This Old-School Desktop Staple Keeps My Entire Life on Track

published Mar 8, 2022
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Every January, I feel a little bit of anxiety about the coming year. What goals should I set this year? How will I possibly top last year? And, perhaps most worrisome, what if I fail? (Hello, imposter syndrome.) Having an entire 12 months stretched out ahead of me feels like an impossibly large blank slate to fill with accomplishments.

But through the haze of questions and doubts swirling around in my head, there’s one thing I look forward to that also helps me calm down: Shopping for a new monthly desk calendar. I typically go for a large-format calendar with one month per page so I can clearly see, track, and monitor what’s ahead. 

Even though I religiously use Google and Outlook calendars on my laptop and phone, there’s something uniquely soothing about putting pencil to paper to get my life in order. Once I have my desk calendar for the coming year, I immediately feel more organized and my dread begins to slowly ebb away.

My desk calendar is reserved expressly for macro-level organization — I don’t chart my daily to-dos or appointments on my desk, saving those instead for my digital calendars. It’s a quick, big-picture look at the commitments that really matter — at the end of each day, I can see if I’ve accomplished the absolute most critical thing(s), like deadlines for writing assignments and in-person or virtual gatherings. I also use it to prep for upcoming travels by getting work done ahead of time. 

Each evening when I prepare to leave my home office, I use a pen to make an “X” through the little square that represents today. With that done, I can officially turn my brain off and relax for the night.

Credit: Andrey_Popov/Shutterstock

Keeping my monthly commitments in plain sight at all times also helps me make progress toward one of my big goals: Saying no more often. Cliche as it sounds, the pandemic helped me understand the relationships, outings, assignments, and trips that actually make me happy. 

Over the last two years, I’ve realized I’m my best self when I’m not overcommitted in any given week — and that I used to say “yes” not because I actually wanted to do something, but because I feared missing out or felt some self-imposed obligation. My calendar helps me take a realistic, long-term approach to the week or month ahead so I can prioritize me

If I’m already meeting up with friends or attending work events two or three times in one week, my desk calendar steadfastly reminds me of my priorities and empowers me to say no to other invites or requests.

Though it’s just a few sheets of paper with a grid of lines on it, my calendar feels more like a trusted friend who makes sure I put my happiness first and helps me keep my life together. And that’s why I’ll always make space for one on my desk.