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Blog: Paper Doll, Tackling The Stacks And Piles
Paper Doll Marks The Calendar for a Successful 2012

Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.

~Søren Kierkegaard

After six weeks of frenzied counting down the days, we're in that fuzzy stage when the Advent calendars have been put a way, NORAD's Santa Tracker has been reset, and we're running out the clock on the final days of the year. The end of the calendar can make us feel like we're peering over the precipice into the great unknown.



For those of us who believe surprises are rarely of the diamond bracelet and lottery winning variety and tend to manifest as flooded basements and influenza, calendars provide comfort. Knowing as much as possible about what will happen when gives us a sense of control. Novelist Lucinda Rosenfeld says, of men,

We order our salad dressing on the side because we are control freaks. We'd like to control you. Because we can't, we control lettuce.

For those of us who fiercely (if self-deludedly) seek to be captains of our destinies, calendars are our life preservers. We act as thought capturing every vacation or task, birthday or dental appointment, in writing, will act as a talisman against the vagaries and whims of fate. We know, deep down, that organizing (our time or space) can't prevent catastrophes, but we gain confidence from the idea that it can, at least, make them less catastrophic.

Others fall at the opposite end of the continuum, feeling that life is an adventure, and hewing an existence inside boxes on the calendar is too much like being boxed in... regimented... trapped.

But most people fall somewhere in the middle. They want organization as well as freedom, structure along with spontaneity. They like the idea of keeping a planner or calendar, but may not be faithful to the process. What about you?
  • Do you carefully maintain one (paper or digital) calendar to keep you from missing all the important dates in your life?
  • Are you juggling one calendar at work, another for personal activities and a life-sized calendar for your family in the kitchen...one where nobody seems to remember to write "Bring cupcakes for the PTA bake sale"?
  • Do you often use the prior year's calendar well into the new year, augmenting it with scribbled sticky notes?
  • Do you have salon and dental appointment cards taped to your fridge, blocked by birthday party invitations and months-old reminders?
  • Is there any room in your calendar system for your plans and dreams?

Gone are the days when a free calendar from the bank or the butcher sufficed. Now, the varieties and types of calendars are endless -- digital or paper, ring-bound or spiral, sizes from compact to legal, hourly or by daypart, daily or weekly. It's no wonder people tend to change systems each year, or abandon systems altogether before the winter is through. The options are dizzying.

There are two big questions people always ask about calendars. The first: paper or digital? More and more, people disclose embarrassment they're not using digital calendaring systems, and those who are often doubt they're using them well. The truth is, high tech isn't for everyone. Even those of us who practically live at the keyboard aren't always satisfied by digital calendars.

If you don't currently have a system that works for you, give some thought to how you tend to keep track of things.

  • Are you a linear thinker?
  • Do you know the shortcuts for DVR-ing your favorite shows?
  • Do you enjoy reading gadget manuals? (Are you at least willing to do so?)
  • Are you far more likely to pull up an app like Remember the Milk or Workflowy than scribble notes on paper?
  • Do you need to share your calendar with colleagues located far away?
  • Do you remember to sync and back-up diligently, and keep your gadget charged and close at hand? (Be honest!)
If this sounds like you, a digital calendar may be your personal scheduling GPS! Explore Google Calendar, Apple's iCal, or Microsoft Outlook's calendar. Then, research reviews of the best productivity apps for your smart phone and verify how well they sync with your favorite calendar. However, if you're more likely to answer the following questions affirmatively, then paper calendaring may be your best bet.
  • Do you tend to remember landmarks rather than directions?
  • Do you consider yourself a tactile person, remembering clothing, books, etc. at least in part by the way they feel to the touch?
  • Do you color-code appointments and obligations by life category or family member?
  • Do your creative juices flow more easily when you hand-write, rather than type?
  • Are you constantly frustrated by your electronic devices?
Either way, the type of calendar system you use is far less important than your level of commitment to whatever system you pick.


Pick a calendar that lets you see a month at a glance with ample space for writing notes for each individual day. When we compartmentalize and consider only tasks set for Tuesday, we might not take into account a late meeting the Monday night prior or an early flight on Wednesday morning. Context matters when judging the ebb and flow of time.

Planner Pads

Select a planner that has enough space
. If you have sprawling and not-so-neat penmanship (like Paper Doll), a pocket-sized planner may cramp your style, literally and figuratively. If your digital screen limits characters, will you be able to track all the information you need?

Take your planner everywhere. This isn't usually a problem with digital divas, but if you're only in the habit of carrying your paper planner to work functions, rethink the style and size of what you use so that you're comfortable taking it everywhere (and remembering to bring it home with you).

