Back to the Beginning

We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.

T.S. Eliot, Little Gidding

I am using a very serious poetical quote for a frivolous post. But, Eliot’s words came into my mind as I sat down to write. We explore, we expand, but we often end up back where we started and discover that what we were looking for was always there . It may be that we can only see it because of our journeys. This can happen in large and small ways. This blog post is about a small return.

I have always been interested in planning and productivity and taught project management for many years. My own practices are definitely old school with analog planners and handwritten to do lists. They are also very simple and minimalist: I list appointments and activities and check them off when they were done. If they don’t get done, they get moved to the next day. They have none of the fancy headings, doodles, stickers and so forth that seem to have become part of the world of planning, largely growing out of the bullet journal movement.

There are a variety of approaches and browsing the journal/planner section at bookstores is fascinating, if a bit overwhelming. I considered trying to implement one of the systems but never felt like I could take the time to learn it, plus I worried that I would spend more time on planning than doing. In the end, my system seemed to work for me.

So, I was intrigued when a headline on my news feed offered a much simpler approach to the bullet journal. The writer shared a screen shot of her planner where she showed how she wrote down the items she wanted to do in the correct day’s block in her planner. When she finished an item, she crossed it off. If she didn’t complete it, she added some symbol to mark it unfinished and copied it to the next day. I laughed out loud. This was how I and, I suspect, most other people have done it all along. We are, indeed, back to the beginning.

Before Eliot came to mind, I was considering calling this an example of our rubber band world. We stretch the band, often by building on a simple idea, adding complexity, variety, customization. At some point, it gets too tight and snaps back; we rediscover the simplicity at the heart of the idea.

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