If you're not writing in it, it's just taking up space
Raymond Gilford (aka Shuttercat7) is a long-time OCBoP (Obsessive Compulsive Buyer of Planners) and a sometimes WiP (Writes in Planner). He hopes that in writing this article there is someone else out there who can't go in a store without stopping by the calendar/planner section.
Welcome to the true life confessions of a Texan who spends a lot of time saddlin' up. Our first encounter with the need for organizational tools begins when we're kids. It starts out roughly the same for all of us. They call our name. We answer. They hand us money. They start telling us what they want. We nod our heads dutifully. Then we head out the door. Somehow, when we get to the store, what we heard doesn't translate well into what items we're now dropping into the shopping cart. Then we get back home we find ourselves in trouble because we forgot something, or several somethings. Next time, our parents send us to the store, with a list.
It's not entirely our fault... that first bout of forgetfulness. No one taught us about making a list. Kids don't spend their days making lists. We were more into checking out the latest toy or candy or Cap'n Crunch box while our mom or dad, usually mom, was doing the actual shopping. We were too busy, riding in that shopping cart, pulling things down into the basket for mom to put back on the shelf to notice that she had a list with her. Schools didn't help much, either. When I was there they didn't require dayplanners. They were list-oriented. They pushed spelling bees...rote memorization...memorization and recitation...memorization ad nauseam. Memorization has its place. If you've studied a second language you know that better than most.
There is too much information coming at us for any of us to be expected to keep it all in our heads. Not writing things down is not showing everyone how good your memory is, it's playing a very risky game. I've stopped being impressed when the waitperson stands there and listens to our orders and then wanders off to the kitchen and ends up getting them all correct. I'd rather see her writing it on her forearm than handing me something I didn't order. Anything can come up to distract one from an intended task and that waiter could end the night explaining to the paramedics why the plates got switched and the guy allergic to shellfish tried to swallow oyster stuffing. Not remembering doesn't have to kill anyone or even land them in the hospital. It could just end up losing the company money or costing you late fees because you didn't get online and pay the credit card bill on time. It's always going to be easier to do rather than to explain why you didn't.
That's just lists...just one organizational tool and we can see that when it doesn't get used, consequences can be disastrous, but let's enlarge our perspective and look at organizational systems as a whole. Today "getting organized" is a catch-phrase. It's all around us, from public schools to gyms to boardrooms. It wasn't much of a part of the culture when I was growing up (1970s). It's a skill I am having to acquire and like most things in life it gets tarnished and rusty from lack of use.
Just like "physically fit" or "alive" or "well" or "married" it is not a static or objective condition. Once you get there you have to work, sometimes even fight to stay. From cleaning house to organizing any work space you have to keep cleaning, filing, putting things where they are accessible otherwise it will return to its natural state...namely chaos.
There's no excuse for not doing it. The tools are all around us. Several companies are part of an industry that makes sure people are able to purchase more products than imaginable. I've gone into office supply stores and watched people wandering back and forth looking at all the different stuff on the shelves. I used to be one of those people and I guess I still am from time to time. A few months ago I wrote the diyplanner dot com address down on the back of a 3x5 card and handed it to someone because he was frustrated looking at all the stuff vying for his attention.
Any system will only be as good as the consistency with which it is maintained. Unless I write the information down in the planner, it won't be there when I need it. To use myself as an example, I tend to go through the steps of putting together a planner (printing, cutting, chopping, punching, writing down dates) but a lot of the time I draw on that wonderful skill I learned as a teenager. I don't make the list. Then I start forgetting important details. Oh I can get through most days on memory alone, at least most of the stuff gets done, but the details, those things that should have been in the planner, aren't there. It gave me a credibility problem with both my managers and employees when I was a floor supervisor and when I was a property manager, there wee a lot of things I forgot to do and sometimes it gave me a credibility problem with the landlord and tenants.
I realize I have a problem with consistency in using my system. And that realization usually comes out in the form of me wandering into the OfficeShack (not a real store) seeing a new planner binder and buying it to use with my planner or wanting to buy a name brand calendar pack to help me "get back on track with planning. I remember thinking that I would buy a calendar page set from a certain manufacturer and then still use the DIYP site. All this stuff is counterproductive. It's not getting anything scheduled or done that needs to be done. Nothing is getting written down. And my ineffectiveness continues. I don't need another planner or another binder.
The solution, at least the only one I know, is to keep working the system, whether in whole or in part. I have to keep writing down the information, especially when I think it's something simple that I can remember easily.