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January 3, 2017 /

GratiTuesday: A Blank Slate for a New Year

After my husband and I retired several years ago, we looked around a bit to find a good system for keeping track of our day-to-day lives. When we worked, we took advantage of our Outlook calendars on our office computers. Along with scheduling our business-related meetings, travel, and deadlines, we also noted doctor appointments, get-togethers with friends, and other non-work life events. Since we were on our work computers all day and they were linked up with our cellphone calendars, it was easy to keep everything straight.

Once we both were retired, we found ourselves missing a few important dates, including a quarterly tax payment due date (oops). That expensive mistake made us realize that we needed a system to help us manage our schedules. After several unsuccessful attempts at using fancy apps and digital assistants that others had recommended, we found that nothing had the same ease and appeal for us than just a simple desk calendar.


Now, after three years, we still swear by our yearly date books. We have found that not only do they help us manage our schedules in the current year, but the calendars from prior years can be a valuable tool to help us remember past events that our grey matter has lost. When did we take that trip? How long has it been since I’ve seen the dentist, where were we last February? – it’s all there for us in writing.

Now, it’s time to file away our 2016 calendar and start a new one for 2017. I’ve already jotted down a few appointments, important due dates (including quarterly taxes), and upcoming trips, but most of the 365 squares are blank and waiting to be filled.

I am so grateful to have this blank slate in front of me: empty of words but full of possibilities. Although it looks pretty bare now, I’m looking forward to all the special occasions, interesting classes, and exciting adventures that will soon start appear on its pages.



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  1. dconnollyislandgmailcom / Jan 3 2017 6:01 pm

    Hi, Janice –
    Richard and I had the same “calendar-less” dilemma when we left our positions. Like you, we tried a couple of different systems (including pen and paper planner). We finally settled on ‘Calendar Pro for Google’ on our laptops which syncs perfectly with Google Calendar on our iPhones and is easy to share whatever dates we like between the two of us. At $2.79 Canadian it was a heck of a deal.
    I totally know the feeling of sitting with a blank-ish calendar at the beginning of the year — thinking of all of the possibilities that lie ahead. It is actually quite exciting. Good luck in filling in some terrific upcoming dates.

    • / Jan 4 2017 9:29 am

      I do miss the ability to check my calendar on my phone when I’m out and about like I had at work. But, I really like being able to easily access my paper calendar at home when I need it. We may try other systems in the future… I guess whatever works is the best one to use.

      • dconnollyislandgmailcom / Jan 4 2017 9:42 am

        Hi, Janice – I had the same dilemma and was using a paper calendar at the beginning of last year. Although I also had a paper pocket calendar in my backpack/purse I missed the ease of the system that I had when I worked. I then found that Calendar Pro was totally printable so I have a paper copy on my fridge (which I have been using less and less, as I get used to have a phone/computer app again). If you do consider another system (and use Google and iphone) consider giving Calendar Pro a try.

  2. K.L. Allendoerfer / Jan 3 2017 6:51 pm

    We still use Google calendar, but for years I’ve also had a paper calendar, from “More Time Moms” for the family’s activities. I like looking back at the old ones a lot!

    • / Jan 4 2017 9:31 am

      Online calendars would certainly be neater – I was kind off embarrassed to show the picture of my messy paper calendars. 😄

  3. Liesbet / Jan 3 2017 8:38 pm

    Less is more! And, using the most simplest way to keep track can be the most valuable and satisfying way! Every December, I create a calendar for my parents, Mark’s parents and my Oma (maternal grandma) for the new year. It has a photo of us in exciting surroundings on the top part and a blank calendar part on the bottom, where they can fill in events, meetings and reminders. It is our Christmas gift to our loved ones and they love it and see us every month this way. 🙂 As for us, we have so little going on that we can keep track of it in our minds…

    • / Jan 4 2017 9:37 am

      That sounds like a lovely gift! I wish I could keep things straight in my head but that would be dangerous… we’d be missing all sorts of appointments and over-scheduling ourselves. My memory just ain’t what it used to be…

  4. Anabel Marsh / Jan 4 2017 1:00 am

    We both use the iPhone / iPad calendar. It does worry me a bit about what would happen if Apple went down the tubes, though I sync with Outlook on my desktop so I suppose it would be retrievable. Paper has its advantages!

