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9:30 to 9:45 a.m.-- Read Story About Date Book Fetishes

'91, '92 BUSINESS: A look back and a look ahead. One in a series.

December 25, 1991|CARLA LAZZARESCHI | TIMES STAFF WRITER

If a single, universal fetish prevails in the world of business, it probably has to do with that central artifact of every desk, the appointment book.

"I absolutely have to have a Month-at-a-Glance," says Costa Mesa attorney Ellen Marshall. "I can't handle a Week-at-a-Glance. I just can't relate to days that are listed vertically."

By contrast, Steven Lipman, legislative aide to Los Angeles Councilwoman Joy Picus, insists on a date book showing one week at a time. It has to be the same size every year too. Someone once gave him a beautiful leather pocket agenda, but he couldn't make himself use it. "A man's appointment-book format is his castle," Lipman affirms.

It's that time of year again--time, any day now, to start using your new date book. The one you choose may say more about you than you think.

"Calendars are 'transitional objects,' just like blankets and other inanimate objects that children form attachments to," says Lenora Yuen, a Palo Alto psychologist who specializes in procrastination and other issues surrounding personal time management. "Adults find something that is comfortable and easy to work with, and that becomes their anchor in the chaos that we find ourselves in."

Indeed, the most important thing about those new vinyl-bound leaves often is that they're just like the old ones. Consider Blythe Egan, mild-mannered public relations consultant.

"This is my book, " she thunders, referring to the stuffed and tattered Filofax that keeps her round-the-clock company. "I couldn't live without it."

You can probably guess what happened a few years ago when her former boss wanted the entire office to adopt the Day Timer calendar system.

"Of course I fought it. There was no way I could use another system," says Egan, who is open-minded on most other subjects. "I've been organizing my life this way since 1985."

Given their talismanic nature, calendars seem to be the focus of much business compulsiveness.

Paul Saffo, an analyst at the Institute for the Future, a Silicon Valley think tank, keeps track of notes from meetings, ideas for articles and occasional inspirations and reflections in an 8 1/2-by-11-inch notebook that is chronologically linked to his daily calendar, a 4-by-8-inch leather-bound book that includes all his appointments. He keeps all of them--as far back as 1980--on a shelf in his office.

"This is my minimalist way of containing the information overload and coping with all the uncertainty that I write about," he says. "I can capture bits and pieces of information that come in at high velocity and index them by when I heard them. I know it's compulsive, but it's a lazy man's compulsion."

David Sibbet, a San Francisco graphics facilitator--he helps people visualize their business concepts through drawings--uses his calendar to map not only his daily appointments but the psychological resources they are likely to demand.

Blue rectangles are reserved for meetings with his straight-arrow corporate clients. Hot colors--the neons and the like--are used for wilder clients. Yellow denotes a "celebratory" event, while green symbolizes a "restorative" outing.

Starbursts (green and restorative), auras (yellow and celebratory), dotted lines and boxes (usually blue) can accompany each listing.

"I can glance at the month and see at once what the pattern is, how my life is going to be not just in terms of time, but in terms of my energy and how much money I'm making," Sibbet says.

People at parties still don't ask, "What's your appointment book?" but an individual's choice in this department can be revealing nonetheless. For example, Yuen says, different "cognitive styles" probably account for calendar preferences.

She suggests that Month-at-a-Glance folks may be more focused on "the big picture" and need a "single overall concept of what's going on."

Day-at-a-Glance types, meanwhile, may be more "detail oriented," needing to keep track of their lives in 15-minute increments.

For the truly compulsive, there is still a great deal of date book escalation in the marketplace. Those who find a Filofax insufficiently complex may now select from a number of competing tomes so involved that one, the Time/Design Management System, urges customers to attend a daylong seminar on how to use its $149 book.

"I find them totally intimidating," Lipman says of Filofax and the like. "I've seen smaller doctoral dissertations."

Calendar designers insist that people rely on their new calendars not just to keep track of future appointments, but as a chronicle of how they spend their time--especially now that an increasing number of Americans have only time to sell.

That's why Dan Baer, former chief operating officer at the Los Angeles public affairs consulting firm of Cerrell & Associates, was so anxious to get Egan and her colleagues to adopt a standard office calendar. Baer argues that when you're billing myriad clients in 15-minute increments, you had better keep exceedingly close track of how much time you spend on each.

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