Wake-up, and decide what to do today!

There’s a lot of good about a calendar.

For example, it helps you to know when the big holidays are coming, like Halloween, and that one about the day that keeps repeating until you get everything in your life sorted out right – Groundhog Day. Calendars also help with other things, like knowing which season to goto the grocery store to harvest things like: tropical oranges, and canned beans.

Further, a calendar is a very cool application. Google Calendar is awesome, and the way that it integrates so well well with both a Blackberry’s native calendar and with an Android-powered device is very cool. In addition, jotting things into your calendar as you do them can become a useful journal, so that you can later look back over the years and recall all the pleasant days you’ve spent with yourself, and your friends and relations. You can also recall those precious PTO days you’ve taken.

Beyond that, some people use a calendar to plan their day, their week, their month, and their year. I believe this was born out of the old idea of the “Weekly Planner”, back when calendars were constructed of pen and paper.

I don’t believe that many people still do that, however.

Knock-knock
– Who’s there?
Calendar Man
– Calendar Man who?
Calendar, man! It’s what people do. It’s what people have. It’s the.. wave of the present, man!
– Oh. I wasn’t talking along those lines.
sheesh. [smirks]

Okay, so you got me. You caught me in a.. private moment about my own thoughts.

But there’s an old song from the late 1970’s that often gives me guidance. I told my wife recently that I haven’t come up with an original thought in the last decade, at least, and I think we are both starting to believe me. Every time I believe I’ve found an original bunch of bits running around in my noggin, I recall, in a way that nearly always seems to make more sense than I ever could have called the thought myself, someone else’s words which speak my mind for me very well.

A few relevant lines (full lyrics here):

Now, the world don’t move to the beat of just one drum,
What might be right for you, may not be right for some.

And then goes on to explain:

It takes, Different Strokes to move the world.

As I was saying, I like Google Calend….

Knock-knock!!!
– You again?
Yep. Knock-knock!!!!
– [sign] Who’s there?
Dude. That show was canceled.

There are some people who don’t get the point.

As I was TRYing to say, about Google Calendar – it’s just a fantastic web application. Beautiful layout, nice use of AJAX, I know it’s backed by the full power of a distributed Google data store, features are added and tweaked as Google engineers carefully study usage patterns.

kn-kn-knock-knock?!?
– Who’s there?
Nobody cares.
– Ah. Right. You are right.

Well, my point is this. You can use a calendar, if you like that. And you can use it to interface with the World of your work, friends, and relations, if you like that, too. I do this all the time, but there’s a grudging involved.

You see, I’ve realized – based on years of experimental evidence – this:

Booking up (i.e., “planning”) my time in-advance does NOT cause me to: get more work done, spend more time with friends and relations, or feel like a free man.

So, if I make plans for what to work on at work, and which people to see and relate with, all at the beginning of the week or at the beginning of the month, a few things happen:

  • Calendaring is an inherently inefficient process. Even with unbounded effort, I cannot fill more than a few slots in my calendar (at least, not with the sorts of commitments that either need to be made in advance, or the sorts that I particularly care about). In fact, not to seem rude, but if you are on my calendar at all, then that means you are disconnected enough from my real and personal life that I felt the need to “write you down”. That’s not a compliment.
  • Even if I can fill a significant percentage of my work or personal slots – say, booking up 50% of my week – I could have just as easily not booked that time, and instead decided each day what to do, who to see. In other words, I would see my friends and relations just as frequently, even if I never planned more than, say, half a day in advance. Trust me, it’s true, and I can prove it.

An old co-worker of mine described this situation very well, using the example of Source code control in software development. He said that he does not like systems like Visual Source Safe which put an “exclusive lock” on a file (similar to a “hard commitment” on a calendar). There are plenty of successful source code systems which do not use exclusive locks – instead, they assume that the software development team is staying in close enough contact about their work (their Life) so that the artifice of an exclusive lock is not necessary (or helpful, actually).

Another way of putting this is:

Obstacles have a way of causing problems.

We can probably all agree about that, but until you turn the pyramid of calendaring upside-down, you might not see the “calendar” as an “obstacle”. But it is.

“Uncalendaring” is a radical idea, that few people are ever going to get on-board with. Obviously, that complicates things. Calendars are here to stay, and the geek in me will enjoy many of their aspects. In my worser moments, I will fully embrace my calendar, and in my better moments I will be compassionately accepting of those who fully embrace their’s, while I blissfully ignore my own.

Being my moments, of course, I am free to choose how I judge them as “worser” or “better”.