The Discomfort Zone – Penciling It In

Kate Hicks

I don’t do New Years’ resolutions. They’re just too cliché (read: I gave up a few years back because, invariably, I fall off the boat within two weeks). But this semester, I decide to break tradition and when I return to campus, I make one resolution: to use my planner.

I know. This is hardly revolutionary, and in fact provides you with a sad commentary on my life. Given the fact that I actively participate in six different organizations on campus, take the standard four classes, have a job, and have to keep track of lunch dates galore, I marvel at the fact that I managed to survive last semester without writing down anything, ever. I often had to sweet-talk my way out of missing meetings or dates, and I even missed my interview time for a study abroad group. Smooth, right?

Not this spring. I arrive on campus resolved to use the small purple book I bought last August at Target for $15. That’s money I can’t afford to throw away, and I’m fairly certain I’m running the risk of losing friends if I miss one more lunch date. Plus, I don’t want to waste some 200 pages of paper. My wallet, the Earth and my social life depend on this stupid book.

I’ve collected all the syllabi for my classes, have calendars of events and meetings for my different clubs, and line up times for working (and even a recurring breakfast date!). It’s unavoidable. If I want to lead an organized life, I have to know what the heck I’m supposed to be doing. So, on Thursday, I sit in my favorite corner in the Coop, blast some Ben Kweller on my iPod, and write it all down.

When purchasing notebooks and such for the semester, I accidentally bought a package of colorful pens, and at the last second, I get the brilliant idea to use those. Color-coding! Think of the organizational properties! Now, I don’t even have to read the notation — I just have to look at the color and I’ll know what I need to do! Now the problem lies in deciding what colors to use for what activities.

First, I decide to use pink for exams or paper due dates. Pink, like homework, is obnoxious. Using this highly visible color is like insurance against missing due dates. If I wrote “term paper due” in black ink, it would blend in with all the other days. But pink? You can’t miss it. Perfect. One category down.

Next, I use orange to denote any longstanding dates with friends – getting coffee at the library with Kim, Monday morning breakfast with Chelsea, and Parkside with Alex for lunch, for example. Orange is also bright, but in a fun, non-blinding way. Bright and fun equals time with friends! And for extra measure, I use orange to show how many meals I have left each day, so I don’t accidentally use them all before Thursday and have to starve or worse, use cash. Now I’ll keep my friends and be able to feed myself! Man, I’m on a roll!

The remaining three colors go in similar fashion. Blue I use to mark off recurring meetings for different groups, purple for days when I work, and green for anything related to my sorority. When I finish, every day until spring break has some sort of colorful notation, and I haven’t even added in ordinary homework.

By the time I get through the weekend, I realize that I have developed a dependence on this book. Whenever anyone asks if I can meet at a certain time, I whip out my planner first thing, and write it in (in the proper color, naturally). I no longer run the risk of missing anything because I accidentally washed the meeting time off of my hand. In fact, I think I cut my stress level in half simply by writing down what I need to do.

The more I think about this, however, the more concerned I get about the fact that I consider using my planner innovative. I suppose my resolution of “writing it down” is just a euphemism for “acting like an adult.” That’s alright, though; everyone must start somewhere. The real question is under what color does growing up fall?