Saturday, August 15, 2009


I don’t know if you all keep a calendar or not, but I could not live without one. Every year, at about this time I start my search for next year’s calendar, after all, a good calendar can help keep you organized, store important data and keep you on time for all meetings. Properly used you can keep track of your bills and expenses, you can maintain an ongoing to-do list, you can keep a shopping list at hand for small and large items and you will never miss acknowledging another birthday or anniversary. I have a rule that I have only one calendar where I keep my appointments. If you have more than one calendar, you are bound to miss meetings and you will drive yourself crazy trying to figure out on which calendar you entered a date or a phone number. Because I keep only one personal calendar, it needs to be of a convenient size that can fit in my purse or bag without adding too much weight or bulk. This is not to say that I don’t have wall calendars for reference by my computers, and I do have a household calendar by the door to the garage where I enter the trash and recycle days and record when the lawn is cut and so forth – dates that I don’t need to have cluttering up my personal calendar. I also keep a small calendar in the bathroom that indicates when I should throw away my disposable contact lenses and start a new pair. I certainly wouldn’t want to have to carry my personal calendar into the bathroom!

There are several key criteria I have for the calendar selection process. As I have said for my personal calendar, it needs to be of a size that makes it convenient to carry. That is not to say that I could survive with the little pocket sized calendar that Hallmark gives out every year but I have seen people do this. They have to write really small! I use my calendar as a filing system for all kinds of miscellaneous data so it needs to have about a post-it sized place for every day of the week and preferably a place where just notes can be written. I also like to have reference calendars on every page showing as many of the months of the year as possible, both past, current and future and larger reference calendars at the back that show the past current and future years. I think I have tried every calendar system known to man: Day-timer® (a super organized but pricy system that has file boxes, insert pages and a nice leather refillable cover); various kinds of picture diaries from museums and places I have traveled; all kinds of daily, weekly and monthly variations of the At-a-Glance variety and I even used a PDA for several years, but all have been a disappointment in the end.

The systems like Day-Timers® (Filofax®, Steven Covey, Day Runner, etc.) are amazing systems for organizing your life. There are diaries for dates, addresses, expenses, ideas, etc, (there is even a separate booklet in which you can keep a running to-do list) all stored in a lovely plastic file box with folders for receipts and papers, but you have to be very organized to take advantage of these tools. I used the junior size thinner wallet which required a separate little diary for each month and I invariably forgot to change the booklets and never got into the habit of using the organizing options for expenses and other data. The little plastic boxes are so nice and useful looking (they even come with a little book of instructions on how to use the system), that I can’t bear to throw the material away, even though, I hate to admit, it has been 20+ years since I used it. Every so often I think that maybe I will start up with it again, but when it got right down to making the purchase, either the cost or the amount of decisions you need to make about format and content would stop me. I bought a picture diary with beautiful photos of Alaska on our cruise last year to use for 2009, but did not end up using it because the amount of space allocated to each date was too small.

The PDA I had was one of the first versions of Palm Pilot. It worked for several years for many reasons: I had games to play while I waited for an appointment and it could hold an incredible amount of data. I loved the fact that you could enter an address and include driving directions and other information attached to that record. Everything was pretty much in one place. But the overall view of an entire month of appointments frustrated me because everything you have entered on the day screen shows up as a dot on the monthly calendar with no way to be able to distinguish or select one dot over another. If you want to see when you made your next dentist appointment, you normally would go to the month view but all you saw were little dots on the calendar; the only way to call up that appointment was to page through every day until you came to it. There were probably ways to put those appointments in as a particular category and then call up all of the dates in that category, but that was way to fussy for me when I was standing in the dentist office writing down the date. I am sure that the newer Blackberries have fixed many of those problems and if I had used my PDA better in conjunction with an electronic calendar on my desktop computer, I may have been able to keep it going, but the “Graffiti” writing system you used to enter data and the need to keep it charged were ultimately the end of my days with the Palm.

This past year, I used a freebie that the director got and passed on to me. It has the library’s name printed on the cover but that is about all it has going for it. It is a straight unadorned, no-frills monthly calendar. I have survived the year but just barely. It has no tabs to get you to the current month (or any month) so I clip the top right corner at the end of every month to make it easy to at least turn to the current month. (That is a little trick I have carried over from Day Timers, where the corner is perforated to make it easy to remove.) It has decent enough boxes to write in (I have spilled over less than 10 times this year) and there are usually boxes at the beginning and end of the month in which I can write notes. The biggest problem with this calendar is its size. The pages are fine, but there aren’t enough of them! It is so thin that it could (and does) easily slip into a file folder or a stack of papers. I have spent a considerable amount of time searching for it in the canvas bag I use as a briefcase or on my desktop and I have frequently left work without it because it was hiding and not easily noticed. I have tried to make this one more useful by using a system I saw a friend of mine use very successfully. She uses post-it notes on the page for the current month and lists all of the things she .

With every failure, I keep coming back to the one calendar that works for me, the “QuickNotes® Weekly/Monthly Medium sized Self-management System” from the At-a-Glance company. It has everything I need and I sometimes wonder why I don’t end up with one every year. Each page is divided into fourths, one equal sized section for every day plus a QuickNotes® box, in yellow, where you can record data or make a note of something. It has tabbed pages for each month and on that page is a full page calendar where you can see the whole month. At the top of the left hand page is a small calendar of the current month, with the current week highlighted in red. On the facing page are calendars of the previous month and the following month. It is made from some recycled materials, it is spiral bound and this year, it includes a storage pocket! The medium size measures 4 7/8” x 8”. Perfect. And my new 2010 QuickNotes® Weekly/Monthly Medium sized Self-management System is already tucked into my purse and already filling with dates.

My love (or hatred) of calendars is more complicated by the fact that I keep the main meeting room and event calendar for the library. For the work calendar, I have another set of criteria that are not so easily solved. I have not found that perfect calendar to use at work and I probably spend more time in that calendar that I do in my own. The biggest problem I face every year is that business type calendars don’t contain any room for a Sunday. Hello! People do have dates on Sundays and in the case of the library, we are open every Sunday and have programs that need to be scheduled. I have four meeting rooms that I schedule plus the showcases and the display panels, so I need a full day, every day, so that I can list simultaneous programs on the same day and keep track of ongoing activities like the displays. A daily calendar might be an option, but the activities of the week and the month and how it works in terms of staffing, shared spaces, etc, is critical, so a daily calendar is really too much. Another option that would be great would be an appointment calendar for a multi-staffed medical or legal office but they never have a Sunday! I found one calendar last year that worked fairly well; it had equal spaces (although smaller) for Saturday and Sunday, but those are short days, so it has worked pretty well. It has tabs and a monthly two-page planning calendar (at the tab) that I can use to schedule the showcases and display panels. It has a few nagging little short comings. The reference calendars on the weekly page are for the previous month and the following month, but not the current month and the reference calendar for the years is at the front of the book. When I need to see the month, I have to remove that paper clip I keep on the pages that have past and turn all the way back to the beginning. Doesn’t it seem logical that you would put the next year’s calendar, which is the one you refer to more that the past, at the end of the book? But the biggest shortcoming by far is that it doesn’t seem to be available for 2010. I have checked online and in the stores and did not find it and had to settle for a similar one that has a tiny little corner for Sundays. Oh well, we will get by!

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