Ti-i-i-ime is on my Side

Image by bpende

Baby Sister is teething and the eruption of tiny peaks through her gums has caused her to take a hiatus from her usually stellar sleeping habits.  Last night, after I nursed her back to sleep, I found myself awake and restless so I started flipping through the Styles section of Sunday’s New York Times.

There I found an article by Pamela Paul about the continued allegiance of many to paper calendars despite the rising prominence of online ones.  Among the paper devotees are such luminaries as Lorin Stein, editor of the Paris Review; Elizabeth Beier, executive editor of St. Martin’s Press; and, perhaps most incongruously, Internet entrepreneur and founder of DailyCandy.com, Dany Levy.

This article struck me as particularly fortuitous since I had just abandoned my own online calendar system, finding it cumbersome to enter information via thumb and limiting not to be able to see a week at a proverbial glance.  In search of an oldie-but-goody solution, I spent way too many minutes at Staples last week choosing the perfect paper calendar.

My general love of office supply stores only mounts in late summer when the Back-to-School items nestle in alongside the usual Post-It notes and file folders.  I stroll down the aisles, longingly eyeing the fresh 24 packs of Crayolas, the sets of mechanical pencils, the notebooks cut so freshly that paper sprinkles scatter to the floor when you open them.

I have long felt the ebb and flow of my days tied to the school year – first as a student, then as a teacher, now as a professor’s wife and the mother of babies who are inching their way closer to their school years.  So it felt like home to surround myself with these instruments of study and to choose for myself among them an academic-year paper calendar, with its familiar font and reminders about Arbor Day and various Bank Holidays (UK).

Despite my newfound devotion to my iPhone and the hours I wile away on the Internet each day, I rank my love for paper books just below that for my family.  I like the physicality of their pages, the chance they give me to mark my favorite passages, the way they become part of my decor.

I think my preference for a paper calendar speaks to that same tactile instinct.  To a desire to put pen to paper instead of finger to button.  But it also speaks to my wish to have a life that is simple enough that it doesn’t need electronic syncing and e-mail reminders and frenetic beeping berating me to send a birthday card to my college roommate.  To be able to see, at a glance, that a week is filling up too quickly and to protect my time with a commitment to open spaces.  To keep time on my side.

It’s illusory, I suppose, to think that I can control my life by controlling my calendar.  But I’m going to stick with an old-fashioned solution to keep track of my newfangled life, hoping that the mix of old and new will help lead me toward that mythical thing called balance.

Do you keep a paper calendar or an electronic one?  Do you love office supply stores as much as I do?  


45 responses to “Ti-i-i-ime is on my Side

  1. Office supply stores – or the same aisle in a bigger store but not to quite the same extent – are my downfalls. I love to browse and touch and try, whether turning pages in a notebook or calendar or trying a particular type of pen.

    I still use a paper calendar. My cell phone, while not a smartphone, does have a calendar feature. I also have a Google account so have access to Google calendar but I like the pen and paper version and probably always will.

  2. I LOVE office supply stores, and I insist, stubbornly and adamantly that “real books” are the only way to go. I admit, though, I made the switch to electronic calendar a while ago – I guess it’s the need for it to synch between various computers for work and home and my two phones, etc … but I was late to do so, and for many of the reasons you cite. I also still keep a longhand list of things to do each day on my desk and get a huge amount of satisfaction from crossing things off! xox

    • Ahh…the joy of crossing things off a to-do list! I know it well. Sometimes I’ll add obvious things to my list just for the joy of crossing them off. I tried using a to-do list app on my iPhone, but pressing the little check button when I was finished didn’t hold nearly the same appeal.

  3. Every year, my husband says “Let’s wait until just after the New Year to get our calendar, then they’ll be on sale.” Every year, I end up having to buy some ugly thing that is all that’s left because we’ve waited TOO long after New Year’s. So this year, I rebelled and didn’t buy a calendar at all, just to see what would happen. And we haven’t missed it – both of us just use iCal in our laptops, and it works just fine. Oddly enough, it’s actually been more freeing for me going away from the paper calendar! With iCal, I can choose whether I look at my schedule or not, whereas with the paper calendar, it was always right there on the wall, staring me in the face, stressing me out with all the scribbles filling the squares.

