Monday, June 1, 2009


#152, Fort Greene, Brooklyn

"Buying books would be a good thing if one could also buy the time to read them in: but as a rule the purchase of books is mistaken for the appropriation of their contents." --Arthur Schopenhauer
Any book lover can attest to this: when we buy books, we think we're buying the time to read them. That's what makes it so seductive. The same holds true with art supplies, office supplies, organizational tools, and so on. I can't tell you how many times I've bought a new planner or date book and, by doing so, been flooded with a sense of immediate organization: THIS will be the year that I actually stick to a system, I tell myself. Rolodex, Moleskine, At-a-Glance, you name it, I've tried it. No matter what the product name, the same thing happens: I fill in a few dates and deadlines, carry the pretty new planner around with me proudly for the first week, resentfully for week two, then forget it entirely during the third, at which point I'll live happily on Post-it note reminders, frantic impromptu to-do lists and memory until ten months later, when the new planners come out and I start the whole process all over again.

Until now. Recently, I stumbled on a post at Notebookism. com that outlined a system for tracking projects and to-do lists that was so simple it was deceptive. It resembled your average tick-box to-do list, with one main exception. There were circles instead of boxes, and instead of two options - done or undone - it broke it down into pieces. You could cancel, delegate, do things halfway, or prioritize. Brilliant, really. Here's a sample. You can read more about the system here if you want, but basically, that's it. Simple, visually striking, and effective.

After looking at this pleasing system, I decided to try it out with my numbers. After all, it's mass chaos in here with hundreds of collected photos, some gems and some stones. I started using an At-a-Glance monthly calendar, bought cheap at an office supply store, that actually tells you what day you're on - one of those dubious features like the "Useful Information" conversion tables in marble composition books that tell me how to convert quarts into gallons when what I really need is how to fix Chapter 11 of my novel-in-progress for crying out loud. For example, you can see right away that June 1st = 152 (but you already knew that, didn't you?). This has been immensely handy for making sure I have my upcoming posts prepped, and for helping me panic rationally when I don't.

In my case, I also write the day's number in larger font so I can easily see what numbers I might need in coming weeks. Here, a blackened circle means "got it," an empty circle means, "I don't got it," and a half-circle means, "I got it, but it ain't great; do better." So there you have it. Today's 152 is half-empty or half-full, depending on how you look at it. This project's been a good one to remind me that sometimes a process can be just as interesting to dissect as a product. And if you're intrigued by the circle system, give it a whirl. It's free and it doesn't eat up time, so you'll have more time to spend procrastinating doing the things you really want to do.

Skeptical? Converted? Flabbergasted? Do tell.


Jackie said...

Oh, T. This is why we're friends. :)

Just think of what one could do with the addition of color coding to that circle system...

Therese Cox said...

Jackie, I think my head would blow up if I did that right now. Let me sleep on it, at least.

But yeah. Totally.

Julie said...

Good to see the diary; some method in what must be madness.