A Mistake I Don’t Regret

The other day, I make a mistake. Generally, I hate making mistakes, especially public ones. However, in this case, I didn’t feel quite as bad as I normally do. Here is what happened.

I opened my planner in the morning and looked at the day ahead. I noticed a sticker at the top of the page, reminding me that it was my friend’s birthday. Somewhere in the back of my mind, I was surprised to see this. Her birthday had sort of sneaked up on me. Plus, I hadn’t seen a reminder on Facebook. Nevertheless, there it was in black and white, so I pulled out my phone and texted her a birthday GIF, along with wishes for a wonderful day.

You can probably guess what happened next. My friend texted back a sweet response, thanking me for the wishes, but reminding me that her birthday was actually on this day next month. Embarrassed, I apologized for getting it wrong and wished her a month of celebration. Then I wondered…how had I made this mistake?

The answer to this question is: I trusted my system. Each year in late December, I record the birthdays of those closest to me in my planner. For those to whom I send gifts, I flip a couple of weeks before the date and give myself a reminder to get the gift. This may seem tedious, but it is my system, and generally speaking, it works for me. I invest a small bit of time once a year, and then I can relax in the knowledge that I will remember to honor my friends and family in the manner I enjoy throughout the year.

In this case, I had simply flipped to the wrong month when noting this birthday. It happens. The names, “June” and “July” look similar, and they are right next to each other in the calendar. Fortunately, this mistake had no dire consequences. I have since properly recorded her birthday in July, and when that day arrives, I’ll try again to get it right.

Looking back, I can laugh at this mistake, but I have to admit that it is a testament to the reliability of the planning system I use. A good tool is one I both use and trust. In this instance, the tool let me down, but most of the time, having trust in this tool is what gives the tool it’s power.

Similarly, a tool we don’t trust is one upon which we will be reluctant to depend. For example:

  • If we sometimes enter meetings into our calendar, but not always, we will lack confidence that we are where we need to be.
  • If we “mostly” record to-dos in an app on our phone, but then sometimes write tasks on small scraps of paper, we will wonder when we look at the app if we are forgetting something important.
  • If we keep travel books or reference materials that are outdated, we will doubt whether the information they contain is still valid.
  • If we have a shelf that is rickety, we will be reluctant to place things on it.
  • If our cell service is spotty in a particular area, we will avoid making calls in that location to avoid losing connection mid-sentence.
  • If our car battery frequently fails, we will avoid using that car to reach any important destination.
  • If we have experienced an extended power outage, we may throw out frozen food rather than risk getting food poisoning from food that fell below a safe temperature.

When we don’t trust a tool, we either avoid using it and/or are constantly seeking to secure backups “just in case.” This can add unnecessary complexity that could be avoided by use of a single, reliable tool.

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Do you have a tool that you both trust and use?

36 thoughts on “A Mistake I Don’t Regret”

  1. This is such an important concept- the reliability of our tools. The best tools are the ones we consistently use and also work with how we think and process. I used to do my scheduling and task system all with paper, but I switched to almost 100% digital many years ago. With the paper system, I did something like what you described. There was a good amount of transposing or carrying-forward from year to year. It was part of my year-end maintenance that I did in preparation for the next year.

    But once I switched to using a digitally-based calendar and task system, all of that changed. For birthdays, I enter it once, and my calendar knows to cue me automatically and in advance each year.

    The big question you asked- do I have a tool that I trust and use. That’s a yes! I love my Apple trio of products (iPhone, iPad, iMac.) They sync together so I can access what I need on all devices. The iCal calendar app works for scheduling, and the 2Do app works for tasks and list management.

    As far as making mistakes goes, that’s part of life. We’re human and not perfect. So even with digital tools, there is the human error for potentially entering info incorrectly. But for the most part, the system works.

