Diary Obsession

Each year, I spend countless hours hunting for the perfect diary, and for most of my adult life, each diary has disappointed. I’ve tried them all: A4 and palm sized, a page to a day and a week to an opening, dated and undated, horizontal and vertical, a page with notes, to-do lists, calls to make, and shopping lists. I’ve created my own using Day Timers, Debden and Filofax. I have ordered ridiculously expensive diaries from the States and Canada, and this year, I’ve gone Japanese with a Hobonichi diary.

I admire people who year in, year out, order the same page a day diary and find it adequate for their needs. For me, this diary has never worked. I need to keep my appointments apart from the many lists I inevitably keep. I don’t like my to-dos to morph into one large messy list which is visually overwhelming in a diary format. And I really can’t be bothered rewriting lists. The result is that I inevitably come up with a new system at the beginning of the year which I follow for no more than a month. If I am lucky. Then, the expensive diary sits on my desk, glaring at me for a year while I look back at it with remorse. I am finally relieved of feelings of inadequacy at the end of December, when I throw the thing in the bin and begin to scroll the internet rabbit warren for a new, improved model. In fact, the only diaries I have kept are from my twenties. Each year, I bought a Tasmanian Wilderness diary with Peter Dombrovskis’ sublime photos. I wrote down when essays were due and the odd appointment. That was all I needed.

Does this mean that I have been doomed to a life of disorganisation since my twenties? Well, no. Over the years I have found what works for me and what doesn’t. A single notebook or diary can’t do it all. The following is the best system I have been able to cobble together so far.

I carry with me a distinctive notebook where I keep a Master List of everything I want to get done. This is a random collection of things ranging from books I’d like to read through to reminders that the cat needs booster shots. Then, a small number of items from this list is transferred to my daily tasks.

At work, I use the calendar function in Outlook and that works well for appointments and time blocking for projects. I keep a paper to-do list each day and have experimented online with Trello which uses the Kanban flow principle (an interesting way to keep track of work if you would like to follow it up). At home, I have a daily to-do list which I cross off with a highlighter. I get the same satisfaction as crossing out items with a black texta but this way I can see what I have achieved. For appointments in 2022, I intend to use my small Hobonichi diary which fits into my handbag. I only ever use a pencil to jot down appointments as a change in plans is inevitable. This is a habit I have kept up for years, both for diaries and address books.

I am not saying this is the best way to do things. Far from it. All I can go on is what hasn’t worked in the past and what has. We are idiosyncratic creatures. What works for one person may or may not work for the next. And what works now, may not work later. In the end it is all trial and error until we find something that works – at least for a while.

I’ll let you know if the Hobonichi survives into February.

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