From The Stuff Behind The Stuff™ Vintage Archives, here’s an updated post from back in 2018 that got some nice attention and interaction. So grab your favorite cup or glass, and join us in a fresh discussion!
I don’t know why it still surprises me when someone tells me they never use any sort of a calendar or planner. Perhaps it’s because I have never been able NOT to use a calendar, and admittedly I am a bit time-obsessed, but still…how do people keep it all in their heads?
I think the short answer is, most of them don’t*. At least not past a certain age. I don’t mean that comment from a “senior moment” perspective but more from the view that as we get much past high school life starts getting in the way – there are just too many things to keep track of, plan, and act upon. Our heads really aren’t designed to hold every single piece of information they encounter, and if we don’t make some sort of conscious effort to choose how to retain what we need, we get into trouble.
One of my favorite scenes from one of my favorite shows, Sherlock, details the famous detective’s conscious decision to get rid of an unnecessary (to him) piece of information – in this case, the fact that the Earth travels around the Sun:
Sherlock (in response to John Watson’s disbelief): Oh God, that again! It’s not important!
Watson: Not important?! It’s primary school stuff! How can you not know that?
Sherlock: Well, if I ever did, I’ve deleted it.
Watson: “Deleted it”?!
Sherlock: Listen [points to his head], this is my hard-drive, and it only makes sense to put things in there that are useful. Really useful. Ordinary people fill their heads with all kinds of rubbish, and that makes it hard to get at the stuff that matters! Do you see?
Watson did not win that argument, but is Sherlock really so wrong? While the appointments we jot down in a central location may not exactly equate to “rubbish”, the practice does allow our brains some room and opportunity to focus on other, in-the-moment issues. Then too, critical times and dates can easily get knocked out by other brain “rubbish”, like the distraction of a new season of your favorite show. You’re sitting at home binging The Queen’s Gambit when you should be making your dermatology appointment, or a meeting at school, or leaving for your shift.
My husband often tells the story of how he never used a calendar in college — until the fateful day when he discovered that he had booked himself for two gigs at the exact same time. The two commitments were retained in his brain, and he’d been to rehearsals for both. But the dates and times they were connected to, for whatever reason (pondering midterms, after-game parties, slogging through a music history test, whatever) were not retained – lost somewhere in the downloads. Not a pretty result, but an excellent (if painful) learning opportunity. From there on out a planner became an essential tool.
I recently illustrated it to a client another way: appointments and tasks need a container. Let’s say that container is a glass, and you pour all your commitments into the glass. The glass gives those commitments a place to hang out until they’re needed. It gives the schedule some shape. It’s transparent, easy to handle, easy to get those commitments back out when it’s time. You can choose what goes in, and what to dump (delete?) down the drain. If you leave the commitments in there too long, they might go flat, so you have to check back frequently and sip from the glass from time to time. If you don’t use a glass at all, your schedule just splatters all over the place and makes a huge mess for you or someone else to clean up. Sipping from the floor or a countertop is not efficient or pleasant.
Maybe a boring, clear glass isn’t your thing (or should I say – ha – “cup of tea”?). Perhaps it’s a carafe, a jug, a stein, a hollowed-out gourd. It matters not. Whatever you choose to pour your schedule into just needs to be functional and appropriate for you. Your calendar container might be digital, physical, 3-ring, spiral bound, weekly, monthly, etc. – if you have gone years without one, you might be surprised at all of the current options. Don’t let the myriad choices become more brain rubbish: you just want it to be easy to plug things in and get those things back out when you need them.
What sort of time container could work best for you?
*As I type this post I’m steeling myself for the comment from at least one reader who gets away with never using a planner. You are exceptional, but give me a shout when it all comes crashing down. I’ll be here for you.