The revision timetable was the topic of the week in one of my university subjects. Through meticulous detail, the lecturer explained how and when students should schedule their classes, study, work, essays and even play. The importance of setting hour by hour schedules for the each unit’s components was stressed: 1-hour block x3 for the reading component, 1-hour block for each lecture, various hour blocks for essay subcomponents and a just in case 1-hour block xX study buffer schedule just in case one falls behind. As I sat still listening to the lecture with feelings of mechanisation and incredulousness slowly sucking me in, a passage from Red Dwarf popped into my head:
And now he sat there, under the pink glow of his student’s table lamp, preparing to sit for the astronavigation exam for the thirteenth time. He found the process of revising so gruellingly unpleasant, so galling, so noxious, that like most people faced with tasks they find hateful, he devised a more and more elaborate way of not doing it in a doing it kind of way. In fact, it was now possible for Rimmer to revise solidly for three months and not learn anything at all.
The first week of study he would always devote to the construct of a revision timetable. Every hour of every day was subdivided into different study periods, each labelled in his lovely, tiny copperplate hand then painted over in watercolours. A different colour for each subject, the colours gradually becoming bolder and more urgent shades as the exam time approached.
The only problem was this, because the timetables often took seven or eight weeks to complete, by the time Rimmer had finished them the exam was almost on him. He’d then have to cram three months astronavigation revision into a single week. Gripped by almost a deranging panic, he then decides to sacrifice the first two days of that final week to making another timetable, this time for someone who had to pack three months revision into five days.
So I laughed, loudly and wholeheartedly. It broke the trance.
At this point little background to my passion for planners is in order. like chicks of today, I love a good planner session. My colour coded felt-tip pens prompt an auto-smile every time I unzip my (planner-only) pencil case, where chocolate freckle treasures are lay hidden. Little queues of vivid colours clutched by tiny elastic loops inviting me to touch them. Faint whiffs of sweet vanillin from the sharpened pencils bring images of old books to the mind. Gleaming miniature brass icon stencils adding tinkles of glam and magic. Little smiling babushka doll post-it-notes always so happy to see me, whilst the undercover staple-pen and scissors-pen add a healthy dose of clever utility. A little treasure chest gleefully ready to be put to use in my Erin Condren planner aiding my lists, priorities, dates and lots of tick-ready boxes. Blissful joy.
Although I allow myself to plan like a 10-year-old, I recognise it for what it is – as an indulgent, fun pursuit, the equivalent of a nail polish or spice collection. And I’m not alone in this, the planner community is the first to admit it to be a hobby. So, what gives with the uni.
I suspect right-wingers reading this blog-post would dismiss this lecture to be one more sign of an infantilised culture and the lowering of standards in education existing today. Although I don’t disagree with these assertions, I do find them to be superficial. In my past jobs, I have used every conceivable planner system to exist. Some electronic, some paper, combinations, many I have conceived and adapted and then some. Through my planner experience, I have come to understand that if not careful, planning kills creativity, amongst other issues.
Another issue with planners is that they teach dependency. Marketed as peace-of-mind yielders, the gimmick does not divulge that once a planner habit has been established it enslaves its user. The, so called, peace of mind is achieved by draining the mind of all the prompts and reminders which normally swim in our heads and keep us alert and intellectually active. Do not underestimate the importance of those prompts, they have lived in our heads to thousands of years. A brain which has been relieved of all its micro-task reminders begins to distrust its own judgment and memory. The doubt is then tunneled to more scheduling and lists until every inane and inconsequential part of life is cataloged. Fitness tasks, shopping lists, meal plans, work goals, study goals, supplements and water consumption, daily routines such as washing your face and shaving, top 3 priorities, top 7 to-dos, low priority top 10 lists begin to populate the planner. Avid planners’ lists and tasks become so numerous that many foster numerous planners to keep track of all their lists. In fact, “I cannot rest until it’s in my planner” is a common complaint with those who adopt the planner lifestyle. They also admit that the prospect of losing their planners would be terrifying, as a planner contains their “whole lives”.
Due to the religious void that has been created in the West, the modern planner has also substituted confession, where failure to tick off your daily tasks or miss an appointment sit on your “today” page like missing beads from a rosary. Naturally, whenever sinning is present disappointment ensues so the planner becomes a self-policing tool which controls your lists and schedules via guilt.
If the dependency, self-surveillance and guilt tripping wasn’t quite enough, planners also has a tendency to limit spontaneity and creativity. Imposed time restrictions suppress innovation and productivity. Has anyone ever heard of a new formula being conceived during an exam? There are valid reasons as to why tertiary education tend to substitute exams and quizzes for essays and theses. Scheduled restrictions discourage in-depth reflections because it gives users a valid reason for superficial research and understanding. In fact, the lecture I was exposed to encouraged this very notion. Throughout history, the West’s greatest philosophers, mathematicians, scientists and writers ad-libbed their time, adapting as needed, they did not interrupt their flow or restricted their research into 1-hour blocks. The most interesting thinkers of today mostly reside on youtube and in blogs – for the first time in a century or more, these venues are allowing thinkers to dedicate their lives to reflection, time constraint-free. Corporations, governments and the academia, on the other hand, are laying the building blocks for a time oppressed world and the proof is in the pudding – they’ve created a world of mediocrity.
While surfing the net, I found an interesting little formula:
don’t know what field this formula was taken from, but it does encapsulate the essence of planners – a primitive Amazon AI, formulating and coding your life so that it can predict your next purchase before you through understanding your interests and then controlling the ads you are exposed to. Planners dehumanise us into predictable NPCs. Those who understand such a basic control tool can easily use it for the purpose of manipulation – simply add another schedule or taskbar to train us to do whatever the elites want us to do. Self-inflicted serfdom.
The last issue of the planner lifestyle is the illusion of time well spent they create. Viewing all your tasks marked off and every appointment ticked off gives dopamine hits. It makes you feel as though achievement of something important, as though one has accomplished something meaningful. However, truth be known, the person has only completed everyday tasks that would otherwise still be have been completed if they had not been listed in a planner. It is called living and if you don’t partake you die or get fired.
However, planners make sure to avoid listing the truly significant moments of our lives. Perhaps a funny joke you share with your wife which made her giggle and allowed you to share a blissful moment or the soft kiss you snuck on your sleeping baby’s forehead on your way to bed or a new way to approach a work-related problem on your lunch break whilst biting into a tuna sandwich. The important stuff, human interactions and serendipitous thoughts. The younger generations who have been seduced into the planner lifestyle, are being fooled into thinking that their lists are a substitute for their atomised existence.
Since planner evolution has significantly sped up in the past decade, I cannot dismiss that it has been, at least in part, engineered. However, the propeller behind the evolution has been the cultural and religious voids which now exist in the West. The survival instinct is deeply ingrained in all living things, as such, we have a propensity to pass it on to the things we create. Our thoughts, aspirations and inventions can take on a life of their own. As their creator, we speak the same language, so they can read our desires and adapt their progression according to them. Governments, academia, corporations, technology, the educational system are all examples of how man-made systems have taken a life of their own, initially evolving to satiate our (manipulated) desires, but later evolve to out-compete humanity. We must never forget that creativity and the family unit is what separated and made the West so great and no agenda can ever replace all that we have achieved and all that we are.
Annabelle @The Art of Flag-waving