    Give it a year or two, though, and I’ll probably find myself missing the paper calendar again!

    (Oh, and school supplies … my biggest complaint from being homeschooled was that I never got the fun of back-to-school shopping. New crayons! Notebooks! PENS. My mother always protested that we got to buy those whenever we needed them, not just before September, but there really is something magical about buying them when the shelves are full. Even though we’re planning to homeschool, I am definitely taking my girls school shopping every August or September.)

    • I need to put you in touch with my mother who always has a glut of calendars that charities send her either in thanks for her donation or in hopes that she’ll make one. One year around Christmastime, a college friend was over visiting and my mom doled out these free calendars to me, my husband, and our friend. She should open her own calendar store, I tell you! 🙂

  4. Hear hear to the paper calendars and neat agendas in which to pen notes for reference and recollection, to any bookstore I can sit in – and feel warmed and welcomed, to Staples, to Office Depot, to the over-priced Back-to-School aisle in the one remaining 5-and-dime within driving distance, to the feel of paper in portfolios when pouring over engravings or drawings in a dusty back room of a small gallery, to the varying textures of papers in general, and the stories pressed into their pages, to those who love their digital means to communicate but will ever honor the book, the Bic, the pencil – as human object of beauty and creative industry.

    Something in me reverberates with memories and excitement this time of year, that since of being 11 or 12 and knowing back-to-school was just around the corner with all its promise of fresh supplies and binders to fill with new knowledge.

    I wonder if our children will own those same memories, that same excitement. I find it sad to think they may not.

    • Your mention of “the Bic” makes me think back to the desk that sat in the family room in my childhood home. In the middle drawer, you could always find an army Bic pens. Always blue, always the kind with the see-through barrel. They were my dad’s pen of choice and he got a ten pack in his Christmas stocking every year. (He now has a BlackBerry – and a paper calendar.)

  5. I have an iPad, but (to my husband’s horror) I still buy books by the dozens. It’s just not the same.

    I always loved new school supplies. Loved shopping for them and organizing them and waiting for school to start. Huh. No wonder I became a teacher.

    And yes for paper calendars. I NEED one.

  6. I thought I was the only one left! I am all paper — for reading, for my calendar, my to-do lists. Everything but writing, and lately I’m doing more of that in notebooks and on file cards, and less on the computer. Part of me thinks it might be fun to have an iPhone or an iPad, but the idea of one piece of technology claiming more of my life/time is a little frightening. I think I’m going down the path of diversity: a calendar on paper, stacks of real books to read, movies at the movie theatre, letters sent through the mail. . .to me, that seems a richer life. Thanks for raising this question and inviting our thoughts!

    • It’s funny you should bring up file cards, Katrina. I haven’t taught high school history in four years, but I always taught my term paper writers to take notes on file cards. I’m sure they thought I was a relic of a pre-computer age.

      I actually just started a new writing project and found myself taking notes on file cards. I think I process a thought more deeply when I write it by hand rather than on screen and I love the ability to physically organize my notes rather than cutting and pasting. It does take longer, but I think it’s worth it.

  7. I also love office supply stores even though I have no ties to school right now. My calendar synching on my iPhone works sporadically so I am tempted to go to a paper calendar for personal appointments especially. I have a thing for a month at a glance wall calendar which I have updated each month since we were married over ten years ago and I just cannot let it go for some reason. I like to see everything important that is coming up in our personal life.

  8. While I am a devotee of paper books, I am an electronic calendar person. I have to have it for work, and end up scheduling all of my personal commitments in Outlook, which syncs to my BlackBerry. Having everything in one place (and in one place that is usually on my person) is just easiest. As for office supply stores, they are okay, but I’m really a sucker for boutique stationery stores. I haven’t journaled in years but I still get weak in the knees for hardbacked books with blank pages.

