On Day Planners and Desperation.


I wrote about using a paper planner and how much I love it. Well, I bought myself a new paper planner and I love it even more now.

The new planner is really flexible and customizeable. Basically its lack of features means that you can use it in whatever way you want, and you can put different kinds of paper in it for using it for different things. It’s so flexible that I decided to look at some day planner videos on YouTube to see how other people get organized and hopefully pick up some tips.

That was the beginning of a huge rabbit hole.

They call it Planner Porn.

There is a whole community of people on YouTube displaying their planners and journals. And there are a lot of people out there who decorate their day planners like scrapbooks.

I think this is great. I think there are people for whom the reward of creative time helps motivate them to get organized and be productive. Me personally, I don’t have the time or the inclination to spend my creative time that way, and to me the need to make every day beautiful and memorable seems somehow deranged, but I encourage other people who find it rewarding to do so.

What I found really fascinating about these videos, though, is that there’s a tone of misery or desperation running under some of these videos that speaks to something very essentially human. There are people who do this who, when they talk, sound like they’re barely holding their lives together. People who put things like “shower” and “change clothes” on their daily habit trackers to make sure they’re doing basic self-care.

Full disclosure: there are days when my life gets close to unmanageable, times when I cannot keep on top of my housework. Also? If I don’t put “clip fingernails” on my to-do list, it doesn’t get done. So I want to make sure you know that I don’t think this is funny, or that I’m gawking at them.

I’m not trying to set these people up as freakshows. I don’t think there’s any call to make fun of people who are in a difficult point in their lives, or people who struggle with mental illness. (That’s why I’m not referencing specific people or posting any links to specific videos.) But I do think there’s a kind of an unspoken assumption in modern life that happiness is the default and that if you aren’t happy most of the time, there’s something wrong with you.

I don’t think that’s true. I think being a live thinking human being is a struggle more often than it isn’t. I think a lot of these people picked up the planner habit in order to rein in a life that had in whatever way become unmanageable. And if their pretty planners help them do this, I can’t blame them at all for the desperation with which the speak about the planning regimen they subscribe to, nor can I blame them for the almost religious way that they decorate them, stringing an idol with flowers and beads.

So it’s not that planners or journals are specifically for people who have this deep-seated misery. Rather, I think we all hold this tension, this unhappiness, and I think that the act of showing off a planner or journal is a weirdly intimate act that just puts that misery closer to the surface. It’s really fascinating to me, and it’s another one of those weird and wonderful things that we simply would not have without the internet.

And honestly, watching this stuff makes me feel a little less alone. It reminds me that what we’re told is “normal” really isn’t; that the days when you feel like you’re barely keeping your head above water, there’s thousands of voices crying out in desperation with you. And that’s really important for me to remember, because when I am overloaded and things fall by the wayside, I feel like an absolute freakshow, and there’s no reason for it.

Because modern life is hard on all of us in different ways.

Because we’re all people.

And being people is hard sometimes.

2 thoughts on “On Day Planners and Desperation.

  1. Kim says:

    I got sucked into all the planner porn last fall, and started bullet journaling, as an alternative practice to my lifelong habit of listmaking. It’s all in one place now. I very quickly learned that it is a rabbit hole, and my bullet journal never got pretty, but it does help me keep my life together, I think. I like the time I spend with it early in the morning. Somehow, more seems to get done when I write it down.

    1. adrennan says:

      Me too, on all counts. I love my journal, I definitely seem to get more done when using it, and I don’t think it will ever be pretty. In a way, it’s a place where I have permission to be unpretty.

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