September 07, 2017


2018 Calendars: Desk—Dilbert; The New Yorker. Andrews McMeel. $16.99 each.

     A funny thing happened on the way to the all-electronic life and the paperless office: they didn’t happen. Yes, when it comes to scheduling, it is now possible to do everything on computer and/or cell phone, but “possible” is a long way from “as easy as it can be” or even “desirable.” If you want a quick look at your week at a glance, or an overview of a month of plans and appointments, or even a detailed hour-by-hour plan of a specific day, and you want to take brief notes and keep them readily accessible within the day to which they relate and easy to glance back at later (or glance forward at if they are reminder notes for something coming up), there is still no substitute for the stay-flat, open-book desk planner. And the planners that include a dash of humor on every two-page spread have the added advantage of giving you something to smile about even if your list of duties, meetings, phone calls and requirements is on the dour side.

     However, two of the new Andrews McMeel desktop planners sport a design for 2018 that may give some users pause: the typical spiral binding is gone, and the Dilbert and The New Yorker planners simply have standard book-style binding – which makes it somewhat challenging to keep them open on a desktop or table top, especially near the beginning or end of the year, when there are many fewer pages on one side than on the other. Staying open starting in January is a somewhat simpler matter with The New Yorker if you use it only in 2018, since it is a 16-month planner (September 2017-December 2018); the Dilbert planner is only for 12 months. But the comparative ease or difficulty of keeping the planners open is not likely to be the determining factor in which one an individual prefers. Nor are the differences in right-hand-page design: Dilbert has lined spaces for each day of the week, with a single space for Saturday and Sunday, while The New Yorker has unlined spaces and treats all seven days of the week equally. The left-hand-page design is also unlikely to be a major reason for picking one of these planners or the other: The New Yorker has a small full-month calendar on each left-hand page, while Dilbert has both the current month and the next month on the left, and each of its full-month calendars is larger than the full-month ones in The New Yorker. Ultimately, though, these differences are simply matters of taste.

     So is the factor that will determine which of the planners you prefer: the cartoons. The Dilbert planner includes eight-panel Sunday cartoons for each week (albeit not in color), and of course every cartoon focuses on the absurdities and Kafkaesque requirements of the workplace, that being the stock-in-trade of Scott Adams’ strip. The New Yorker has single-panel cartoons covering a wider range of topics in the magazine’s signature style, which is sophisticated (if you like it) and pseudo-sophisticated (if you don’t). An office-focused cartoon from Dilbert, for example, has the boss demanding that employees “pretend to suggest good ideas,” while one from The New Yorker shows someone being burned at the stake in the middle of a set of cubicles as one worker explains to another, “He replied all.” But in The New Yorker, there also cartoons in which a display of fruit in a market is labeled “locally grown by a guy with a masters in philosophy,” and in which a SWAT team bursts into a cow-filled apartment and announces, “Police! Nobody moo!” The type of amusement that helps get you through an average week is the determinant, ultimately, in choosing which of these desk planners you find more congenial and will be more likely to enjoy having around for a full year (or a full 16 months if you start using The New Yorker immediately). With either planner, you get a well-made track-your-days book that makes it easy to see your week at a glance and look back (and ahead, to see what is coming up) without having to squint at a small screen or use software designs that do the job but are sometimes the opposite of intuitive. It is certainly true that electronic tracking of appointments, phone calls and all the rest works well for many people, and certainly someone who is frequently on the go and needs a readily portable way of staying in touch with appointments and meetings will do well with smartphone apps or a laptop computer. But if you have a central location in your everyday life – whether at home or in an office – and you do your planning and phone calls and at least some meetings there, then desktop planners such as Dilbert and The New Yorker still have advantages over anything electronic. And the cartoons should help keep the everyday stresses and frustrations of life in perspective – even as you chronicle and act upon them.

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