I have a love/hate relationship with calendars.
Are you wondering why I’m writing about calendars in April? You’ll just have to be patient.
I love the idea of a fresh start!
I love the gorgeous artwork! I crave organization! COLOR! Paper! Blanks to fill in! A new year, a new month, a new week, a new day! Endless possibilities!
As a corporate cubicle prairie dogger corralled in overwhelming blandness, it wasn’t New Year without a fresh new calendar! There were years when Georgia O’Keeffe, Ansel Adams, Gustav Klimt, Toulouse Lautrec-Monfa, and Louis Comfort Tiffany graced my padded walls. I still have some of them. Each Christmas would bring my desktop (and I mean the top of a desk, literally) 365 days of New Words from Merriam Webster, Bible Verses, or Dilbert! I always gifted my husband with Farside. One year, I got my son a Spanish Word a Day Calendar to assist him in his foreign language study (it’s still in the original wrap…).
But when you get to the calendar with the species name “planner,” it becomes problematic.
I hate my lack of commitment to my planner.
I start out the year with the best intention of keeping appointments, prayer lists, project timelines, Scripture memorization, billable hours, field trips, daily schedule, Boy Scout meetings, AHG meetings, piano lessons, Co-op, menus, grocery lists, Target lists, To Do Lists… And really, have you ever noticed there is never enough room on Saturday and Sunday ? My good intentions collapse under the pressure of so much planning to plan, much less plans to actually do. If I don’t track it, won’t it all go away? (No.)
Remember Daytimers? We used them to keep track of everything, vendor business cards, receipts, addresses and phone numbers, appointments, schedules and to-do lists. Indispensable! A colleague and I used to chuckle at the early adopters of the Palm Pilots around us. We would watch them pull out their device (and we’re checking our watches), turn it on and wait for the program to open (and we’re tapping our foot), simply to note an appointment, while our Daytimer books were noted and packed up…(and we’re smiling). We win! Could paper be faster!? (Yes!)
Now as a stay-at-home mom of one teenager and homeschooling mom of one fifth grader, I still have a planner. Actually several. One teaching schedule per subject! It’s a bit overwhelming. My core curriculum comes in a notebook 3 inches thick. For real! That doesn’t include some sort of planner in which I schedule everything else (see the paragraph above the paragraph above this one). Sometimes there are whol! weeks when I don’t get anything down in any type of planner. These are not the weeks where there’s nothing happening. These are usually the weeks I’m buried, or drowning, pick your metaphor. Looking back, I have no idea where the time went…
Don’t say failing to plan is planning to fail – I won’t like you.
I had a whole year with an empty planner when GraceNotes was a baby. I was still caught in the corporate “I must plan my day” mentality. But with my youngest, it was quite literally, impossible to plan. There was no schedule. I never knew when she would sleep, and subsequently, I never knew when I would sleep. For those of you who think I should’ve invested in one of the put-your-obnoxious-baby-on-a-schedule programs designed for infants like mine. It wasn’t going to happen. My husband’s work schedule is the same way, and what do you think I should do about that? Cry it out? Uh, no. At year-end, I went through my expensive Calendar Refill and found that my page-a-day, and two-page-a-week planner inserts were largely empty. Where does the time go? Later years were more successful, and once the littlest cherub was in school, keeping a planner was a breeze. Scheduling when homeschooling is much harder…
I know what you’re going to say, but frugality requires that I use a paper calendar. That and the battery life of my Android; and the irritating calendar software which will not enable one to change a simple regularly scheduled music lesson from 3 pm to 1 pm without having to delete the entire occurrence and re-enter the entire event. Really. I spent a very long time looking for a workaround, because I found it amazing that this very expensive phone couldn’t do something that simple. Could paper be easier?
Now there are lots of “free printable” calendars all over the place on nifty designer-mom blogs, and thrifty frugal-mom blogs and fifty ways-to-organize-your-day-mom blogs. Clever layouts, large variety of formats, and helpful time-saving ideas! I’ve tried several. Printed them out. Filled out the first week. Made copies for an entire month. And…collapsed under the pressure of planning so much planning.
Then one day…in late December, I purchased a handsome, hardback 2012 Desk Diary with stitched, golden-edged pages, from Barnes and Nobles. It’s the one that features all of the lovely old book covers. I told no one. Quietly, unobtrusively, my evenings ended with a cup of Samurai Chai tea, my Desk Diary and a pencil. Always, a pencil. Reflecting on the day, my writing began to focus on what I accomplished, rather than what I needed to do. Oh to be sure, I noted upcoming events like library book due dates, and swimming lessons, but I noted what we did, where we went, and joyful things or beautiful things, and even…the weather! Not a lot of writing, just a jot or two to record the days doings. And it worked.
It’s April now, and while I occasionally have some catching up to do, particularly on those nights when exhaustion wins out, this Jotting the Day method seems to be a better way of keeping track of where the time goes, and what really happened. Instead of feeling burdened by the never-ending To Do’s, I end my day feeling satisfied, despite any tasks that weren’t accomplished. There are smiles to record and unscheduled happiness to comment upon. A husband with a twinkle in his eye waxes triumphant upon repairing the dishwasher. A boy comes home reporting a B on a particularly challenging Physics exam, and sharing about his great day on the water. A girl twirls around the room telling about a funny episode in class at co-op, before snuggling in for the Read-Aloud. Joys jotted down, but not crossed off, because they weren’t planned, the happiness just happened!
Planners have no space or line or square for unscheduled happiness.
Jotting the Day: Looking forward by looking back? It works.