This year, for the first time in a long time, I bought a day planner. I toted it everywhere and put stickers on it and felt nice and solid and analog. I still kept my electronic calendar on my laptop and phone, but paper felt better for seeing the bigger picture.
The day planner I bought has lots of spaces for to-do lists, pages in the back for sketching out long-term plans, a yearly calendar inside the cover where I keep track of the books I read and movies we see. It turns out that for me, the day planner works great for everything except planning days. Because I realized at some point that I need a record not just of what I’m supposed to be doing, but what I actually do.
If you just looked at my calendar, with all those work sessions dutifully blocked out, it would look like I’m fully on task every moment. But lots of times, when I’m supposed to be writing, I’m plunging down some rabbit hole of music on Spotify. When I’m supposed to be doing research, I’m scrolling through Twitter. When I’m supposed to be exercising, I’m taking a nap.
So in 2018 I’ve decided to use my day planner as a reverse calendar. At the end of every day, I’m going to block out how I really spent my time.
I’ve been using a Fitbit for a couple of years now as a tool to lose weight and get in shape. The most useful part of the Fitbit for me is the daily log, where you have to write down what you eat every day. It calculates the calories you take in and compares them to what you’ve burned. Just knowing that I would have to write down a cheeseburger and fries keeps me away (most days) from a cheeseburger and fries. What I’m hoping is that, if I know I might have to write down three hours of “randomly paged through social media,” it’ll keep me from doing it in the first place.
This also got me thinking of the idea of a reverse horoscope. I still look up my horoscope every day in the newspaper, out of habit, the same way I read the comics even though I haven’t laughed at Hagar the Horrible since I was 9. The horoscopes in the Observer give you a sentence or two and a star rating. Here’s mine for this morning:
CAPRICORN: Get out and have some fun. A makeover will be rejuvenating. Someone from your past will offer insight. 5 stars.
(I’m going to lay pretty steep odds against that makeover.)
But what if you had to write up your horoscope at the END of the day, based on what you actually did? Some days it might be embarrassing: You didn’t shower until after lunch, which was peanut butter and crackers. You spent an hour looking at dog toys on eBay. You do not currently own a dog. 1 star.
So these are a couple of my goals for the new year: Fill out the reverse calendar and see how I really use my time. Write a reverse horoscope and be honest about how I really spend my days.
Maybe that’s what they mean by a makeover. THE STARS ARE RIGHT AFTER ALL.