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Andy Sullivan: Against the Grain

In my opinion, the notes function in the iPhone is one of the greatest functions ever invented.  I could say the same about Amazon’s Alexa device.  It is especially useful for people like me who need a little assistance remembering appointments, etc.  I guess everyone needs help remembering those things.  If not, day planners wouldn’t be as good of a seller as they are, well, were.  

Granted, for the past year+ we haven’t needed a calendar or planner (thanks, Covid).  In fact, the last thing on my calendar was a March 13, 2020 Mighty Sharp appointment.  Well that was the last event that wasn’t “oh, I better write this Netflix special in”.  Streaming services have won this pandemic, let’s be honest.  May 5, 2020 was Jerry Seinfeld’s Netflix special, aptly titled 23 hours to kill.  ESPN had the Michael Jordan documentary The Last Dance May 10 and 17.  There was NASCAR racing in the middle of the week.  Fuller House dropped their final season last June.  

As I looked back at my calendar, there was a lot of “oh yeah, that happened! I forgot that”.  Don’t get excited.  It mostly centered around tv.  Before the phone calendar was the day planner.  But when was the day planner implemented? According to a story in the Boston Globe, planners go back more than two centuries.  As the nation grew-and became busier and people more ambitious-day planners grew with it.  What began as a highly personal approach to keeping a diary developed into a whole industry.  

In 1773, Robert Aitken, an aspiring publisher in Revolutionary-era Philadelphia, published what he claimed was America’s first daily planner, offering his customers a prefabricated layout not unlike the planners of today.  For the first time ever, Americans could see their days laid out before them and plan ahead beyond the almanac’s generic predictions.

Today, though sales of day planners are falling as they’re being replaced by digital tools, there remains a multi-million dollar industry devoted to planners.  The elaborate planners that underlie the FranklinCovey time-management empire still mingle logistics amd a philosophy of business success.  And in a testament to the daily planner’s simple effectiveness, the vast majority of electronic versions simply replicate a paper calendar-using a $600 smartphone and all the power of the web to create something that Robert Aitken would have recognized perfectly well. (Molly McCarthy,


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