A New Addition To My Minimalist, Paperless Planning Workflow

Icons are making my interactive digital planner even better

Ellane W
Ellane W
Mar 17 · 4 min read
Woman in white shirt using white iPad with Apple Pencil in hand
Woman in white shirt using white iPad with Apple Pencil in hand
Photo by Marek Levák on Unsplash

Lately I’ve been contemplating minimalism, especially in my digital planning workflow, and in the way my devices (iPhone X, iPad Pro 12.9″, MacBook Pro 15 ″) are set up.

I agree with Joshua Becker’s definition of minimalism:

It is the intentional promotion of the things we most value by removing anything that distracts us from it.

This will look different when you apply it to the way it works for me, and I think that’s the point!

Interactive digital planners have taken off in a big way since the iPad gained the beautiful Apple Pencil and notetaking apps learned how to make top quality handwriting tools.

I’ve noticed that most of the interactive PDF format planners for sale are aimed at the feminine market; lots of colour and flowers and inspiring messages written in big, loopy modern calligraphy. They’re pretty, they’re popular, but they’re definitely not for me.

Give me a vanilla page any day—it’s structured enough to be useful, and enough of a blank canvas to invite as much creativity as I have to spare on any given day! Image on left from DesignerMariene on Pixabay; image on right by author.

Those that embrace a minimalist vibe are more to my taste. There are some great options out there in the interactive digital planning space, but I love to tinker so I started making my own. The undated, fully hyperlinked planner on the right will soon be available for free—

Since upgrading to the latest iPad Pro with Magic Keyboard and new Apple Pencil in 2020, my enthusiasm for paperless planning has really taken off! Instead of dabbling, I’ve made the leap and now don’t use a paper planner—other than my trusty Moleskine Cahier + Pilot Dr Grip 4+1—at all.

I love my iPad setup, heavy though it is, and I carry it with me most places I go. FYI: it’s a companion to my trusty MacBook Pro, not a replacement.

My digital planner this year is in the Noteshelf app, as its handwriting experience is the best I’ve experienced. From a designer’s perspective, their highlighter is also better than GoodNotes and Notability’s—it can layer colour in a way the other apps can’t. GoodNotes is still a great app, but now I only use it for teaching online—mainly because it’s better at drag-and-drop on the Mac, and it has a fantastic laser pointer.

Given that I lean toward practical minimalism, why would I possibly be interested in the email I received today from Vectornator, telling me about the new version of their Mac graphics software and their free icon database? I made the move from Adobe Illustrator to Affinity Designer a few years ago, so I don’t use Vectornator as a graphics app, and probably never will.

Before moving toward inbox zero by deleting the email as irrelevant, I checked out their Iconator service. Oh, wow!

Why I’m excited about this —

  • 80,000 good quality icons in one place
  • searchable database
  • free to use
  • it’s easy to drag and drop them right into my digital planner, using the iPad’s dual screen or slide over function.
  • the icons are downloadable and editable

I’m still not into prettifying my planner pages for the sake of it. Icons, though? A different kind of decoration. Thoughtfully placed, they are the kind of practical fun that appeals to my personality. I’m arriving late to this party, but I’m very much ok with travelling at my own speed.

Two screenshots of a planner schedule, with and without icons.
Two screenshots of a planner schedule, with and without icons.
🚀Icons make my schedule more memorable. Image by author.

I love the classy greys of my digital planner, but the visual interest a well placed icon can bring (colour or not), is a welcome addition. I’m finding that icons are increasing my ability to scan my calendar for the week or month, and very quickly take in a bird's-eye view of what’s coming up.

What’s more, pictures are more memorable than words, so I’m retaining a clear mental image of my schedule — awesome benefit!

Yes, I’m aware there are other sources of free icons out there, but the convenience of Vectinator’s icon database is hard to walk past. On the Mac I enjoy using 🚀 Rocket, where icons and emojis are available via a quick ️keyboard shortcut.

More clean, beautiful icons:

Minimalism means using the tools that help you get where you most want to go, in the way you want to get there, while passing up whatever takes you further away from that path.

So if icons work for you, use them gladly! If they look like unnecessary, distracting, silly frippery in your eyes, then by all means pass them by.

Take every opportunity to learn good things, and chase the joy!

PRODUCLIVITY

No-nonsense strategies for supercharging teaching, learning, and productivity

Ellane W

Written by

Ellane W

Digital productivity enthusiast, teacher, truth seeker.

PRODUCLIVITY

“Productivity” meets “Proclivity” to suggest a leaning toward things that make us more productive teachers and learners.

Ellane W

Written by

Ellane W

Digital productivity enthusiast, teacher, truth seeker.

PRODUCLIVITY

“Productivity” meets “Proclivity” to suggest a leaning toward things that make us more productive teachers and learners.

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