    1. I tried the digital calendar for awhile. The ease of “entering once” is definitely terrific, as is the the way the information syncs across devices. Digital tools are also lightweight, which is terrific! I think the right tool is the one that works for you. For me, having paper that doesn’t require wifi is nice, but if I were starting over now, I would definitely go digital. Also, for families, with teens and adults, having a digital calendar that everyone can access is nice!

  2. I actually did use a planner but slacked off during the Pandemic last year. Now, I use Google Calendar to help keep me organized. But still, I have made a mistake similar to what you shared above. Sometimes it just happens and we just have to cut ourselves some slack when it does ❤️

    1. If I were beginning a calendar now I would probably use Google calendar. It’s nice with teens as well because they can check the “family” calendar and now who is where.

    1. That is a terrific tool! I often forget the “little things” too… the ones that I don’t think I need to write down. So universal!

  3. Seana,

    I smiled while reading this as for years, I used the same birthday, anniversary and gift system that you use. I’ve also made entries for special occasions. There are even a few dates I mix up every year until I check my entries. (Our circles have grown!)

    I’ve also found writing things down, as opposed to computer, digital entries of any kind, helps me to remember the date, the task, the information. It’s my recall system!.

    There are many systems out there to get things done and to jog our memories. It comes down to whatever works for us is the one that’s right. That’s what I tell my clients as well.

    I wouldn’t be too embarrassed about being a month early for your friend’s birthday. It’s so much better being a month early than a month late. Sometimes, we just have to give ourselves permission to be human.
    Ronni Eisenberg recently posted…The Smartest 10 Tips to Live More Frugally Now, Not LaterMy Profile

    1. Yes, I agree that being a month early is better than a month late LOL!

      I agree that writing things down with my hands helps my recall. Re-entering items in my book by hand helps me really think about them, pay attention to changes, etc.

      I love that we can all have our systems that “fit” us well!

  4. I have a handwritten password book. It is not one you can purchase. I have created it in one of the Tul notebooks because it’s easy to add (or replace) pages. Websites ask for updated passwords so often that it’s necessary to cross out old passwords and write in new ones. I put the date next to the updated password so I know which is old and which is new. I know that this is an old-fashioned method but it works for me.
    Diane N Quintana recently posted…Close the Loop: Honoring My BrotherMy Profile

    1. I think that is a great idea to add a date when you change a password. I have had the experience of looking at a password and wondering if it is the most recent one or not. That’s a terrific tip!

    1. Yes, be gentle with yourself! And if the reason is that I am trusting I tool I invest in, and which works well for me, that’s actually a good thing, right? We all make mistakes. I read one place that if we don’t make mistakes, we aren’t growing.

  5. Seana, I use my Planner Pad in the same way. Before the year begins I go through my calendar month by month and put in every birthday, anniversary, and standing appointments. I also note when things are due like NAPO of CHADD reups and what zone I am working on in my home. I put these reminders in red because as the month fills up they can get lost. I love not having to worry about these dates because they are there.
    I even keep an older planner in case this one would get lost (gasp!)
    Jonda Beattie recently posted…Three Reasons to Follow an Organizational Home Maintenance PlanMy Profile

    1. I have a list of all the important dates in a spreadsheet as my “master list.” At the same time, the process of going through and recording the special dates helps me focus on them, and I love this. I also note when the cousins/nieces/nephews pass the “gift giving age” and switch to a card or a social media greeting. I love my book, and I love that it works anywhere, anytime, no internet required. 🙂

  6. Finding the right tool and sticking to it takes time. But when you find it, it really does help. I use Microsoft OneNote as my notebook for activities. It is a cross-platform app, and I can use it on my Windows computer and my Apple mobile devices. Since I use them on different types of devices, it was super helpful that Microsoft made it available on Apple devices years ago. Now, Apple is making iCloud photos and files available to download through the browser on Windows computers. I am so happy I can easily download photos to my Windows computer from my Apple device since I take many photos for my blog.
    Sabrina Quairoli recently posted…How to Pack for a Quick College Move In DayMy Profile

    1. Crossing platforms has been a real challenge, and I’m always glad when the two platforms “talk nicely” with each other. I straddled Windows and Apple for awhile years ago, and it was so tough that I just went all in with Apple with my next computer purchase. It is important to be able to access and use your tool whenever you need it.