Schedule everything that's fixed or obligatory before taking on any new responsibilities.

1) Review this past year's calendar, month by month, and copy all the recurring events -- birthdays, monthly meetings, conference calls, convention dates, etc.

2) Plan ahead for special events associated with your children's school, parenting groups, community associations and your house of worship. For your professional life, find out when the local business expos, trade shows and networking events will be scheduled. Block time on your calendar to attend.

3) Schedule time for health. Call to make medical appointments for yourself and for your family. Remember doctors (including specialists), dentists, orthodontists, and eye doctors, and plan out the most convenient times to have inconvenient tests like mammograms and colonoscopies. Your life is an open book at this point in the year: schedule fitness training sessions and exercise classes, massages and pampering.

4) Get your (financial) house in order. Schedule appointments with your CPA for early-to-mid February, by which time you should already have all your 1099s, W-2s, and whatever other paperwork you need. It's also a great time to plan appointments with people who can help you make your life, finances and time more orderly -- financial and estate planners, insurance representatives, and professional organizers.

5) Brainstorm for your future. Your calendar can be a vital asset for reaching your big dreams and goals. Want a new job? Block time to set up informational interviews or take continuing education. Dreaming of getting fit? Pair up with a friend to take evening yoga or cardio classes instead of going out for fattening dinners.


Remember I said there are two big questions? People ask whether they should have separate calendars for work and family. An abundance of experts advise using only one planner. As they say,

The man with one watch always knows what time it is.
The man with two watches is never sure.

If you keep one calendar for family activities and another for work, you'll never know if your child's recital conflicts with a major client presentation, or if you've scheduled yourself to attend a work conference the week of school vacations. Concurrent, overlapping but non-inclusive calendars are a recipe for disaster.

However, while it might be ideal, it's not always feasible to have only one calendar. To keep all your bases covered, I suggest the following:
  • Have a PORTABLE calendar or planner for everything in your own life. You have to be able to verify your prior obligations before you can confer with the orthodontist, the PTA bake sale planning committee or the Vice President of Mid-Western distribution. That means you have to have your calendar with you at all times, whether it's paper or digital. If your system allows it, differentiate professional from personal obligations via color-coding.
  • Have an ALL-FAMILY calendar at home in a high-traffic area or use something like Cozi if your family is wholly high-tech. Make it clear that it's everyone's obligation to post the dates for soccer games and band concerts, corporate retreats and slumber parties.
  • Schedule SYNC TIME. No, this isn't just a reminder to sync your smart phone with various computers (manually or via the cloud). Busy families need face-to-face time each week to confer, make updates, and confirm that nothing has changed or moved. Implement a family meeting to keep it all together.

Engage with your engagement calendar.

Even the best system won't work if you don't mark every appointment down and then check frequently to see what's scheduled. If you're the type who forgets to check your calendar, use a few technology and accountability techniques:

1) Set an alarm on your cell phone to ring at the end of every workday to remind you to check your calendar for the next day and/or the coming week.

2) Develop a family dinner tradition and ask, "What's on your schedule tomorrow?" Listen to the answers.

3) Schedule daily time with your work assistant or virtual assistant to review newly-added obligations and the next day's agenda.

4) Keep motivated with appealing colors, auditory alerts or even calendar stickers.

5) Schedule your next appointment (with your client, doctor, salon, etc.) before leaving. If you aren't traveling with your calendar (tsk, tsk) ask them to call you the next day to set up your next appointment.

6) Build administrative time into your schedule. Whether you're a stay-at-home parent or a business executive (or a tearing-your-hair-out hyphenate), your schedule has to reflect time to plan what you do as much as it reflects the actual things to accomplish. Paper Doll schedules Admin Mondays to tackle planning, marketing, and finances. Figure out what works for you and set that time in stone.

Having a system but not using it can make you crazy. Get committed...so you won't have to be committed.

Happy New Year! Paper Doll hopes your 2012 will be happy, healthy and clutter-free!

posted on: 12/27/2011 10:30:00 AM by Julie Bestry
category: Paper

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Discuss This Post

by Jacki Hollywood Brown on 12/29/2011 4:21:12 PM:

We use Cozi for the family. It works well not just for calendars but for grocery lists too! It never fails that as soon as I leave for the grocery store someone remembers that I should buy something. As soon as they add it to the Cozi list it pops up on my list at the store.

by Julie Bestry (Paper Doll) on 12/29/2011 4:54:57 PM:

Thanks for sharing, Jackie. I think I may have to give Cozi a full and updated review one of these days.

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Paper Doll, Tackling The Stacks And Piles

by Julie Bestry

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