Wednesday, January 28, 2009

How to be a responsible person: Use a calendar

When I was small, I was always puzzled why adults need to use organizers to record what they need to do on a certain day.

"Why don't they just remember it? I guess adults are either too lazy to remember things or their memory is just too bad."

Well, as a student, my daily routine was pretty much fixed: wake up, breakfast, go to school, attend classes, lunch, attend some more classes, go home, do homework and sleep. If you got a mundane routine like that, of course you don't need an organizer to help you remember stuff.

After I started working for a few years, however, I experienced quite some changes to my life:
  • I began to assume more and more responsibilities beyond my full-time job
  • I got to know more and more people and have more and more events to attend
Because of these changes, there's an ever increasing number of things that I need to remember and my memory is not that reliable anymore. I started to use Google Calendar and, wow, I suddenly had 2 more GB of brain memory to use!

In Professor Randy Pausch's lecture about "Time Management", he mentioned about using a calendar because his brain didn't have space to remember things. Well, Professor Pausch was a smart guy and I'm sure he could manage to remember the stuff he needed to do if he meant to do it. However, even if he could do that, that would not have been an efficient use of his brain, and this is true for everyone.

Human beings invented tools to help them do things more efficiently. Whenever a tool is doing a task better than we can, we let the tool do it for us. Yes, maybe you can calcuate 123423 x (23438 + 9234983) / 5534328 in your brain in one minute because you're good at numbers, but I will still call you an idiot if you can use a calculator to get the answer in five seconds and you choose not to use it because you want show off how "fast"your brain is.

Similarly, organizers, paper calendar, Google Calendar, Microsoft Outlook, iPhone, etc. all do a better job than you in remembering things. Why on earth would you waste a valuable portion of your mind to remember what you have to do next Tuesday while you can use it to focus on the task you're doing now?

I don't care what calendar tool you choose to use. If you're old fashioned, use a paper calendar. If you're technology savvy, use a web based calendar like Google Calendar. As long as you find one that works for you, it's fine. The important thing is that you're not using your brain to remember any time sensitive tasks/events/appointments.

If you follow my advice, there're at least three improvements to your life:
  • You'll be more focused on the task at hand
  • You'll never forget another time sensitive task/event/appointment again
  • You'll feel that you've control over your own life because you know what lies ahead in the future
And the second point tells you why using a calendar can make you a more responsible person: if you miss an appointment or fail to complete a time sensitive task, people will think that you're irresponsible. It's that simple.

Of course, you can hire a secretary to remember things for you if you're rich. If you're poor like me, just use a dirt cheap calendar :P

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