Time management


I have a thing about stationery shops. I love them. My own personal heaven is browsing amongst the pens and post-its, notebooks, diaries, journals and correspondence cards.

So what is my fascination with stationery in general, and filofaxes in particular? Perhaps it’s the idea that I could be in control of my time if only I have the right container for my life. It’s an irresistible idea, isn’t it? To have fresh, virgin pages on which to map out the days and weeks in an orderly fashion and have everything I need in one small, zipped Finsbury. Pen, pencil, business cards, notepaper, diary, stamps, addresses … in short, a portable office: genius. I think it is the lure of orderliness that captures my imagination.

The only bit of the filofax that is missing is the electric cattle prod that actually makes me obey what is mapped on its lovely pages. I steadfastly believe that writing everything in a neat hand is enough. The crucial step for me is to refer to the diary and do what it says at the nominated time. That’s the bit where the whole system falls apart for me. I can plan and structure to my heart’s content, but sometimes, when it comes to making things actually happen, my inner child digs its heels in and baulks at being told what to do. Creative people rebel. Obsessed by the passing of time, I can sometimes waste it by the bucketload.

It is a constant worry for me: am I doing the right thing, the most important thing? There is always the nagging fear at the back of my mind that I might be devoting valuable time focusing on the wrong thing. I suppose that’s why I adore my zipped-up red filofax. I can contain my whole life within its leather covers and know at any given moment where I should be and what I should be doing and tick each item off when I have done it at the appointed hour. I suppose it gives me the illusion of control and shuts out the inconvenient truths of illness, deaths, accidents, surprises and other unscheduled distractions. As John Lennon put it, “Life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans.” A filofax symbolises the need to impose order on a chaotic life. That’s presumably why they sell like hotcakes to people like me.

I need the red filofax to ensure I keep stepping doggedly towards the goals I set for myself, in spite of the distractions. Keeping the goals in sight, but having the flexibility to dance around what actually happens is the trick, it seems to me. I only get this little bit of time, so I may as well do something useful with it.

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