A Mistake I Don’t Regret

pencils with erasers. no regrets.

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?