Thursday, 11 November 2010

The Diary Gap

I've fallen into the Diary Gap.  It happens every year about this time, because if you don't buy one early, all the best ones are gone.  I always buy my mother-in-law a diary for Christmas, so that invariably gets me started. 

This year, as every year, I am in a conundrum about what to purchase.  I've always been a bit of an obsessive about personal organisers, and I've been through several different versions, manufacturers, binders, and methods, but I always find myself fed up with the bulkiness of them.  Personal organisers, especially Filofaxes, are about playing the role of the suit-wearing professional, the City type.  I've found from bitter and expensive experience that they just don't work for my (short attention span) personality.

For several years I used the lovely Mslexia Diary.  It has lots of very useful features.  And it makes you feel like a Proper Writer, especially when you get one out in company.  (Although its hilarious at a writers' meeting when the subject of booking future meeting dates to find that everyone gets out their own matching copy!) The thing is with the Mslexia diary is that despite its many laudible and interesting features (it doubles as a book to read on the train, it's got so much information in it), its rather big, and it won't fit in my handbag.  Perhaps I should mention that because I have a lot of shoulder pain, I limit myself to a small cross body handbag which  carries very little weight, so portability is an important consideration for me.

For 2010, I decided to go back to the Collins slimline diary I had used with some success years ago.  It fitted into my bag, but it still took up quite a lot of space, so I found I tended not to carry it with me.  I left it floating around at home.  I lost it for a while a month or so back, and I was utterly at sea without this central compass for my life.  I realised that a diary is as crucial a way to navigate my life as my watch is (and I almost went nuts when my old watch broke and for three weeks in September I didn't have the money to buy a new one!).  But the problem is that the ones on the market don't do what I need them to do.

I am a creative person without a job, but with a serious illness.  I have to keep track of my days, but I don't need and hour-by-hour appointments section, a huge contacts resource (I have an address book at home for that), or project management, meeting outcomes and actions forms, and goal regimen sheets.  All these things stress me out utterly.  What is more, I want a non-bulky binder that is soft and satisfying to handle but doesn't cost a fortune.  I don't need road atlas pages, but a tube map is always handy if you carry your diary with you in London on day trips.  But then, who wants to lug a diary around on a day trip when you are planning to concentrate on having fun?

Other things I'd find useful?  Well, weekly menu planners would be nice.  A sheet of emergency contact numbers for things like plummers and the doctor.  How about a list of novels I want to read?  A section with inspiring quotes?  Sections devoted to the different areas of my life, like art, writing, blogging, healing, spirituality? A list of items I'd like to save up for?  I want pages that don't have watermarked flowers on them, which is distracting to write on, and a month-on-a-page planning sheet ahead of the weekly pages of each month, so I can see how my month will pan out, when I need to block in rest days, and to keep track of my medication.  And I need to be able to take out and add pages where they suit me.

Is this a lot to ask?  Apparently it is.  Because it looks like I am going to have to build my own planner this year, as its the only way I am going to get what I need, and what works for me.

How do you choose your annual diary?  Are you a pen and paper addict like me, or do you go the electronic route? What features are utterly essential to you, and what do you find utterly superfluous?  Add a comment and let me know your thoughts, because maybe, just maybe, we can come up with the perfect creative person's planner system.....


  1. I hadn't even thought about needing a new diary until this week when we're sorting out Christmas and New Year shifts and I realised my diary stops.... :(

    I use a bog-standard one from W.H.Smith but I might get a more interesting one this year. All I use mine for is writing in work hours and appointments and what I'm doing - it serves as a record for what I did on a particular day, but not in any more depth than, say, 'cinema at 7.30'.

    I was going to suggest a soft-cover moleskine but you can't take pages out and they layout is fairly boring and standard. I was just looking on amazon's diaries page and came across this:
    I don't know if it would put you in the right mind to get stuff done though, it being for procrastinators and stuff! But it looked kind of fun!

    I think the only definitive way to get exactly what you need is to make it - maybe diary publishing could be a side-arm of the publisher we set up to print 'omlette the cat goes quantity surveying'!

    Sorry, this is a massive comment.....

  2. In a desperate attempt to get organised last year, I bought something very similar to this little diary.

    Like you, I only have a teeny-tiny handbag so my only specification was that my organiser be A6 in size.

    For the price, it's been awesome! Containing: UK holiday lists, metric conversion tables, clothing sizes (incl. gloves), standard world times, useful phone numbers, notes, UK milage chart, wedding anniversary symbols, lists of birthstones and flowers and a relitively fat notes section. This little book has kept me in good order for 2010.

    2011 stands to be a little less interesting - my diary came as a freebe from my union. Whilst I appreciate the gesture - and the fact that the book is rather slim-line - I'd rather not spend any time waiting for the bus/train/AA man reading about work policies.

    I just wish I'd used my Very Hungry Caterpillar diary when it was still 2009...