planners: 279/365


I may not have ever kept a diary or a journal, but I have kept planners. Helen Phillips said on September first:

My strangest habit is the neurotically detailed daily planner that I keep (paper, not digital). I’ve been keeping these planners since I was in about third grade. For many years, I would erase each task as I completed it, which provided me with a sense of tranquility; by the end of the year, the planner would be blank again. But the week I turned twenty-five, I realized that it was such a loss to erase my days, and I switched to crossing out instead. So now I know exactly what I did every day of every year for the past nine years. I keep track of what I’m writing and what I’m reading, people I saw and events I attended, milestones in my kids’ lives (first tooth! first joke!). This is my little bulwark against the passage of time and the unreliability of memory.

When I was young and had trouble going to sleep at night, my mother suggested I keep paper and pencil by my bed and write down the things I was thinking about. This habit saved me many a sleepless night. Get it out of my head and on paper (or in my computer), and then I can forget about it. I live by this.

So when I became aware of planners, I latched on. Starting with Day Timers and two-pages-to-a-day (lists and such on one page and hours on the other). Each month came in a separate spiral notebook. I saved two of these: July and August 1976, when I was living in Quebec City for the summer. At some point I switched to a-page-a-day, which came two months to a spiral notebook. I saved two of these–Sept/Oct 1979 and Mar/Apr 1980, the year I was living in France.

Since 1982, when I was 25, I have saved every year.

  • In 1982, my second year of law school, I switched to a desk calendar.
  • 1983 and 84 were back to pocket calendars–a week a page.
  • In 1985, I had a desk and a pocket calendar.
  • 1986–desk calendar.
  • 1987–1998–switched to Filofax pocket-sized notebooks. I LOVED these. Beautiful leather notebooks, mini dividers, all sorts of forms–one even to keep track of books read and another for menstrual cycles.

In 1999 I went digital, but that year has disappeared. Even after that, though, for the crazy summers with four kids, I would print out monthly calendars and color code the children and their activities–it kept me sane, and feeling as if I had some control over the situation.

This year with my one-true-thing practice, I’ve looked back at the paper planners a few times to make sure I was getting my stories as straight as possible. I love what Helen said about keeping a planner: “This is my little bulwark against the passage of time and the unreliability of memory.”


 365 true things about me
why this daily practice

6 thoughts on “planners: 279/365

  1. I absolutely love planners/calendars. Also, had a Filofax phase, then tried to slim down with one little leather book. Every fall I think hard on what my system will be- often waiting for a trip to NYC to buy the new one at my favorite stationary/luggage shop on Madison Ave. Your post resonated with me big time!


  2. I do this as well. I had a Smythson period in the 1980s, and a long Filofax period during which I fell in love with the leather covers and all the extras one could add—foldout maps, rulers, colored pages, quad pages—now I use an electronic diary and a Graphic Image leather bound paper diary. I have all my old paper diaries stored. When I re-read them, I see both the precision and the imprecision of memory.


  3. Katherine, I loved the foldout maps–and of course I still have mine. The quad pages were the ones I used too–makes me wistful for the olden days. I’m interested that you use both electronic and paper…

    I reread some of planners when I was writing this post–the ones while I was living in Quebec and in France gradually moving into French. I thought I might throw some away, but no. The precision and imprecision of memory has been a constant this year in my delvings into the past.


  4. Cheers to staying organized! I think this might be my last year of a “Mom” calendar on the fridge now that the kids are gone. ICalendar suits my needs better, but I shall miss those crazy Sandra Boynton animals.


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