In Praise of the Humble Desk Calendar

At the start of 2012 I was working in a small team within a government department’s IT division. The agenda for my first day back at work after a short break over the Christmas and New Year period was quite simple: check email and source a day-by-day desk calendar for my desk.

The first task was easily taken care of: very little email had come through in the previous two weeks. And so to point two: finding a desk calendar.

When I looked through all the stationery cupboards on our floor and couldn’t find any, I sought out the person in charge of ordering stationery. Perhaps they hadn’t come in yet, or maybe I had just missed them in too hasty an appraisal of stationery cupboard contents in my rounds of the floor.

Nope, I was told. There were no desk calendars because the division simply hadn’t ordered any. Physical calendars, including day-by-day calendars, were deemed obsolete in a division where everyone carried a smartphone.

I decided to buy one for myself and went back to my desk to ask my colleagues if they wanted one too. My question was met with an exchange of quizzical looks, then laughter and finally, holding up their smartphones, comments about desk calendars being “old school” and whether I would perhaps like to join them in the twenty-first century.

Now, you may remember from a previous post of mine that I don’t have a smartphone. Even if I did, though, I would still want my day-by-day desk calendar. And here’s why.

Quite simply, the day-by-day desk calendar is one of the most brilliant pieces of multi-functional stationery ever invented by man.

Here’s what it can do:

It lets you know what the day and date is. Really simply, in big, friendly, easy-to-read letters and numbers. No mistaking one day for the other and buggering up appointments with the desk calendar.

It’s a notepad. You can take notes on it. Perfect for when the phone rings. Perfect for adding reminders to special days. Perfect for writing daily to-do lists on. Perfect for doodling on. Perfect in so many ways! There are usually a few extra blank pages at the end of the calendar – “just in case” – and the calendar stand even has a handy spot for a pen or pencil so you’re never caught short.

Each page on a day-by-day calendar also shows you the entire month, as well as the previous and next month. Not only that, but at the start of the calendar, there’s also a full year calendar for the current year, the previous year and the next year. Having an argument about what day a certain date fell on last year? No problem – you can check! Want to know what day your birthday will fall on next year? You can check that too! It’s genius, I tell you!

Undoubtedly, though, my absolute favourite part of a day-by-day desk calendar is the daily quote at the bottom of each page. It might be a clever and witty bon mot, a snippet of deep and meaningful philosophy, a truism delivered wisely, or just a hilariously silly one-liner.

Whenever I turn the page and contemplate a new day, I stop for a moment, read the quote and think about it. Sometimes it might just be a way to start the day with a smile. Other times it can be something so profound and timely that it shines a light into a dark corner of my mind. I can be amused or inspired, educated or enlightened.

I know smartphones (and tablets and computers) come with calendar applications. And yes, there are a gazillion apps to deliver you as many quotes as you wish to read. But you actually have to choose to access the quotes, to go out and seek them. And when are you going to have the time or inclination to do that? I’m guessing not very often.

Whereas the day-by-day desk calendar slyly inserts a little dose of daily wisdom, humour or inspiration right into every day. And it’s the random nature of the delivery that makes it most enjoyable.

So, in honour of the humble day-by-day desk calendar, that hard-working wonder of the stationery world, here are a few of my favourite quotes from this year’s calendar (that is, so far; there has been no cheating by looking ahead!):

“Your work is to discover your work and then, with all your heart, to give yourself to it.” – Buddha

“We are all here for some special reason. Stop being a prisoner of your past. Become an architect of your future.” – Robin Sharma

“I haven’t failed. I just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” – Thomas Edison

“Don’t be afraid to take a big step if one is indicated. You can’t cross a chasm in two small jumps.” – David Lloyd George

“We are all faced with a series of great opportunities brilliantly disguised as impossible situations.” – Charles R. Swindoll

“Summer afternoon – summer afternoon; to me those have always been the two most beautiful words in the English language.” – Henry James

“There are only two emotions in a plane: boredom and terror.” – Orson Wells

Day by day desk calendar showing page for 30 September with the word "Blog" circled on the notepad