Now that the new year is well underway, I’m sure you are assessing the success of your New Year’s Resolution(s) for 2017 and being very optimistic about the new one (or ones) you have made for this year.
For the past 20 years, I have made and so far successfully kept the same very simple resolution–to not watch the movie version of “The Sound Of Music.” I have to qualify this resolution because I did watch the play that my daughter was in a few years ago. This doesn’t count, because I have still never seen the movie. Yes, I have played the songs from the movie on piano many times, especially “My Favorite Things,” but have stayed far away from the movie. Not that I have anything against the movie. It is just a very easy and random thing to designate as my perennial New Year’s Resolution. And hopefully I will be able to keep it for another eleven months and many more after that.
I have adopted a second resolution, however, and I intend to keep it as well. After reading a Travel+Leisure article by Andrea Romano, I am intend on doing away with my largely ineffective to-do list, replacing it with an old-fashioned desk calendar. I hope I’m not falling prey to the countless efficiency experts who offer all sorts of (usually annoying) advice about how to best maintain our lives. Like the one I heard a couple of years ago who advised us to never have more than six messages in our inboxes at one time. Yeah, right. But this calendar things sounds very practical and perhaps doable. According to Romano, to do-lists aren’t “the most effective workflow to get things done.” And why not?
Calendars, preferably the old-fashioned paper kind rather than digital manifestations, keep us better informed, especially when we use them to schedule both our professional and personal events and goals; this doesn’t not negate the usefulness of digital calendars. And they seem more tangible and visible (in a nagging sort of way, of course). In a very informative piece by Srinivas Rao in medium.com, he informs us that “if there’s one pattern I’ve come across in dozens of articles, books I’ve read, and the 100’s of people that I’ve interviewed, it’s that the most prolific, productive and successful ones don’t depend on to-do lists, they depend on a calendar [because] the likelihood of me getting anything done goes up significantly when I put something on the calendar.” And this is presumably because our lives are dominated and organized by units of time, just like the format of a calendar. To-Do lists don’t give us this sense of time, and therefore don’t convey a sense of context.
Rao outlines several benefits of using calendars rather than to-do lists. First, calendars can change your behavior, directing your attention from making endless lists and toward developing a scheduling mentality. Of course, we don’t want to turn into obnoxious anal retentives who can’t think outside the [calendar] box, but it is very useful for us to envision our plans in a reasonable form. Second, calendars should be the place where we record our tasks and reminders. “When it comes to task completion the major difference between a calendar and a to-do list is that the calendar accounts for time. You’re forced to work within the constraints of the 24 hours that you have.” Third, calendars can be used for goal-setting and “should help you make the most of your time–not just be tools to track events.” Fourth, calendars can be used to schedule meetings–something that most people only use after the fact. I would add a fifth reason and that is to make sure you make lots of allowances for reflection and spontaneity. Although it sounds odd to be scheduling spontaneous time, it certainly makes sense in this fast-paced and over-stimulated world in which we live. Why not include such goals as “Be Batman,” “Watch An Episode Of ‘The Monkees’,” or “Drink Coffee Through A Straw.” Life is much too short to only use cal endars for serious business (not that being Batman isn’t a pretty serious endeavor).
Although I plan on using my $5.99 desk calendar extensively, I did some research on the best calendar apps for this year from a dubious site called “Tom’s Guide” (the identity of Tom is anybody’s guess). First up is Fantastical 2 for iOS, followed by Calendars 5 (iOS), Google Calendar (Android, iOS, and my favorite, particularly because it is free), Accompany (iOS), Outlook (Android, iOS), Newton Calendar (iOS), Timepage (iOS), Vantage (iOS), Saisuke (iOS), Shift.Cal (Android), My Study Life (Android, iOS), Informant 5 (Android, iOS), Awesome Calendar (iOS), CloudCal (Android), DigiCal (Android), aCalendar (Android), Business Calendar 2 (Android), Jorte Calendar (Android, iOS), Wave (Android), BusyCal (iOS), tinyCalendar (iOS), Simple Calendar (Android), Week Calendar (iOS), and Calengoo (Android, iOS, and my favorite name). Some of these apps are free and some have a nominal charge, but they all have one thing in common–they all do the very same things, albeit with different colors and bells and whistles. Contrast that with my black and white version that never needs updating and can’t send me notifications.
I will leave you to decide how best to organize your life. Good luck. Just don’t write that down on a to-do list.
See you next week (and that’s already on my calendar).