    • Boutique stationery stores. Swoon.

      I don’t journal, but I do have several writing notebooks going at all times. Nevertheless, my stack of pretty waiting-to-be-used journals is ever-growing and unlikely to be depleted any time soon.

  9. I have a huge affinity for a paper calendar, and an electronic calendar (well actually two different ones). I also have a family calendar on the fridge, and log all of my activities for the day in a journal. It’s overload, but it appeals to my organized sensibilities. However, I will admit that I’ve downgraded from a cumbersome leather bound refill agenda, to a wire bound paper planner that is easier to carry around. And I too am in the market for a new one as September approaches!

  10. I love, love, love (yes – that was three loves – too obnoxious?) office supplies and school supplies. I think they hold so much promise for organization and learning.

    As for the calendar, I’ve been thinking about this lately and just decided this week that I’m going back to paper. I really miss it – and I’ve had weird things happen with my electronic calendar, like appointments disappearing or user error, where I enter things on the wrong date by accident… So it’s back to paper for me.

  11. We use the large desk calendar here at our house. The kind you see on people’s desks at work, or a teacher’s desk at school. I have done this for years. The philosophy in the house is that if it isn’t on the calendar, then it doesn’t exist. Two of my boys are now old enough to put their own stuff on the calendar and it seems to work out well.

    I second the attraction to office supply stores. I think it’s ultimately from my attraction to all things neat and organized. But whatever the reason, I want to buy everything in them!

    • “The philosophy in the house is that if it isn’t on the calendar, then it doesn’t exist. Two of my boys are now old enough to put their own stuff on the calendar and it seems to work out well.”

      That sounds like a great idea, Cathy. My kids are preliterate, but I’m going to have to keep this in mind for when they get older and start having plans of their own.

  12. Oh Kristen! Love this post. I especially like it because it is timed around school opening. As soon as I enter Target, Staples or Office Depot my nose smells the freshness of school and office supplies. I’ve always loved office supplies since I was a little girl. My father had an affinity for supplies too. I feel nostagic this time of year because it stirs great memories of standing with a paper list as my parents crossed off supplies that I needed for school. I can’t wait to do this with my own daughter.

    I am a paper everything person. I love the feel of writing something down. That being said I am a bit of an addict when it comes to paper journals, calendars, stationery and books.

  13. Paper calendars, oh yes! I tried electronic, but it just wasn’t for me. I need the feel of the ink moving across the page. ( the same goes for planning papers long ago. I used notebooks, not notecards, but writing physically made the ideas stick.)

    My daughter’s school has a fundraiser, you buy all the supplies in one box. I appreciate helping the school, but miss choosing the right pencils, the best folders, the paper lined just so.

    • When I was in college, I used to study for exams by summarizing and rewriting my notes. My roommates thought I was crazy, but I totally agree with you that putting pen to paper makes “ideas stick.”

      As for paper being “lined just so,” I am a big fan of college-ruled notebooks. And you? 🙂

  14. I’m for anything that works. For years I had a leather notebook, about the size of a paperback book, that had my whole life in it. But I would leave it places–it was too large to fit in my pocket. I envied women their purses. Then I got a Palm Pilot, which did fit in my pocket. Then they started making Palm Pilots “better,” more complex, with Internet, etc. So finally I just got an iPhone. Which is great. It’s got moving maps! Twitter! But I miss my Palm Pilot, which was simple, and did everything I needed.

    My leather notebook sits by itself on a shelf, watching all this. “You’ll come back, someday,” it says to me, “When you’re ready to live in the moment.”

    “If I were ready to live in the moment,” I say, “I wouldn’t have needed a calendar in the first place.”

    • “‘If I were ready to live in the moment,’ I say, ‘I wouldn’t have needed a calendar in the first place.””

      I hear that. I also hear the creakiness of my own brain as it struggles to remember things like doctor’s appointments and preschool art shows (the latter being a particularly good place to live in the moment).

