How My Annual Planner Became My Sanctuary

On obsessively writing down everything — interview appointments, deadlines, even the Indian cricket team’s touring schedule

Words by Kamakshi Ayyar

13 Dec 2018

There are few things I look forward to every year as much as buying my annual planner. It’s nothing fancy, just a simple calendar diary with a single page for each day to accommodate my giant handwriting. But as I plan my travels, goals and milestone celebrations for the coming year, that book becomes a repository of looming adventures and memories.

Planners weren’t always one of my year’s habitual highlights. For the longest time, I would use my palm as a notepad — much to the dismay of my mother — and jot down an untidy, often-illegible to-do list on my left hand. That changed five years ago when I went away for a year to study in New York. As we stocked up on stationery at the campus store, one of the first things my father put in our shopping cart was a calendar diary. I remember rolling my eyes at the time, but I guess he knew that my palm wouldn’t be big enough to tackle the demands of grad school and the challenges of living alone for the first time.

Soon enough, that book became one of the pillars of my student life. I wrote down everything — interview appointments, deadlines, the Indian cricket team’s touring schedule, when the Indian store was getting its next batch of Magic Masala.

I continued using planners even after moving back home. It got to the point where I would forget things unless I wrote them down. But more than seeing it as a crutch, I saw my planner as a sanctuary. I eagerly sought out the chance to organize my thoughts; putting them down on paper gave me a sense of order and striking each completed item off the list a sense of accomplishment. The occasional surprises I stumbled upon on random days — like the months-old note about concert tickets going on sale — made me look forward to opening the book every morning.

Most of all, though, my love for the planner stuck because I relished the chance to slow down. Yes, I could take five minutes every morning, mentally sift through my tasks for the day and quickly type them out onto my phone on my way to work. Or I take the scenic route: investing a few extra seconds in sharpening my pencil so that the point was just right, grinning as I saw Snoopy doling out wisdom on the bright red cover of my planner (“Learn from yesterday… Live for today… Look to tomorrow… Rest this afternoon”), and feeling the soft whoosh as I speedily thumbed past dates to get to the relevant page. That ritual provides a sense of (sometimes false) assuredness in what could be a manic day.

In my digitally-focused job, I choose to keep this aspect of my life adamantly analogue. I doubt I’ll give this practice up anytime soon — my schedule is set out perfectly, my mind is less cluttered and, happily for my mother, my palms are ink-free.


Kamakshi Ayyar is a journalist based in Hong Kong. She tweets at @kamakshi138.

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