasks

We all have those tasks that need to be done every day, week or month. A report that needs to be in, something you need to send to someone. And if these aren’t written down somewhere, we forget.

This year I’ve started using Outlook Tasks for just this purpose. Firstly, you still get the little rush from ticking the item off your list, and you literally have a tick mark next to it and it gets crossed out on Outlook Tasks! Secondly, if you set the reminder to start at the same time you get into the office every day you will have all your tasks lined up for you as you open your Outlook. If you are someone who likes to do time blocking Outlook Tasks are also perfect because you can set specific times for a task to start and end with reminders so you don’t overdo it on one item or another.

Getting Started

To be honest I did struggle in the beginning because unfortunately Outlook Tasks also place all your flagged emails in your tasks list. Once your OCD for a clean list to start off with wears off you’ll realise you can just scroll to the bottom of the list of tasks, or filter them according to due day or day of the week or month, it’ll be much easier.

The easiest way to get started is to click into your tasks list icon at the bottom of your Outlook and then select New Task from the task bar at the top. A few things to remember:

  1. Set your start date before your due date – For some reason, Outlook automatically moves your due date to a week after your start date. This is great for long term projects but doesn’t work for daily tasks
  2. Set a reminder either for the time you come into the office if your tasks aren’t time bound, or for the time you’ve blocked off for that tasks in the day
  3. Set up Recurrence for monthly and weekly tasks –This works almost just like setting up meetings in Outlook just make sure you select the right days of the week and recurrence (weekly, every 2 weeks etc)
  4. Set categories beforehand – This way the task will be placed in a folder in your Smart Folder bar on the left of your Tasks screen where they are all grouped together making it much easier to manage

Personally, I’ve found working with these electronic tasks that I’m less anxious about tasks than I was when they were written down. I used to once again end up with pages that were filled with tasks already completed and not enough space to write new ones. Now there’s no clutter and I can still easily see all my tasks listed underneath each other, which is actually much nicer than having them on individual pages. It does take getting used to and I did have this fear that technology would fail me and that everything would be lost the first day back this year, but it was all safe and ready for me to use.


Ultimately I’ve found switching to a digital diary in both my personal and work life much easier than I anticipated. We’re a digital generation and I think it’s time for us to embrace how technology can help us be more organised and sustainable at the same time. I know the colourful diaries are so pretty, but until I can find one that has been made sustainable, and can be used for all my different facets of my life, I will be choosing to be sustainably digital in my life organisation.

Hi, I'm Andri. A 20-something creative, content creator, writer, reader, traveler, healthy living enthusiast and eco warrior! My day job is in digital publishing, but just like The Loud Library, I am full of contradictions. I love my bunny rabbit Olive, cows and sharing my journey to rediscover my spark.

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