    • / Jan 4 2017 9:39 am

      We don’t have Outlook anymore, but we are considering buying it, if only for the email interface. Maybe if we get it well go back to that calendar system, but I’d worry that we’d forget to look. It’s just too easy to look at our paper calendar next to our phone and charging area.

  5. Denise / Jan 4 2017 4:46 am

    I love the desk calendar that my financial advisor sends me each year. And I keep all the old ones for reference. I hate having everything tied to my computer.

    • / Jan 4 2017 9:44 am

      Another paper devotee! I don’t like having everything tied to my computer either. At work it was always on and in front of me. Now that I’m retired, not so much.

  6. rporter610 / Jan 4 2017 5:24 am

    I’m with you. I’ve refused to give up my date book and paper hanging calendars. They are the best evidence for me and my tax and other records.

    • / Jan 4 2017 9:48 am

      Since I’ve discovered how handy the calendars of prior years are for keeping track of events, I note more than just appointments and events. I also write beginning and ending dates of projects (such as refinishing our floors) and anything else that might be good to know in the future.

  7. Joanne Sisco / Jan 4 2017 5:27 am

    I’ve never come out of the Dark Ages. Although I used an electronic calendar for work, I’ve always had a calendar on the fridge. That calendar is my go-do. You’re right – at the beginning of the year it looks so empty, but by the end of the year it is a summary of everything that happened 🙂

    • / Jan 4 2017 9:50 am

      I guess we are fellow Dark Age dwellers! It was fun to look back at 2016 before starting 2017… we did more than we thought!

      • Joanne Sisco / Jan 4 2017 10:16 am

        … and no electronic calendar is going to give you the same end of year visual.
        It’s not just the events on the calendar that tell a story … it’s the scribbled notes, the cross-outs, and arrows for things rescheduled. All of those miscellaneous bits of handwriting each tell a story.
        Electronic calendars are neat and tidy, but paper calendars breathe life 🙂

        • / Jan 4 2017 10:26 am

          Yes! I noticed how messy my calendars were when I took the picture, but it really is part of the story, isn’t it?

          • Joanne Sisco / Jan 4 2017 10:36 am

            It’s the best part of the story 🙂

  8. Lynn / Jan 4 2017 6:44 am

    I still love my day book too! Although I do attempt to enter appointments into my phone calendar, my fall back is always to paper!

    • / Jan 4 2017 9:53 am

      We found ourselves using both online and paper systems for awhile too until we decided that we are much better just using paper.

  9. Kate Crimmins / Jan 4 2017 6:54 am

    I did paper for a while but went back to the Outlook on my computer. I can sync up with my husband and it works but I miss the historical version for reference. You can go back in Outlook but unfortunately, it seems our computers only last 4 to 5 years and there is no cloud (that I am aware of) for Outlook. There are scary times when my computer goes down and I wonder if I have something going on that I am missing.

    • / Jan 4 2017 9:59 am

      Syncing between my husband and me is probably the biggest barrier to using a digital calendar. Having one calendar right in front of our faces is the only way we can coordinate our schedules. I’d also miss the history paper calendars provide.

  10. Terri Webster Schrandt / Jan 4 2017 7:52 am

    There is something so wonderful about a paper calendar. We still keep track via ecalendars, but I have a big wall calendar in the kitchen I got in Yosemite, with gorgeous photos. All of our “big” dates that impact us both are jotted down there. Even my pets’ monthly flea treatments are there, lol! Love your idea of the blank slate waiting to be filled.

    • / Jan 4 2017 10:07 am

      If I used two systems, I’d be afraid of noting an appointment on one calendar and missing it because I looked at the other calendar … which is one reason we decided to just use the paper date book. The important thing is to find a system that works for you best.

  11. patwdoyle11 / Jan 4 2017 9:50 am

    I went full electronic a couple of years ago, but now find myself writing out a weekly one pager for myself, where I fill in errands and small to-do’s on the days. So I guess I’m a combination! I love the idea of blank slate possibilities looking forward!

    • / Jan 4 2017 10:12 am

      Your comment reminded me that I would often print out my work Outlook calendar for the week so I could have it in front of me and make notes on it as the week went on. So even then I liked having a paper calendar. I guess I’m just hopelessly old school. 😄

  12. snakesinthegrass2014 / Jan 4 2017 5:40 pm

    I guess we’re like Terri in that we have a hybrid of both “e” and paper calendars. But it ends up being a collective of two-and-two. Two paper and two electric, so even that is and can be confusing. Somehow it works, but I suspect we’re still a work in progress. When there is a conflict or confusion, it’s agreed that whatever I’ve noted is probably correct because my wife’s record keeping is suspect. Perhaps in a year or two more we’ll have it figured out. I’m glad you and your husband have it more together. 🙂 – Marty

    • / Jan 5 2017 11:05 am

      I’m the record-keeper in our family (calendar-wise, he’s much better with the finances). I’m afraid that if we had multiple calendars things would start falling through the cracks rapidly. The important thing is to use whatever system(s) work and stick to it.

