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Little Black Book

February 23, 2001

While sorting through book donations, I came upon a 30-year-old book that begins “Do you have enough time?” The author had polled thousands of business executives, and every one of them answered, “No.”

I’ve struggled with this circumstance, as most of us have. When I looked at the book’s title, “The Time Trap: How to get more done in less time,” it hit me: The trap is revealed in the title itself.

The trap is the desire to get more done. It’s not the desire to do more, which is different and understandable. It’s the desire to be done with more, to put more of your present in the past, to cross items off a list. It’s like wishing your life away.

For a while, I lived out of a little black book. Actually, it was a rather large book for a daily planner, being 8.5×11 inches. It was an “Uncalendar” by People Systems, a clever and flexible layout of lines, boxes, grids, and columns that coaxed you toward a particular use but didn’t require it.

I used it to plan, but mostly to remember. It was close to a perfect planner for me, but not quite. So, restless, I began a quest. I mentioned my quest to Jamie LaRue, Director of the Douglas Public Library District, and he said, “Oh, I’ve done the research.” You can see his report at http://douglas.lib.co.us/your_community/dc_newspress/lc97/0521.htm

Jamie had designed his own planner, and I undertook to do the same. I couldn’t find the small, 3-ring binder I wanted, so I called around to suppliers to see if I could buy the 3-ring hardware. I found a place that sold them, but in lots of 3,000. I wanted just one. The friendly gal sent me an official “sample” of a dozen.

I then went to the local saddlemaker, and he fashioned a leather cover and riveted the hardware to it. Then I went to the local seamstress, my sister, and she made a nylon pouch with pockets to hold pens, floppy disks, and so forth.

I used tabbed dividers to mark the customized sections of my planner and made my own calendar pages. It was neat. It was flexible. I used it for two years, but then I decided, rather boldly, that I was tired of living out of a little black book. I stopped altogether.

This led to my current sad state, during which I have been rightly mocked for the yellow sticky notes in various states of adhesion around my computer screen. I tried a desktop blotter/calendar, but I couldn’t keep it clear. Last September, I uncovered it, still showing the month of May, and removed it.

I looked at organizing software, since I work at a computer throughout the day, but none of it fit me. I didn’t want to adapt.

I looked over some of my old Uncalendars and decided that I had actually used it quite well. It was like a daily journal written in shorthand. Notes had a provenance and a chronology. They had a place on the page, a place in the year. So, I ordered a new one, with Forest Green cover.

Maybe I’ll do more, maybe I won’t, but at least I’ll remember to choose. And you can remember to look for “The Time Trap” in the next book sale at the end of April. Five free books if you buy it. I expect you’ll find time to read them.

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