The Joy of the Calendator

Photo by Kari Haley; used under Creative Commons Attribution license.
Felicia Day

I briefly mentioned in my mea-culpesque post on Monday the actress Felicia Day’s comment that scheduling helped her creativity. Somehow putting things on the calendar, even things like “daydream until you think up a blog post”, helps give you the illusion of control about your life.

That’s actually why I think people talk about high school being “the best years” of their lives, or why they felt carefree. Everything was scheduled – whether it was the overachieving polyathletic valedictorian or the slacker who barely graduated, there was some kind of idea of what comes next. Chess club or “summer” you had a clear idea of what was around the corner.

As adults, not so much. Sure, we have schedules, but often they are not towards some end like “diploma” or “championship game.” In fact, we tend to latch on to anything that can give us that sense of journey, of mission-accomplished. It may be a sporting series, it may be a Fraternal Order of some sort, it may be a television show or a number on a scale. We want something that will mark the passage of time and give us an idea that we have made some kind of progress, some kind of change.

Basically, we want it all to mean something.

There is no reason that the universe should be designed for our convenience.
– John D. Barrow

Unfortunately…well, the truth is, while the universe may not have been designed for our convenience, we can manage to make it pretty convenient for ourselves. And if you don’t think that there is a meaning to your life imposed from the outside, that leaves you free to impose whatever meaning or structure you like from the inside. There’s even nifty natural laws that help us create all kinds of systems such as calendars, clocks, ceremonial equinoxes, birthday parties – you name it, some human has decided to make a holiday around it.

And why not? I confess to the sense of relief and safety I felt when I printed out a calendar for the next three months, with my various trips outlined quite clearly. There’s a lot of them, and it’s not that the paper makes the trips any easier. What it makes them is identifiable. It gives them shape, not just some amorphous mass that is looming somewhere on the horizon.

On a smaller level, I’m also enjoying a little thrill every time I draw a diagonal through a day that has gone past. Gradually the calendar is changing tone, as it draws closer to August 1, when someone very dear to me will be coming to Seattle. Making the mark isn’t going to get her here any faster; it just makes me feel a little better.

Daze of Hour Lives

courtesy Marcin Wichary Flickr CC
An Optimist’s Schedule

As a happy lifehacker, I’ve tried a lot of different kinds of scheduling. Some of my favorites, in no particular order, are:

…and more than a few others. I think my favorite was when I was using Leo’s “Sit. Read. Write.” morning ritual every day, rising when my body said it was done sleeping and doing whatever seemed most important at the time. Very restful. Very poverty inducing.
I’ve found that the problem with my trying to just do whatever seems most important is that I tend to fall into a headspace where everything seems important. Whether it’s working on my novel, creating the new product for Love Life Practice, preparing for the upcoming Unconferences all over the U.S. and Europe…it all seems important. How do you decide?

Bit by Bit, Putting It Together

The answer is the same as the answer to how you eat three tons of spaghetti: one bite at a time. Felicia’s comment reminded me that I can make good use of Google Calendar and my personal assistant. We recently had a restructuring of my tasks (several projects ended, some new ones loom) and now she has an outline of how many hours a day I am hoping to work on each project. These appear magically on my calendar, and suddenly I know what I’m supposed to do next, because past-me knows what present-me needs to do to keep future-me sane.

Best of all, I still get the joy of spontaneity and flexible scheduling because I can, at a whim, toss the schedule out the window. It’s my schedule, I’m the one who asked for it, so I’m entitled to tell past-me “You never understood me anyway! I’m taking future-me off to where we can really have some fun!”

Most importantly – and I believe this may, unfortunately, be the real reason behind things like GTD and the whole “productivity” craze – I get off the guilt trip. I’m one of the worst at letting myself off the hook, and can easily work into the wee hours of the morning on some project or other, long past the point of diminished returns. I wish I could say it’s because I love my work – I do, actually, most of it – but it’s not for joy. I drive myself to work, work, work because I’m conditioned that if I don’t, I’m being lazy.

When I have a schedule that I can look back on and say “Yes, I see what I have accomplished today, I can see progress on these projects” that helps me give myself permission to rest. To play, to stop and enjoy the beautiful city, wonderful friends, and tremendous love that comes my way every day.

Appreciating life. When’s the last time you saw that on your schedule?

haiku update: Yes! We have haiku!
and so do you – thanks for the contributions in the comments.
Keep it up!

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