My plan for today was to talk about how and why I plan my life in weekly segments, although I could simply say “because it makes sense” and go and do my knitting instead (don’t you go thinking that I’m not tempted). I have been reflecting on the fact that, over the course of many years using different types of planners/diaries, I have consistently gravitated towards being able to see a whole week at a time. It is the very epitome of the Goldilocks effect in that I find a monthly view too nebulous and a daily view too granular, but a weekly view gives a lovely balance.
I am aware of a bit of a chicken-and-egg element to this preference. I think I might be influenced by the fact that a week to view was pretty much the only diary format I saw in my youth and therefore that is set in my mind as the “right” view. Then again, for that particular view to have gained dominance, it seems to suggest that it had already been found to be the view that most people were consistently comfortable with. Which came first, then, the layout or the preference, the chicken or the egg? I hope you’re not looking to me for an answer, but if you are I would hazard a guess that in each case both evolved at the same time as a response to a previous state where the optimum had not yet been achieved.
When I look at the daily view I come across easy soundbites to explain the downsides, things like “I miss the overall picture” and “I focus so much on the nitty-gritty of the day that I fail to prepare for important things coming up in the rest of the week”. Like all easy soundbites, these appear to be pithy truths but don’t actually say anything much at all. If one was working only with daily layouts, one would surely build in notes about upcoming events and reminders of what needs doing in preparation. One would also make it a habit to leaf through the coming week each day to remind oneself of the bigger picture. Or, as many people do who thrive on daily views, one would also incorporate weekly or monthly views to provide just such an overview.
It is easy to talk about the different planner views in a relatively factual manner, but I am more interested in my feelings about the layouts. The fact is, how time management makes me feel is very important to me, yet it’s an angle I rarely see discussed. When I say the daily view is too granular, what I mean is that it brings things into too sharp a focus, it takes the smallest amount of time and devotes to it the largest amount of space so that I feel overwhelmed by the detail. I particularly feel that it turns my attention too strongly upon my failures. Day after day I set goals which are too lofty, or are the things I think I should be aiming to do as opposed to the ones I really am likely to undertake. Then I feel annoyed with myself when I fail to meet them, even though I know that I have placed a higher value upon the things which I did spend my time on. I can see that I need to become better at defining the tasks I want and need to achieve, making sure that it would be realistic to do them all within the time I’ve allocated. I am experimenting with this, but I do keep coming back to the fact that I am more likely to get close to achieving what I want when I aim to do it over the course of a week. If I fall behind one day it doesn’t matter as I can pick up again the next day. In the daily view, if I don’t do the thing I intended on the day I wrote it, it feels more like a failure even though, of course, the net outcome is exactly the same as with a weekly view. In some ways, the daily view seems like it is falsifying my experience – making the highs seem unnaturally high and the lows, likewise, too low. The weekly view seems to even out the extremes.
So what about the monthly view? I have called it “too nebulous”, but what do I mean by that? It’s simply that I can’t imagine what things will be like in a month’s time. They may be exactly the same as today, but they may be utterly different, and I cannot plan for a period that seems so unfixed. I can see a flaw in this thinking, and you may have spotted it as well: if I planned on a monthly basis then the time wouldn’t seem so nebulous; that it is down to me to fix the future in place and give it structure. Of course, the end of the month might be very different from the one I imagined and planned for, but that is where real flexibility comes into the picture. I wonder if I am so adamant about being flexible that I have chosen to swim in an ocean of confusion rather than risk limiting myself within a net of commitments, even if these are self-imposed and entirely adaptable to circumstance. Wow.
It was entirely my intention today to sing the praises of the weekly view, but instead I find that each view has its merits and that perhaps it might be beneficial to think outside of that familiar old weekly box. In a lot of ways this is the ideal time to work on this, and I have already incorporated some daily intention sheets into my weekly setup for a trial period (more on that next week). Whilst my initial feelings were not entirely positive, I intend to keep experimenting with these to see if they add a value. I can see now that it might also be helpful to look at a longer period as well, and wrestle back some control over the direction I’m heading in.
All of which leaves me with Bob Dylan, and the eternal reminder that “the times, they are a-changing”.