_Pencil It In

A comparison of paper calendars versus digital calendars showed that old-fashioned, hand-written plans are more likely to produce results.

_Yanliu Huang

Huang is an associate professor of marketing in the Bennett S. LeBow College of Business.

It’s official: If you want to keep an important appointment, you’re better off writing it down rather than relying on digital calendars.

In a 2023 study in the Journal of Consumer Psychology, Associate Professor of Marketing Yanliu Huang and her colleagues assessed whether individual plans created on paper, versus mobile calendars, were more likely to be executed.

Huang noted that previous studies in consumer behavior indicated that people are more likely to execute a high-quality plan rather than a low-quality one.


Paper calendars provide a “big-picture” view that helps planners see everything on their agenda and how new tasks connect or overlap.

“We wanted to measure whether the calendar allows the user to see the whole picture of what they plan to do,” says Huang, who collaborated on the study with LeBow College of Business graduate Zhen Yang (PhD ’19) and Vicki G. Morwitz of Columbia Business School. “For example, can they prioritize what they plan to do and make a more efficient arrangement?”

The study employed research assistants who were unaware of the study’s hypotheses to conduct separate evaluations.

Their subjects were undergraduate students who received academic credit for recording academic and leisurely activities, homeowners who planned to undertake home-improvement projects, and volunteers who were assigned to complete activities like cooking or gardening.

Across all three groups, an equal number of individuals were randomly assigned either paper or digital calendars. Those using paper calendars reported higher rates of successful task completion.

The researchers suggested that digital developers should design calendar apps that provide users with an overall picture of scheduled events to help users fulfill their plans.

Huang’s future research will evaluate online dating habits when using a mobile phone app compared with a website. She will also study how people perceive food items prepared by a human versus a robot.