I recently replied to a tweet from @wmarybeard about diaries and the demise of the Cambridge University diary.
And that got me thinking about paper diaries and why we use them.
All my professional life I’ve used a diary to keep appointments, manage meetings, projects and the like. And strangely, I still use a paper based one, and have done ever since the mid nineteen eighties.
The university where I first had a permanent job used to issue these academic year diaries to staff that let you plan meetings and schedule appointments, all within the then standard three term framework.
Sometime in the late nineties they stopped issuing them and I moved to using a Filofax, which in those days had an option for a generic English university diary (three terms, October to June, and a three month long vacation.)
That worked well enough for two or three years, but once online calendars arrived sometime around 2000 I needed something that synced and that I could carry round in my pocket.
In these pre smartphone days the answer was a Palm Pilot – I still have both of mine, including an optional keyboard for those of us for whom character recognition never quite worked – a device that synced your calendar, let you draft emails and notes offline which you could then sync when you got home. In its time a truly wonderful device.
But I had a problem. Sometimes I would work for people other than my main employer, and I needed to keep records.
I discovered these Leuchterm project management diaries – the page on the left showing the week, and the page on the right for notes.
And they were ideal. Appointments and meetings in the diary pages, notes and expenses on the note pages – use different colours for different project, and you were organised.
Helpfully the notebook was A5, which meant that opened out it was an A4 landscape page which could be scanned and filed online, which meant compiling activity reports and the like a doddle, not to mention expenses and travel claims.
When I retired I thought I’d stop needing to do this, and even if I still needed a paper diary a cheap $10 generic one would do.
Not a bit of it. I ended up volunteering to catalogue the contents of Dow’s Pharmacy for the NTAV, which again meant recording activity, not to mention all the shuffling and planning that goes into daily life.
The only major change is a change from Leuchturm to Moleskine for planning diaries – the former have proved just too difficult to get during the pandemic with disruptions to the supply chain, so its been Moleskine for the past couple of years.
So, while they’re not as full as they once were, diaries still provide a record keeping function to show what was done when and where.
Now, I am not a luddite. I use Google Calendar extensively, not to mention tools like Boomerang and Microsoft To-Do to manage reminders and tasks, but none of them truly provide a record keeping function, something that is absurdly easy with a paper diary …