  15. Some women buy shoes. I buy office supplies.

  16. To all those in love with the Kindles, Nooks, iPhones, I have an announcement to make: paper is here to stay! Humans have a close and long-term tactile relationship with paper that can’t be replaced with an electronic screen. As a parent, I can’t imagine expecting my kids to read children’s books on an electronic device and miss out on the touch of paper, flipping the pages in anticipation.

    So yes, I use a paper calendar. I have one in my home office, and one in our dining area for everyone to see. We post all of the important events and appointments on it so my kids can see what’s going on to. Kids love to be able to refer to the calendar to see what’s coming, how many days till a birthday, how many days till Christmas. An electronic calendar really can’t do this job. I do use my phone calendar to set reminders so I know when to get ready though. It’s my alarm clock.

    I do like to browse through the office supply store but it’s not my “candy” store. That store would be Michael’s, the arts & craft store, when I can spend hours browsing through the aisles looking at charcoal, paintbrushes, paint shapes, paper pads, and of course craft activities for my kids. When I go to Michael’s and get to buy something else, I feel like it’s Christmas, just for me!

  17. Oh, and I forgot the necessary daily planner (paper) for my own work tasks. It sits at my desk, right next to my computer. I’ve tried to do away with it in the past but I just can’t. As a highly visual person, only paper works to keep me organized, with my to-do list staring me in the face.

  18. I love paper and all stationery supplies!
    At work we use a centralized online calendar and that’s handy for keeping track of my co-workers. However, I still utilize all the skills I learned from all those years of carrying a Franklin-Cover planner to keep myself organized. Everything else in my personal life is still on paper. I have a master Mom’s Calendar in the kitchen where all events (even vet appts) must be recorded and a pocket-size version in my purse.

  19. I hate calendars- HATE them, HATE them, HATE them. Don’t like being pinned down to times, places or anything that sounds like things responsible adults do.

    Yet, I use an electronic calendar daily, rather I several. One is personal and the other three are for business. Yes, I said three and I HATED calendars before I had so many, but probably with a lower case ‘h.’

    My penmanship is abysmal so electronic works better because I can read it and I tie in alerts so that I remember to get things done.

  20. Ahhh — my love for paper, be it books, a planner, or just plain old sticky notes. I have them in every size, and they decorate every surface in my house! How would I remember anything without them? Even my planner is covered in them, as they themselves cover other to-do lists. I covet pads of notepaper or pads of paper that stick to the fridge — all for my much-needed lists.
    As a runner, I also rely on paper — a traditional notebook in which to log runs, times, etc. I tried an online log and found that I never had the time to imput my little bits of data. It was much easier to each night, scribble a few details in the notebook on my bedside table.

    • I actually just started jogging again (or trying to, at least!) and have been using an app on my iPhone to keep track of my runs. Then again, I suspect that my “runs” are somewhat less detailed and much shorter than yours. 🙂

  21. I have no calendar. Not online and not paper. I can’t remember to use them. I’ll spend hours setting them up, and then stumble across them weeks later and realize I totally forgot they existed. (Yes, it’s crazy-making and I need more discipline.)

    • Wow! So how do you keep track of far-off appointments?

      As far as discipline goes, sometimes I think I’m so rigid that I forget to enjoy the activities that I’ve so diligently written in my calendar. There must be some middle ground.

  22. I am DEFINITELY an old-fashioned, pen-and-paper, appointment book kind of a gal. If I lost my calendar, I would absolutely die. I can’t imagine using an online or electronic system.

  23. Because I like to keep things complicated, I use a combination of old and new technology. I like to use the Google calendar because our family’s schedule is quite complicated. That way, when I add a new entry, my husband immediately gets an email, and I can set up reminders for both of us. I color-coordinate the entries by family member. I’ve added the Google calendar to my iPhone, and of course I can access it from any computer. Somehow, I was never able to keep good to-do lists in electronic form, so I always carry around a notebook for lists, ideas, and any other thoughts that merit putting pen to paper. That gives me a good excuse for shopping for pretty books and pens.

