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Living the agenda

Last Tuesday I went to the Efteling (a Dutch theme park) with my sister. During our day out we spoke about how nice it would be to do this with all cousins, which are five in total and also with all boy- and girlfriends. It’s an idea that the five of us have for a few years now, but so far it never worked out to organize it. I thought this summer we should make it work using the website “”. For the ones who don’t know the website, it is used to add several optional dates, times and people. Every person added can match his or her personal agenda to the time options and share his/her options. The time that is convenient for all or most people can be chosen. It’s an invention for people that are busy, busy to find a common moment to spend time together. When I shared the idea with my nephew he responded that he will be busy for the coming month already.  Scheduled for a whole month already…

What is this what we are doing in the Netherlands? We are scheduling ourselves weeks ahead, not only in our work, but even in our free time. And who is familiar with the feeling of having planned something and not feeling like doing the planned activity? Even though we thought it would be nice eventually. Maybe at the moment itself we feel like doing nothing (also read my blog “sometimes it’s good to be lazy”). And worst of all, if we planned something, most of us feel obliged than to also keep to the agreements. In this way we make ourselves prisoners of our own mental representations and are at risk to live life from our heads.

During the five months I lived in Uganda I never used nor needed an agenda. Neither did my friends. In Peru I had an agenda, but I didn’t use it very often. Some, but not all people in my surrounding had an agenda, mostly for work. Here you can already see the planning that seems to come hand in hand with development (as Peru is much further developed than Uganda) OR development that comes hand in hand with planning. A Tanzanian friend once said: “If you ever come back to Tanzania please let me know and no matter what I will be there to pick you from the airport. I don’t need to schedule that, I will make time for it”. And I really saw that happen in Peru in the women shelter where I worked as a volunteer. If visitors came unexpectedly, all appointments on that day would have been cancelled and everything was “rescheduled” to receive the guests.

Now as this blog is about what we can learn from developing countries, what can we learn from them? I don’t want to state that we shouldn’t plan anything anymore. But, I have experienced how pleasant life can be without an agenda (even though I was working and had my obligations). And I’m even pretty sure, that you must have experienced this feeling as well. Do you remember some event that wasn’t planned and that came spontaneously? In my opinion those spontaneous moments are the nicest memories. Or the other way around, if you think back of some nice memories, was that moment planned?

Maybe “schedule” some “doing nothing time” and see what you feel like. Enjoy!

Please again, I’m very much looking forward to read your reactions to my blog! As people from at least four different cultures are reading my blog, it would be nice to create some “cultural exchange” here and learn even more from each other. So please feel free! Maybe you can start by sharing your nationality and the way you use your agenda.

Comments (2)

  1. That’s exactly what I just talked about with a friend in Berlin, thanks for sharing! I lived in Peru, Brasil, India, China, Cambodia and travelled many Asian countries. Never had an agenda there! And if, plans changed anyway 😉 I currently work in Berlin and think that this city might be somewhat an exception to the ‘Western’ world as you describe. I meet many people that come here, just to be a bit more mindful again, trying to live without an extremely full, busy, planned agenda…

  2. Interesting article. With planning or no planning I think it’s al about balance. Because with no planning at all I find it harder to get things done and focus on (long term) priorities. For example doing things I don’t like to do but still need to get done. But with planning to much, that takes me away from living in the moment, living in the Now. So There is less time to be spontaneous.

    My phone is my agenda and i use it structurally to put in appointments and reminders for tasks I want to do. I am Dutch/Capeverdean and still looking for my planning balance 😉

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