Column: Planner tries to make organization easy by making it complex

Published 12:00 am Monday, August 26, 2002

&uot;Have a place for everything and keep the thing somewhere else. This is not advice, it is merely custom.&uot; &045; Mark Twain

I have never really been a very organized person. My desk at home consists of piles of memos, reminders, notes, papers and random scribblings &045; what I consider my filing system. I also have enough pens scattered around to write, by hand, more than two years’ worth of columns. Somewhere between the stacks of telephone directories, CDs (musical, data and blank) and books, I also somehow have room for a computer, which, with all the things taped to it, is beginning to look like the refrigerator in a home with children in elementary school.

Recently, I bought an office planner, in which I can keep track of my daily agenda. It has more zippers than a pair of parachute pants, for pouches in which I have no idea what to keep. In the front cover alone, it includes seven pens in three colors, a mechanical pencil, a six-inch ruler, a keychain and a small cellophane-wrapped eraser &045; enough office supplies to last me about a year. I doubt I’ll use the keychain. The planner would probably get in the way of my knees while driving. All that weight hanging from the ignition switch probably wouldn’t be very good, either.

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After that comes a calculator featuring, along its tapered edge, another ruler &045; and metric at that, just in case I have to measure something up to 14 centimeters long. Granted, I’ll have to remove the calculator from the planner to do it, but that’s not so bad. I’ll need it to convert the length back to inches &045; it’s the American way. Forget the metric system.

After all the bells and whistles comes the functional part &045; the part that is supposed to help keep me organized. It starts out with the requisite &uot;personal information&uot; section, which includes spaces to record my name, address, medical information, next of kin, religious preference, insurance information, the titles of my five favorite books, my entire work history dating back to when I delivered newspapers, what I had for supper last night, the combination to the locker I used in seventh grade, the lyrics to every song ever recorded, and my favorite color. If nothing else, it is thorough.

Next up are the calendars (yes, plural): the two-page one-year calendar for very briefly outlining important events for the year, the monthly calendars, which are blank and therefore never out-of-date; and the weekly calendars which are segmented into days and, beyond that, hours. Next up is the closely related &uot;to-do&uot; list section, which will come in handy if I ever have more than 12 things to do in any given day. That section also includes a six-inch/15-centimeter ruler (no converting necessary), which also functions as a handy bookmark. I can use that one if I lose the other two. Then there’s the address and phone number listing, which, since I have no other address book, will help at home, if not in the office.

The rest of the planner seems like it was thrown in as an afterthought. There are several pages of toll-free numbers for airlines, hotels and car rental services. Then come two pages of weights and measures, in metric and U.S. units. Although the pages fail to provide charts to convert U.S. units of measure to metric, I guess I can use them if I ever need to know how many rods are in a furlong. Then there’s a tablet marked &uot;Notes&uot; to document anything that doesn’t fit into any of the other categories.

With everything in the planner, I should be able to stay rather well organized. It’s very compact, too &045; about the size of a paperback book. Now I just have to get around to using it.

Dustin Petersen is an Albert Lea resident. His column appears Mondays.