Nothing is so fatiguing as the eternal hanging on of an uncompleted task. ~William James

Friday, April 2, 2010

Calendars, Calendars, Calendars

In my lifelong struggle to get and stay organized, calendars have played the part of useful ally, red herring, and saboteur.  

The first function is pretty straightforward.  When calendars do what they are supposed to do, they remind us of appointments.  They help us to avoid overlapping engagements.  They allow us to plan ahead, and to distribute our commitments sensibly.  They are our friends.

The red herring part comes in when I delude myself that the perfect calendar, and worse, the magical combination of several perfect calendars, will somehow cure my procrastination and allow me to achieve my dreams.  My father, had he known about my predilection for wandering through bookstores, office supply stores, and Target's office sections at all times of the year in pursuit of this quarry, would probably have diagnosed OCD.  There is certainly something obsessive about my quest.  

I continue to be drawn, despite years of disappointment, to the offerings of purse calendars, wall calendars, desk calendars and planners.  Color, size, arrangement of days and weeks, and "features" call out to me from the retailers' displays.  I stand as if mesmerized, picking up alternatives and comparing them, as if I were a calendar virgin.  As if someone somewhere might have "discovered" or "invented" my ideal solution since the last time I'd looked.  

I have spent too much time in this chimeric pursuit, time that might otherwise have been devoted to actually doing some of the things I intended to write in these instruments.  I have even been known to switch horses in midstream, changing calendars in September when a particular product seemed "more perfect" than the one I was already using.  And then, of course, obsessively (or is it compulsively?) copying entries from the soon-to-be-abandoned organizational tool into its replacement.  

But worse than this crazy tail-chasing behavior is what happens when I follow the advice of organizational gurus, who recommend keeping several calendars.  I currently have a purse calendar, which I consult when I am away from home and scheduling meetings or appointments; a planner/calendar, which contains my to-do lists and scheduled meetings and appointments; a wall calendar, on which I record my own meetings and appointments and those of other household members; and two computer-based calendars, one personal and one for the organization I help to manage.   My personal computer-based calendar reproduces a daily agenda on my home page, which should theoretically get me where I need to go by putting it in my face each time I open my laptop.  I have decided not to keep a calendar on my cell phone, partly because of its wayward habits of disappearing and running out of charge.

Of course, the gurus would have me synchronize all these calendars.  And that's the crux of my difficulty.  My failure to routinely copy entries from one to the rest of my calendars is what gets me in trouble, producing the third role--calendars as agents saboteur.  I rely on calendars to reality-test my hazy notion of where and when I should be, and behave as if each calendar holds all the necessary information.  This is hardly ever the case.  So when I check the calendar at hand, I am effectively playing calendar roulette.   This week, the game cost me $50 when I missed an appointment and was assessed the no-show fee.  On a good day, my spotty system might relieve me of attending a meeting I wasn't too keen on anyway.

Today, my purse calendar tells me that I am out of time for completing this post, and need to rush out the door to make a late breakfast with a friend, recently and involuntarily disemployed from his job of 31 years.  I leave for tomorrow the task of figuring out what to do about all my calendars.  But I won't stop at Office Depot on my way back.  

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