  24. I do love calendars as well. I’ve been feeling rather hectic, perhaps because we don’t have one yet? Luckily Ben will be needing school supplies soon so we shall be visiting an office supply store–a place I, also, adore. Any good calendar finds?

    • Hey lady! It’s good to “see” you! I can’t wait to stop by and see what you’ve been up to.

      My calendar pick for this year is a standard Day Runner with a black cover and a pretty, swirly floral design inside. Nothing exciting, but for me it’s the perfect blend of big and small.

  25. Oh lady. Yes–paper calendar. Yes–paper books (I, too, must be able to underline and dogear and mark passages.). Yes–I love office supply stores and catalogs and websites. I’ve been the MomAgenda website twice this week trying to decide if I’ll continue with their calendar (really like the format).

    And yes, I used to rewrite my notes to study for exams, too. Actually reading your comment about this unearthed an old college memory that is, well, so collegiate. 🙂

    Yet, I also input everything electronically so I get those reminders. But I, like you, need to see it all stretched out. I need to see the whole picture which, even though I can technically do with electronics, I can’t do with electronics.


  26. Kristen, I love paper notebooks. I love books even though I have an iPad . I always loved writing notes on paper and to do lists. I love the patterns on notebooks, files and office supplies. This time of the year when I purchase back to school products, I end up finding new supplies for myself.:)

  27. As always, I was nodding this whole post. I recently returned to a paper calendar. Throughout my pregnancy, I loved my Blackberry. Synched right up to my work Outlook, never again would I make an appointment in the middle of a conference call. You know how frequent those appointments get toward the end? It was a juggling act in the best of times.

    But it’s just not the same as a paper calendar. I like highlighting, using different colors, making notes. So now I have 3 calendars. 1 is a paper wall calendar we use as the family calendar. 1 is on my phone that I still synch to Outlook. And the third, and my favorite, is a Mom planner that includes room for meal planning. There’s something about seeing it in living color that makes me feel slightly more in control of my life.

  28. Can I be late to comments if time doesn’t actually exist, as Einstein suggests? And if so, doesn’t choosing to pretend that time limits or defines us both allow us to live in a shared social world, yet at the same time lose our true treasures: peace, love and equanimity in some eternally abundant present moment?

    While I participate in this shared social construct (the calendar) electronically (due to the frequency of recurring appointments by which I might measure out my life, not in coffee spoons, but in fifty-minute hours… which inevitably become sixty minutes, or maybe seventy), what intrigues me more is the vague notion of transcending the calendar by seeing it to be like a lovely bowl—capable of holding the good and the bad, but particularly capable of holding nothing at all—that strange calm readiness free of anticipation or memory.

    Even if time is on our side, might we not also root a bit for the other team? Maybe then at least we can make sport with our Hamlet natures rather than the wars we generally propagate within our wild and confused hearts and upon our own finger-smudged clocks of the soul.

  29. I tried the whole iPhone calendar and loved it. Until a bug stopped my Outlook and iPhone calendars from syncing with each other. So I am back to my paper calendar. That I spent a good 45 minutes picking out at Barnes and Noble. Oh, how I had missed that!

  30. I religiously use the calendar in my old-fashioned cell phone; since I wear it as a doctor wears her pager I can check that calendar all the time. I also have a dry-erase monthly calendar in my office/the dog’s room (don’t ask), so we can all see what is going on. When I worked full-time, I used a paper day planner. I bet when I get a job again, I go back to that, and yet still use the other two methods.

  31. I have been (or the last 5 years) a totally digital calendar person. While I LOVE (LOVE) the office supply aisle and back to school with a husband in IT and multiple schedules to juggle Google and I have become close.

    However I have recently just started using a paper planner as more o a reminder, get my thoughts organized mostly or blogging and I’m kind o remembering how much I liked it!

  32. I just want to say ever since I saw that movie “Fallen” starring Denzel, this song has become a spooky song for me… Wish I hadn’t. Sigh.

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