  13. Joe / Jan 4 2017 10:00 pm

    Happy New Year, Janis. Es and I have been enjoying our break from the blogging world, but also look forward to filling some of our empty squares in 2017. All the best, Joe

  14. susan@onesmallwalk / Jan 5 2017 8:13 am

    There’s nothing like hand-writing dates on a calendar. I’m not as good as I should be, though, and too often I’ll mention something I need to do on a certain day, Bruce will go over to the wall calendar and say “No, it’s not written down” as if only things in ink on the calendar will ever exist. Ahh, retirement.

  15. Ann Coleman / Jan 5 2017 7:22 pm

    Blank slates (and blank calendar dates) are full of possibilities! Personally, I’m still looking for a small calendar that I can put in my purse. Until then, I am truly free!

    • / Jan 5 2017 8:40 pm

      I remember those little pocket calendars that doctors and dentists used to give out… I haven’t seen them for years. Good luck in your search… or maybe it’s better to be free!

  16. Ally Bean / Jan 6 2017 5:00 am

    I use an old Franklin datebook calendar system to keep track of my life. Always have. My husband uses an app of some sort. Dunno which one. Somehow between the two of us we make it work and rarely miss things. I’ve thought about trying something computer-y but so love my current system that I’ve never felt motivated to get with the times. As long as paper exists, I’ll cling to my little Franklin planner.

    • / Jan 7 2017 11:51 am

      I remember when I was working, a lot of colleagues took a company-sponsored course on organizing their work lives using a Franklin Covey planner. The ones who followed the program swore by it and I was impressed that they were able to keep everything straight using just one book. Now that our lives are a bit simpler, having the one desk calendar that we both use serves us well.

      • Ally Bean / Jan 7 2017 12:15 pm

        You got me! Husband & I both took those courses. With me parts of the system stuck, but he thought the whole thing was nonsense. Whatever works, works, you know?

  17. Still the Lucky Few / Jan 6 2017 4:56 pm

    It’s so funny to see that other people are using the ‘ole fridge calendar’! After years of working, and using date books, Outlook, and all sorts of other attempts to keep myself organized, it’s a relief, after many years of retirement, to simply keep a calendar on the fridge and mark my appointments on it! It took a bit of ‘letting go’, and acknowledging that nothing I was doing was so very important, but once I got going on it, I love it—minimalism at its’ best!

    • / Jan 7 2017 11:55 am

      I am a bit surprised to find so many people using good ‘ole paper to keep their schedules straight. I thought I might learn that my little calendar system is old fashioned and quaint. Maybe it is, but I seem to have a lot of company.

  18. Green Global Trek / Jan 7 2017 9:55 am

    I have used an old fashioned pen and paper organiser for years… anything online just does not match up to having it all in front of you real time. I like writing, doodling and all that space to fill in…

    • / Jan 7 2017 11:59 am

      The paper calendar becomes not only a written record of our schedules, but also a nice, sometimes, messy, visual representation of our lives. Online calendars don’t have any personality.

  19. Leah / Jan 11 2017 3:29 am

    Hi Janice,

    My longest career (30+ years) taught me to us a lesson plan book. Hallmark -no affiliation- also had little pocket calendars they gave away. I continued to use both paper types but slowly migrated to onlne lesson plan apps and my computer calendar. I continued with the paper pocket calendar but with my rewired new jobs, I also used whatever electronic calendar came with my mini iPad. Imagine my surprise when I opened the electronic calendar and IT WAS BLANK! I tried to find a fix but there was none to be found. Yes, it is easy to click a date from an email and have it on a computer/tablet device but I am going to stick with old-school pen and paper….just hope I don’t lose that. 😱

    • / Jan 15 2017 5:31 pm

      That’s a fear of mine too! Either I’ll forget to look, the data will just disappear, or one of us will write something in some app or data base that the other doesn’t access. Old school works for me and helps keep me sane and organised. Why complicate something that works?

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