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The Calendar as Colander

Me looking at deadlines
Business has traffic patterns no signs or stoplights can help. If you own your business, or if you are in a high-productivity job (and who isn't?) there will come a time when the abundance it can bring causes a crushing stress that outweighs the gratitude you feel. You cannot change the traffic, because if you do, you might punish the business you are building or let down someone who needs you, not to mention lose income. You must let all those cars onto the bridge at one time, and hope the bridge (aka: You)  holds.

I am over-the-moon happy about the work that has come my way this year. Script-writing, book design, editing, translation for hospitals, clinics and other non-profit organizations, marketing for a financial institution. I love all of it and have the added good fortune to be working with outstanding people whom I trust and admire. The traffic of it all, though, has been producing daily panic attacks in my mind and heart. Deadlines collide. Or veer at me. Or I miss the turn on one project and now it's a day late in reaching its destination.

So, yesterday, I sat down with my team of harpies (Please don't tell me you don't have one, too.) and stared them down. I felt brave enough to do this because I had a physical weapon in my bodily hand: a calendar.

Since the advent of e-life, e-mail, e-calendars, e-everything, I have tried again and again to use phones, the computers, Google and Outlook calendars, and other programs and devices to direct the daily traffic in my life.

Then yesterday, I walked into Office Depot and bought an old-fashioned Day-Timer, delighted to see that they have changed nothing, including the list of international holidays included in their day book. I bought a most attractive aubergine binder and set about inserting the pages, tabs, and note paper. Then I quietly wrote down one set of upcoming deadlines. Today I will write down another. My ad rep from the local NBC affiliate called, and I calmly wrote down the ad schedule for a client in the convenient note pad next to my calendar.

I did not stop at the Day-Timer purchase. I also bought--ta da!--a wall calendar. I will take the time to insert the same information there as I have done in the Day-Timer. (And furthermore, the grammar nerd inside me is glad that the company has kept the hyphen in the name and not mistakenly turned Day-Timer into one "cute" word.)

I was amazed at the reduction in my anxiety and stress after putting together the Day-Timer, something I used to rely on everyday before e-life. It was b-life, the life where we each had our own personalized book to help us keep up and keep on.

It also occurred to me that most of the highly successful people I know continue to keep physical calendars, both on the wall and in a book format. When I talk to them about this, they sound almost sheepish, because they feel they are bordering on the uncool in a big way. But, talking to them, it is also crystal clear that a physical calendar makes them more efficient and successful, period.

Why did electronic calendaring never work for me? It's not holistic to my eyes. I can't hold it in my hand, and my eyes don't/can't respond to it in such a way that my mind can take it all in. This also applies to my phone, even though it's hand-held. The page is soothing to the eye in a way the screen will never be.

Me, calmer about deadlines
I look at the two-page spread of my month in my eggplant-colored binder, and it enters not only my mind, but also my vision. I can see time. I see the traffic coming. I flip a page and read the future. I can strain through the notes and deadlines as though the information were flowing through a colander. My mind is the steaming water falling through its holes, running down. The river of stress having flowed through, I hold in my hands the things I need to "consume" through my doing, my thinking, my planning.

There are other advantages to paper calendars, not the least of which is that my schedule won't be tracked and monitored by some invisible online presence. Still, the largest advantage for me has been the sense that I have returned to the classic implement that remains thoroughly modern and usable.

My calendar also serves to remind me just how much of modern living has become an expensive trick. I already had the answer to managing life and business traffic in the 80s. I didn't need the new answers, the software, the beeps, the added time at some form of a keyboard, instead of quietly holding my friend Pen in my hand.

Beware of the device. Beware of this word that contains vice! Look closely at what the abundance of devices has done to all of us in the past decade. Have they given you more time? Have they changed your sense of time? Do you feel now that time is more adversary than friend?

I am also scheduling time in my calendar to read a book I recently purchased: The Dance of Time by Michael Judge. I like the idea of my calendar becoming my partner as we dance--not rush, not wish, not push--through time.

We're close to a new year. I invite you to go shopping for a calendar to be your colander, your sifter, and then, your guide. If you think someone important might think you uncool if they see you shopping for something so old-fashioned, you can always order one from that smart phone you're carrying.
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Text, copyright Ysabel de la Rosa, 2014.
Art images, Dover.

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