Imagine needing an auxiliary wooden stool to reach the tall cupboard shelves. You do your research "for the best of the best", but it takes too long, and you start feeling that you are wasting your time. So instead of a tool lightening up your daily life struggles, it makes it rather harder. This is how planning, agendas and new-year resolutions can end up manipulating us too. Let me share my thoughts on that.
What are your resolutions for the new year? Do you have any? For several years, setting goals at the beginning of each year was disappointing as I rarely fulfilled them. Why so though? Were they too general and vague, or incredibly specific, that they weren't up-to-date anymore in the middle of the year? I dunno. This year, I proposed to try something different, and set a thematical word as my new year's resolution, this year I will work around the concept of "evolution". I will remind myself of it throughout 2018 and -hopefully- it will be the connective tissue in the various fields of my life; evolving the way I deal with my personal time, my human relationships, my career, etc. Fingers crossed, that this mindset will help me to classify long-term panoramic goals, when I tend to lose the forest and focus on each tree separately and in vain.
Moreover, setting in advance the foundations of a general, and be cautious here: not necessarily mandatory, plan is as redemptive as it is almost always proven. If we were, so to speak, architects of our lives and observed them from such perspective, it would be impossible every time we were asked to build a building, to approach the challenge improvisationally by starting to stack bricks on top of each other. The "design blueprints" are necessary to solve complex challenges before they even become tangible. And the reason behind this is simple, as a species, our brain does not have the computational power to create a mental model with all the possible scenarios and their consequences, and have it in an easy-to-grab mental spot (personal exceptions are excluded). Besides, such a constant mental quest sounded so tedious and stressful or is it only me? Thus, due to our brains' limited computer memory, we need organizational tools for our own convenience. And as such I intend to use this year's resolution theme word.
Speaking of plans, at a more everyday level, in 2017 I gave a chance in the bullet journaling idea as an attempt to combine my agenda, my notebook, the countless lists of obligations on keep-losing-themselves-post-its (and embarrassing me), and the inspirational sparks that I want to note somewhere before they hide again in the depths of my unconsciousness. And I found a way to make these notebooks work for me. My friend Vanessa argues that "why should I even lose time writing down what I have to do, instead of getting moving and simply doing it? I will face all the problems when they face me."And I'm sure many of you agree with her, but on the other hand, our brain has limited working memory, and I personally prefer not to consume it in remembering lists of obligations, and instead use my stream of consciousness to explore ideas that do not imply on the everyday needs of my life. So, if the agendas and notebooks are tools that make my life smoother, then I will be more than happy to use their services.
However, the oppression of their existence, and the compulsive, sometimes, worship of an efficiency that is applied not only on planning, but also people´s feelings (oh no), is the stereotype that all my non-Dutch friends in Amsterdam are embracing, to sketch the caricature of the Dutchies' pathological relationship with their planners. If you have been in the Netherlands or have Dutch friends, you must have noticed that a large majority of them are great lovers of planned daily routines. For example, in a city that everyone is constantly on the move, an easy breezy date for a glass of wine with a friend you haven´t seen for a long time can be arranged "in 4 weeks from now on Tuesday, strictly from 18:00-21:30", because afterwards they have a planned birthday party. A dense daily schedule like this is not an exception, but a daily unwritten rule.
The lack of divergence that I have noticed from the planned plans, and the slowness of taking a quick and impulsive decision on many occasions (which is also needed), is blatantly tiresome for my spontaneous self. But the other day, when I was unable to sleep, I had a flattery; the Dutchies' success, that realistically balance all sorts of activities in the short span of 24 hours, lies in the absolute control of their time, and their ability to "say no" to various pressure forces on how they should spend it. This involves taking time for themselves at the end of each day, without any panic or anxiety. This point of view has shocked me to me to my bones, because if personal success isn't being free to spend your own time as you please, without any imposition from the state or your environment, then I don't know what success is. All this time I was disagreeing with something I was agreeing with, just because I just didn't see it through the same prism of my principles.
If, however, you are not agenda or new year's resolution people, I don't blame you. All I say is if you can use them from a pile of different resources to ensure your peace of mind or the calm completion of an undertaking, then let it be. Why not, anyway?
Credits | Text & Photography: Déspina Kortesidou