Do schedules wreak havoc on humanity?
Apparently Aldous Huxley, author of A Brave New World, would be appalled by my love of lists and planning. Here in his essay, Time and the Machine, he seems to despair the softer, gentler world of the past. You know, the one wherein people didn’t have easy access to food or refrigeration and died from cold in the winter.
I think he makes the common mistake of confusing innovation with the foibles of human nature. People are quite capable of misusing anything, new or old. Clocks and cars can be used to advantage or disadvantage. Rocks can be used for building or beating. Fire can be used for destruction or health. For this essay at least, he ignores what subsistence living was like for so many people before technology. Technology magnified the power of the division of labor into prosperity for many. Prior to technology, not very many people were taking those regular, relaxing walks he reminisces about.
Time keeps on slipping into the future
Some people are constantly talking about the ‘good old days.’ Sure there are good times to remember, but there are also bad times, which are conveniently forgotten about. I suspect that the illusion of ‘good old days’ is also partly because we tend to be less aware and less responsible when we are younger. Thus, everything seems rosier.
With regards to historical time periods, it is very easy to idealize a time period that we didn’t really have to deal with in daily life. I would love to try living in the upper class during Victorian or as an adventurer in pioneer times, but only for a short visit. I would probably chafe at being expected to wear a dress all. the. time. I would miss simple things like ice cubes and electric sewing machines.
I get the impression that Aldous Huxley thinks that no one ever thought about deadlines or running out of time before there were clocks. He disregards the way clocks can be used to make better use of time, to each person’s personal preference and ability. He strongly implies that accurate time keeping is the source of all modern stress. That is like saying that indoor plumbing is responsible for someone washing their hands too much.
Planning, urgency, and when will the cookies be done?
Do you think Aldous Huxley ever did his own cooking? Did he have any concept of how many cookies got burnt before mechanized timers? Planners and timers are not just about making sure we get things done. They are for helping us remember the simple things that make life easier and more enjoyable. Like a list that reminds me to water my seedlings. I can get distracted and then my seedlings will dry up and I won’t have flowers blooming in my garden! Don’t try to deprive me of my list, please, Mr. Huxley!
Writing out a tentative schedule also helps keep me from being a slave to the urgent. A thought-out daily plan harnesses the day. I can still be flexible as needed, but I am also more prepared to make informed choices about when to apply myself to a particular issue. It may be important that I get to an appointment on time, but if I can see my schedule, I can arrange it to get some other chores done in other time slots. This helps me relax more in the evening because both the urgent and the mundane are being dealt with.
A weekly planner Aldous Huxley would love to hate
When my printer recently went on the fritz, I could not print my custom designed weekly planner pages (first world problems). I much prefer a planner that shows one week at a time, with the days represented as columns. I think this flows with my sense of time.
Another feature of my custom planner was sections where I could make notes for the whole week. I had selected 5 basic categories that helped me organize specific things in my life, but which didn’t yet have or need a time slot. I didn’t want to forget them, though.
I had resorted to using a small, spiral notebook to make my daily lists. That was okay in some ways. At least it gave me some place to write things down. I find that writing things down about the next day before I go to bed relaxes my brain. Otherwise, the needs of the next day swirl in my head and I can’t sleep. Surely as a writer Aldous Huxley would at least understand this!
Without much real hope, I began a search for a spiral bound (I like the way they open flat) planner. When I found this planner by Tools 4 Wisdom, I felt like they had been reading my mind! It is organized nearly exactly like my custom planner.
Besides that, they have a monthly calendar page for reference, a section at the beginning of each month for master planning, and an place for overall goal evaluation. As a bonus, in the back they have not too many pages for other notes and just a few colorful stickers (which I haven’t figured out what I want to do with yet, but I really like to look at…)
I am hooked. I don’t think I will ever print my own planner pages again. Did I mention that everything is nicely tabbed? The cover is all cheerfulness. The pages have just enough background imagery to be appealing, but without impinging on space.
Why not just use an e-planner?
I do use my Google calendar for appointments that I want to be reminded of on my phone or computer. Other than that, I have never been satisfied with a digital calendar/planner. I can’t brainstorm on them the same way. I can’t flip through the pages. I think it is similar to why I buy hard copies of sewing or economics books. Something about the digital form limits its usefulness to me.
I don’t think it is just because I am “old.” My 20 something daughters all have their real-world planner books. It was in seeing them use theirs that I thought I just might be able to find something I liked. Now, they want one like mine. 🙂