A New Diary

A short blog today – there is far too much on for me to spend too much time here.

I have, over the years, tried out a load of different types of planner and diary. In between writing a novel or two, you understand.

Just the novels. I've not included all the foreign ones!

Just the novels. I’ve not included all the foreign ones!

Many years ago, I was determined to keep a diary so I would be able to look back in my white-haired dotage and peer with vague stirrings of memory at my writing and recall ancient emotions. I bought a five year journal, and almost kept up with it for one year.

The trouble is, I’ve never been disciplined enough to keep scribbling about my own life. It just doesn’t work like that for me.

However, when I was in business, I was introduced to a number of new systems to make life easier.

Yes, I started out with a rubbish series of annual diaries (each pathetically designed and printed on terrible, cheap paper). Then, one day in Bentall’s Department Store in Kingston-upon-Thames, where I worked at the time (Wordplex, Greencoat House), I discovered the absolute joy of the French diaries made by Quo Vadis.

At last I had a diary I could use as a salesman. It was designed for people like me. Good, sequential time slots for meetings, I could plan the time to get to each meeting, and each week had a notes section, forward planning, things to do, and a little tear-off corner so that getting to the current week was a doddle. I loved those diaries. I bought several while I was in Kingston.

But we change. When I moved to Wang it wasn’t so easy to find the Quo Vadis diaries. And Wang Labs being the forward-thinking firm it was, there were diaries set up on the computers. Wonderful. I started goin electronic … lost meetings, forgot where I was meant to be, and bought a cheap Collins diary again.

Which was what I stayed with. I tried Filofax. I tried a number of different systems, but always fell down because if there was one thing I was dreadful at, it was duplicating all the tasks from an annual plan to a weekly plan to a daily action sheet. I hate duplication – always have. But I dislike electronics for diaries.

I did have a lot of fun with Day Runner. That was like a Filofax, but when I used it originally, it was a tiny less-than-A5 leather book, and gradually I got the full A5 and then the A4. It was lovely, and I used them until the fateful day, in my 13th year as a salesman, when I lost my 13th job. (I hasten to add that for ten years I had two jobs: 5 years Wordplex, then 5 years at Wang – but then the recession hit, and every firm went bust.)

Suddenly, I didn’t have a need for a diary. If I was going to London, it was for a meeting with my editor. And since that happened once a year, roughly, I didn’t need to diarise (yes, I hate that word too – why did I use it?) events much.

But gradually, over the years, the planning and needs for a diary have grown. I’ve been called to give talks at libraries, called to work on panels in festivals and conventions, been called to travel to Italy or Idaho, been asked to work with other authors arranging workshops, or – now – working with students in Exeter University and helping them with their writing.

And this means more careful planning again. I have to use my time effectively.

Which brings me to Chronodex by Scription, and Patrick Ng.

Chronodex - I use stickers to put into my Midori Traveller's Notebook.

Chronodex – I use stickers to put into my Midori Traveller’s Notebook.

Some time ago, while looking over the Fountain Pen Network’s wonderful pages (I’m a sad old git, I know), I found Chronodex reviewed. It sounded weird and really rather daft, but I looked at it, got hooked, and started playing with it.

It’s a simple idea. It assumes that not everyone thinks sequentially. This is very true of creative-types like me. I don’t like a series of sequential blocks running down or along a page. It looks daunting and odd. Mainly because my time slots aren’t equal. My 8-9.00 slots are narrower and less usable than my 9-10.00 and later. Sounds silly? Yes, it is. But my mind functions better later. An equal spacing doesn’t work for me.

But a circle of time does. It just looks right somehow.

Chronodex works on the basis that it’s an analogue clock design. You start at the 12 o’clock at the top, and then there is the 3.00 to the right, the 6.00 at the bottom, and 9.00 on the left. Simple enough. And works for  a 12 hour period, obviously.

No. Because we never use an entire 24 hour clock for our working days, do we? We function hardest over about an eight hour working cycle, with much of the day set to travel or rest periods. So the great thing about Chronodex is, it actually starts with a little inner ring before 6.00 a.m., and then from 9-21.00 it is working through the day. After 9.00 p.m., there is space for essential social time as well.

I know, I have explained it a little poorly, but the main thing is, it just works. You pick the period of the day you want, and block it out, adding comments above, below, to the side – wherever. Because it’s analogue and the periods are based on a clock’s face, it is easy to see at a glance what is happening and when.

After using it for really very little time, I’m getting used to it quickly. And for the year, I’m using a larger version to block out the periods of essential work and which projects I’m working on at any time.

Of course, I don’t need it every day. Which is why I have had the Chronodex scheme printed onto labels. Most days my diary only has a single entry. But occasionally, I stick one in my diary pages and then I can use it for that day. When I’m back at University, that’ll change. I’ll be using it every day again by then, I expect.

It won’t work for everyone. In fact my wife looked at it (and me) with disgust when I showed it to her. But for creatives, I think it works infinitely better than the usual sequential systems.

And now, because I’m getting ready for a lot of writing, I’ll sign off.

Highlights of the week? Having a trip to New Orleans confirmed for next year. Low? Well, there hasn’t been one, really. And that’s how a week should be.

Now, I have to get a planner for next year sorted …

Chronodex stickers and annual planner at a tidy(er) desk!

Chronodex stickers and annual planner at a tidy(er) desk!


3 Responses to “A New Diary”
  1. Michael says:

    You introduced me to Scrivener, and now I’m hooked. Today, well actually about 2 hours ago, I read this about Chronodex and time will tell, but I think I’m hooked. I have been printing and piddling and looking at blogs and images of how other people use it. Funny thing is, I was just in a conversation with my wife about how I need to go back to paper (rather than electronics) and how I need something new that will let me record as much or as little as necessary. Thanks!


  2. Michael says:

    Reblogged this on Michael R. Cooley's Blog and commented:
    I read this, looked at the chronodex website ( http://scription.typepad.com/blog/ ) and now I think I’m hooked. Thanks Michael Jecks.


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