  7. Great point about how we are only as powerful as the tools we use. Sometimes we become so loyal to a system that we might not upgrade even when we are introduced to a better way.

    1. I’m probably guilty of that one, Jill. I love my old-fashioned paper system so much that I’ve stuck with it, even though there are some powerful digital tools out there. I just love paper and honestly would like to spend fewer minutes of my day looking at a screen instead of more!

  8. Great post Seana. The most important message I got from David Allen’s classic “Getting Things Done” is that the key to productivity is getting everything that is swimming around inside your head OUT and into a system you TRUST. To answer your question, I trust my Apple Calendar for anything related to dates (including birthdays) and a paper action page on a vertically propped clipboard for to-do’s because it is more compelling. The way I see it, things you want to make a point of doing, should absolutely NOT be out-of-sight, out-of-mind, like so many other organizing solutions.

    1. I love your system, and your commitment to putting everything into it. I need to have my to-do’s near at hand all day long. I touch that list as I go along, tracking my progress. This always make me feel good because even if I didn’t get everything done, I can still see all that I DID accomplish!

    1. I totally love this sentence: “The only time my system fails is when I fail to use my system.” That is what I was saying in a nutshell. I think I will tweet it.

  9. This is such a simple but important point. Choosing a tool that you will consistently use is every bit as important as the actual effectiveness of the tool itself. You have to know yourself, your behavior patterns, your learning style, etc. and not be afraid to politely let others know what works best for you when they are trying to sell you on their favorite tool at app.

    1. That’s such a good point, Sheri. I checked out a digital tool once. It had lots of nice features, but I knew I just wouldn’t use it. It is important to select tools that “fit” us, even if they aren’t trendy.

  10. No system is perfect. There is always a way for human error to intervene. But a rare occurrence such as this one just proves that the system works! I had one just recently, an event labeled “Not during the summer”. At first I thought, “Hmmm…well, I guess whatever it is, I won’t actually be missing it! LOL!” There was only one thing I could think of that wasn’t happening on a regular basis during the summer — but it pertains to Tuesdays, not Thursdays — so I checked the repeat scheduling info, and sure enough — I had programmed it for “Monthly” (i.e. the first day of every month), rather than a custom “Every month on the 1st Tuesday”.
    Hazel Thornton recently posted…The 80/20 Rule is Your FriendMy Profile

    1. That’s exactly the point I was trying to get to: the tool works! I love my system, and therefore I use it and trust it. I got into trouble with those “recurring events” when I was trying to get into using a digital calendar. For me, it is when I get granular and am writing things in by hand that I notice when something isn’t going to work, seems wrong, etc. I love that we can have the FREEDOM to select the tools that “fit” us individually.

  11. This is a great post, Seana! Trusting your system is crucial, and being able to continue to trust it after an error is a good perspective to have. Nothing is perfect, and giving up on something good because of one minor mishap is a shame. Also great save on the birthday wish–a month of celebration is great!

    1. I do trust my system, and I can easily see why it failed. Simple human error, and I could make those using any system. It was the extent to which I trust my system that really had me thinking. I actually feel lucky to have a system that really “fits” and works for me.

  12. I use two tools as reminders. I use google tasks to note recurring reminders, ie. getting the car inspected, some birthdays. I also use my CRM to remind me of my team member’s birthdays, and other tasks that are more business than personal. Whatever works – right?

  13. I absolutely agree. No matter how outdated our system or maybe not particularly efficient, if it has worked for you for years you should continue with it.

  14. When I first started blogging 10 years ago, I heard horror stories of people who lost all their online material, and that terrified me. I have been in the habit ever since then to make hard copies of everything I write, plus I back it all up & save it. Losing all of my articles is one mistake I definately do not want to make!!

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