I waved goodbye to my fancy electronic label maker and two blank label cartridges this week. The tiny machine once seemed like a perfect fit for this woman who loves order, bins and labels, but I seldom used it. Marker vs. label maker? That thick, permanent marker won again and again with no tapes to load or instructions to review if it sat idle for awhile. Not as pretty, that marker, but oh-so-simple.
A quiet tyranny sometimes hides in labels and lists. Organizing systems can help us or steal more time than they give. Lists can be a substitute for taking action; procrastination can rest unwritten between the lines of all those to-dos.
When leather-bound calendar/organizers were all the rage (an era also known as the mid-1990s), I attended a seminar sponsored by my favorite brand at the time, led by one of the company’s certified trainers. I thought the instructor – let’s call him “Bill” – sounded like William Shatner in both tone and intensity.
As I recall, one portion went something like this: “And what would you do” (pause) “if money and” (pause) “TIME” (pause) “were not holding you back?” (pause) “Where would you” (pause) “go?”
Soon I understood the full-day length of the presentation, as accessories were introduced, and accessories for the accessories, and an inticate rating system for tasks, on and on. An instrumental soundtrack may have been ebbing and flowing gently in the background, but I’m not sure, as my memory of the event has faded. Perhaps I should have written a synopsis in my planner. And dated it. And filed it. And lugged it back and forth as I’ve moved across the country, to be excavated now for this post.
Two decades later, I can say Bill was right. We need to stop and consider what matters to each of us, from goals and dreams to small-but-important tasks. I don’t think he told us days could slip through our fingers as they raced along into months and years, but that seems true to me now.
A woman raised her hand during the Q&A portion. “How can we get other people to use [the system]? My husband…”
The answer? “When people in your family” (pause) “see how happy you are” (pause) “and the way your life has changed, then…” Heads around me nodded.
Despite the eloquent invitation to become a calendar/organizer missionary, I remained unconverted. But I did enjoy using that planner for many years.