Why my analogue year calendar rocks

I think most of us don’t have analogue calenders these days. Neither did I: for both my personal and my work calendar I use Google Calendar. My phone shows appointments in these calendars (Anroid built-in functionality) and I can set reminders on my phone for appointments I don’t want to miss. Useful, because I have my phone always with me, so I never miss anything. The same goes for my laptop. On both devices I can toggle personal and business appointments on or off based on what I want to see, and most importantly: everything is in one place. An absolute must from a time-management perspective.

The 2011 year calendar hanging next to my desk

Therefor I was a bit skeptical when Jeroen van Sluijs, one of my colleagues, told me about his analogue calendar. He showed me, and it was a simple piece of paper with the entire year calendar printed out on it. How on earth can this be useful when I have all this fancy technology to do the job? Nevertheless, I decided to give his calendar a try. I printed the calendar on a piece of paper and put it next to my desk. I used a text marker to mark all official holidays, as well as “days off”. The basic rule here is: pink means day off – you get to sleep out. During the year I started adding other stuff. Conferences, due-dates for call for papers. Important dates I definitely didn’t want to miss or was looking forward to. I decided to mark those my drawing a circle around that date and writing a 1-word description next to it.

And imagine what? It works great!

The reason that this is useful to have in addition to your existing calendar is that whenever the scale of your calendar-view changes, the significance of appointments changes as well. It’s quite easy: when I’m looking at a day-view I want to know exactly at what time what’s going on. I need to go to get a haircut at 3pm. Great, I’ll be there. On month-view however the time isn’t important – just the fact that I’m getting a haircut on that date will suffice. On a year view, seeing all year’s appointments simply would result in one big unusable and unreadable list. It’s far too detailed!

That’s exactly what this calendar next to my desk does: it gives me a filtered view of the year, only showing the appointments that are important on a year’s-view. I don’t mark my tennis lessons there every Friday. Neither do I put down when I’m getting a haircut – I’ve got Google Calendar to do that. The year calendar is for stuff like days off, conferences, deadlines of projects etc. It’s hanging next to my desk, so whenever I want to know something like that, I simply have to turn my head and I see directly what’s going on.

Everybody is different, and especially for these kind of things it’s important to not just do as you’re told, but choose the solution that works best for you. However, the calendar has worked great for me so far – so maybe it will work for you as well. Also, figure out your own standard – use different colors with different meanings. Write stuff next to it. Draw arrows. Maybe use certain shapes for lining-in certain dates. Get creative! It’s analogue, the sky is the limit!

The calendar I use was generated by this pre-historic but still working CGI script: http://cgi.dit.nl/kalender.cgi (dutch). Be sure to mark “Enkel de kalender (printen)” at the bottom, and off course any other options you prefer. English versions available as well and easy to find. You can find an example here: http://www.freeprintablecalendar.net/2011/printcalendar.aspx.

  1. You start out by saying that you will explain why an analoge calendar rocks, but you end by explaining why a yearview is great. Exactly how is the fact that it’s on paper, in 1 physical location and not editable great then? Wouldn’t that same rearview in digital form be equally great or even better?

    I fail to see how creating a manual physical extra view on your calendar provides added value?

    • Of course it could be in digital form as well. Problem is I simply don’t know of any software that provides me with such functionality. I think in the best case my already existing calendar software would supply me with an extra checkbox for my appointments: [ ] show in year-view – to indicate that this is something important on a year level.

      However, your points being all valid, I think there’s something to be said for the “analogue calendar” as well. It makes it possible for you to accidentally realize something while you’re just glancing at it, while your digital app would only allow you to answer specific questions. For example, you can just look at your “analogue calendar” and realize “oh my, the cfp for conference x closes in 2 weeks already, I really need to get started with putting something together”. The digital version would not have this feature. (Why would you open your year-calendar-app and go look at it without having a specific question in mind you want answered?).

      A downside of digital versions is often that it decreases the chances of you accidentally bumping into something you didn’t know you were looking for in the first place. It happens at digital music stores instead of traditional shops, or what about the TV-guide-app that shows me the schedule for only 1 channel at a time instead of a printed TV-guide that gives me a nice overview, etc. And I think it’s also the case with this analogue year calendar.

      But as I said in the article; especially when it comes down to solutions like this there are a lot of different options, and what works great for one person might not work at all for somebody else.Some people prefer to have it in an app, some people prefer to have it printed on dead trees. I think it’s a lot about personal preference in this case.

      • Analogue… I guess it has hands. :)

        On the paper vs. app comparison, last year I used a paper calendar, which had a two-months planner at the start. It was always with me, without multiple locations issues, and it gave me a certain flexibility in writing; the only problem was that it did not slide to the current day, so in the last days of December I had a week-view instead of an year-view.
        (but, for conferences and stuff like that, I use a set of txt in Dropbox which I can grep for ’2011 or ’2011-01′.)

        • “(but, for conferences and stuff like that, I use a set of txt in Dropbox which I can grep for ’2011 or ’2011-01′.)”

          Now _that’s_ the proper geeky way to do it :-D

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