New Beginnings: What a Calendar Can Offer

The start of a new year can lead us to consider new beginnings and recommit us to pursuing important career goals. But an actual calendar can cause us to feel constricted or empowered. It can point out how little time we have or show the boundlessness of what is before us.

The year 2021 will offer us 12 months, 52 weeks, and 365 days. (You can compute the hours and minutes on your own). The coming year can be ordered, prioritized, and divided as we wish. Now might be the time to think about what the year could look like, recognizing that circumstances change at a moment’s notice, and that the pandemic will continue to keep things in slow motion. For Americans, it should not go unnoticed that we are now led by a new president whose goals and aims relative to international education and global affairs are expected to be significantly different than that of the previous president. This will affect many of us in our work, travel, and international engagement.

Planning can be viewed in different ways. At one level, it can constitute a detailed scheduling of objectives, goals, and events assigned to expected dates when they might be accomplished. Some need and even crave this type of planning. Checklists and worksheets are necessary for them to feel they are moving forward. I tend to think that way. An electronic calendar like that found on Google has been a godsend to the way I plan.

Others find this type of planning off-putting and maybe even oppressive. For them, planning is more in the nature of visioning and thinking about the big picture of things that can be done. They are not tied so much to specific outcomes but rather to an awareness of moving forward without the necessity of keeping a running tally. For them, they might use a calendar as providing some notional framing and think “By the beginning of spring, I might be focusing on jobs overseas” looking to the seasons as a guide rather than specific dates. They might take their muse from the often-inspirational photography that a wall calendar can include.

Each demands time to reflect and consider what is doable and possible in the coming year. Though we can’t predict with certainty in January what our situation will be in July, we can assess some things. We might have a good sense of upcoming expenses. Or we will know where we will be living. Or know certain application deadlines that we need to anticipate. Ultimately, using a calendar involves merging the detail and the visioning. Deadlines for applications must be met and noted and planned for. On the other hand, we can’t really schedule time for the inspiration that spring might bring.

In 2021, use your calendar to optimize the way you plan. Make checklists if you need to. For some an electronic calendar with notifications works, but others are old school and like to write it down. But don’t dismiss the power in being open to using a calendar to spur on deep thinking and ignite your imagination for good things to come.

—David J. Smith

David J. Smith (Fulbright Scholar, Estonia 2003-2004) is a career coach and the author of Peace Jobs: A Student’s Guide to Starting a Career Working for Peace (Information Age Publishing 2016). He is on the career advisory board of the Peace and Collaborative Development Network. David writes regularly on career issues at He can reached at

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