I can't say I'm not a procrastinator — in fact my closest friends will claim that I am. Yet, I haven't been without an agenda since 4th grade — until now. For the most part, Virginia Lake Elementary believed in organization and attempted to instill it in every young child's brain that writing things out and making plans for the future serve as a magical panacea for forgetfulness. This theory disproved itself quickly as a handful of kids couldn't even remember to open their agendas and have their parents initial. Skepticism aside, planning definitely isn't for everyone — particularly carefree 11-year-olds. Yet even after I left VL, a sense of need to write my life down persisted. All throughout middle and high school, I built an obsession for planning and carried my agenda everywhere I went in case I ever had a doubt that I would miss something. Although I haven't quit with my calendar reminders on my phone, I've grown a lot more skeptical of to-do lists. A modern to-do list is basically a laundry list of things most people just don't want to deal with at the moment. Most people don't enjoy outlining the many things they don't want to do. Therefore, if the evolution of the planner has taken a downhill slope, why is Kate Spade selling planners for up to $40?
I'm not saying I'm boycotting the planner or anyone using one, I just want to make a case for the unorganized. Ironically, some of the best things that have happened to me happened without any set plan. Let's start with the catalyst for our mini anti-productivity revolution: the planner. When the planner looks more like a book than it does a tool for efficiency, what sort of implications does that have on our perception of planning? It seems like the more I write down on my list of to-dos, the less I actually do. This rings true for more than my procrastinating self — but what's truly baffling is how much time people will spend simply writing out their assignments. Last week, I saw a classmate spend more time writing down her assignments than she did writing out notes. I don't blame her and I think the fundamental principle she was following was morally sound. The real problem is highlighted in just this instance: we spend more time planning than we do following those plans. In a Forbes article aptly titled "Action Trumps Everything," Harvard Business Review writer Paul Brown writes, "When you are facing an unknown situation: Act. Learn. Build. Repeat." Not only can planning keep us from acting in the moment, but it can also set overly ambitious targets.
Thirty minutes into the lecture, my classmate was still looking down at her white-pink patterned Kate Spade journal. If there's anything I've learned about college so far, it's that there is never a free moment. I could imagine her questioning if she had time to finish that lab or rewrite that last paragraph of that essay or meet with her professor before the exam on Thursday. Perhaps the greatest complication that arises is an increase in unnecessary anxiety. While this realization isn't groundbreaking, it can allow us to rethink investing in a little book filled with tasks and to-dos.
In all honesty, I'm probably going to buy a planner soon, but I will consider spending less time burying myself in its contents. Ultimately there is more to life than planning. Although the little pink book can relieve the burden for some, it only induces anxiety and leads some to believe they've failed in "getting it together." The aesthetic of a $40 agenda is also a constant reminder that these people seem to have life all figured out — when the reality is that we can't always know the future and shouldn't try to predict our next course of action. Spontaneity should be welcomed instead of feared. After all, as Paul Brown writes, "Researching, planning and gathering resources doesn’t help you much when the world is changing as fast as it is these days." Some situations require a submission to uncertainty, which builds problem solving skills under unfavorable conditions. There is nothing wrong with trying to conquer any issue that comes your way — but there's also no need to constantly feel as if you've got it together. And no pink agenda is in indicator for how important we are.