Updated: Oct 13
HOW A DAYTIMER SAVED MY LIFE
Life is busy. Do you ever feel like you’re going through your day, just running around, doing all the things, and feeling like you are putting out one fire after another? Is this why they call it a "hot mess"?
You’re not alone. My wakeup call seemed pretty dramatic at the time...
As a young wife and mother, it didn’t take me long became completely overwhelmed with All The Things. So overwhelmed in fact, that one evening after work I found myself walking down the street and noticing a large television in a storefront window. The store was closed, but for a brief moment I wondered if I could carry it by myself.
My trail of thought actually imagined breaking a window, stealing a tv and walking very slowly down the street with it to ensure that I would get caught. I abruptly recognized this as a very dangerous thought… The very idea of doing something so extreme just to get some quiet time alone all flew through my head in seconds – I would be physically removed from having to deal with my husband, my house, my work, and my kids. “Wait, prison isn’t a good idea; maybe I could check myself into the psych ward at the hospital instead?”
Seriously? This was actually a tempting thought?
It literally stopped me in my tracks as my rational brain struggled to catch up and come up with some kind of other alternative to keep me from ruining my life. My third thought was, “It’s time for me to talk to my doctor about some mental health meds.” (For the record, in less than 24 hours this is exactly what I did)
At least now I was now aware of the issue. Shortly after that, I was talking it out with a close friend about she managed to cope with all the pressures, the expectations, the lack of sleep and shortness of days, the discipline of children, the challenges of marriage
The sheer volume of tasks that needed to be done to keep everything rolling was so far beyond what my calendar could handle. She showed me her day timer. I think it was actually called something like a “Household Day Timer”. I don’t even remember the brand name, but this was a big book – full 8 ½ x 11 sheets and totally wouldn’t fit in my purse. The best place for it to live was on the counter beside the phone. (Some of you may remember the era of land lines 😉 Quick history lesson - for most women this area automatically functioned as a Family Command Centre because your primary communication device was tethered to the wall and so it was where all the magic happened.)
I also remember that it was expensive. If I remember correctly, it was about $50. Please realize that minimum wage was only about $5.25/hour and our monthly rent was about $600 (don’t throw up, inflation is such a bitch...) We lived on a shoestring budget and this was a huge expense for us. Not only did it have a month-at-a-glance section like the traditional wall calendar I was used to looking at, but it also had a two-page spread of the week that actually had room for me to write things. Not just the critical things like work schedules for myself and my husband, or doctor’s appointments for everyone, but also the mundane things like:
What to make for dinner
What book and page to find that recipe again
What to put on my grocery list
Who I needed or wanted to call this week
An important list of phone numbers in the back
What tasks around the house were priority for today Which day was best to get tasks done this week
And of course, what upcoming events I could look forward to!
For the first time, probably since I had been a teen, my brain was able to relax by knowing that I wouldn’t forget things because everything was written down somewhere. I didn’t double-book our family, because that day timer was sacred. I didn’t have to remember that one child was due for his vaccination in 3 months because I could write a reminder to call and make the appointment. I wasn’t overwhelmed by a whole house that needed my attention, because I could break it down into baby steps of what I could actually accomplish today.
I even kept a small blank notebook beside my bed so that if my thoughts started racing before I fell asleep I could just sit up, turn on my lamp, write them down, and lay back down again. (Some nights this looked like a few repetitions before my thoughts quieted enough that I could go to sleep.)
Now I’m pretty sure that the meds made a difference in keeping me sane, but I will credit the day timer for making my life actually work again.
If keeping a day timer isn’t a natural habit or skill for you, that’s not a failure. However, if there are things that feel like they are getting out of hand, consider whether developing the habit of using one could help clarify your thoughts and keep you on track to reaching your goals – of whatever kind. It isn’t nearly the financial investment that it used to be, thank goodness.
Stay tuned for my next blog about when it still becomes “all too much”