Several years ago, I met a chap who was wildly successful at the grand old age of 22. He managed a wine business, consulted for a couple of restaurants and still found time to moonlight as a journalist. Presented with such a aberration, questions poured forth from my lips, most of them pertaining to how the dickens he found time to do all the above and still tend to his home (it was immaculate), maintain a love life (he and his girlfriend seemed to have achieved a rare state of complice), and do fun things like play tennis (we met over a game).
His answer: “I plan everything – not every day, but every twenty minutes of every day. That way, nothing’s wasted.”
My response: “But that’s insane! Do you plan loo breaks? What if you’re tired? Or hungover? Good god, what if an especially juicy episode of Great Canal Journeys is on and the sun is shining through the windows and watching it just takes your fancy?”
His answer: “Well that’s the thing about good planning; I’d work all that into my week. Honestly – you should try it.”
He may have been right, but I pretty much dismissed it instantly because planning is not my forte. Case in point: this Christmas, I planned to bake my own vegan nut roast for the big day so that mum wouldn’t feel guilty about serving me frozen goods while everyone else tucked into a tender turkey, I wanted to make my own wrapping paper (blame the day job; I worked on the Stylist handmade issue and it got the cogs in my head turning), and I’d hoped to knit Monty something that he’d look ridiculous in for my amusement. None of the above happened, and as per usual I was to be found barking orders at hubs as I frantically wrapped presents at two am while mainlining mince pies in the lead up.
I’m not much better the rest of the year, either. Plans to, well, plan don’t really get past the “wouldn’t it be a brilliant idea to…” stage, probably because I’m always trying to squeeze too much into the week without even factoring in that I am often seduced by episodes of Some Mothers Do ‘Ave ‘Em and Elvis films on TV (if they’re live, they must be watched – that is the law).
On one front, however, I am a reformed woman. I’ll never plan each hour of my life, let alone each twenty minutes, but as of 2015, I have yearly received a big old Smythson calendar each year from my sister for my birthday and it has revolutionised my work life. Calendars where three or more days appear on each side never offered me enough room for planning or notes, and as I tended to shove engagements in my iPhone anyway, I usually got bored of using them by spring. This little number, however, offers a sizeable page per day, allowing for appointments (with addresses), and a to do list. It also accommodates notes and, if you’ve small handwriting or are happen to write around the edges as I do, space for musings or ideas.
Consulting a physical calendar itself is also an entirely different experience to using a digital one. It buys you time – if you don’t have your calendar on you, you simply have to reply to invitations when you’re home and have had time to mull things over. When I get to whipping it out to jot something down, I can’t help but feel that what I am doing is important, that my life has a beautiful book to document it, and that my time has value.
Smythson are of course not the only brand who make beautiful big calendars, but they are enormously popular among physical calendar devotees. I ask for one of theirs year after year as it’s pleasurable not only to behold but also to actually hold; it’s leather bound, chunky and delightfully bendy. The paper held between the leather book cover is also satisfying on account of being wafer thin and rustling when pages are turned, while never letting a scrap of ink run through. If you’re a keen writer, such things are of great importance.
The final boon of going physical is the fact that you spend less time looking at a screen when trying to plan. Win. Buy one now – they’re always a bit cheaper after the new year. Or just find yourself another calendar with big enough pages to properly plan days. In twenty minute intervals, if you’re so inclined.