Saturday, July 14, 2007

DIY Diary

I used to own a Page-a-day diary which came preprinted with a whole year's worth of pages already for filling in appointments and stuff. It was a bit bulky but did the job of keeping track of future appointments and allowing me to plan.

One thing I've noticed in China is that a lot of people use books that look like diaries but, in practice, only have a space at the top for you to write the date in.

On the current day, that's easy enough. I could simply write '2007/07/14' at the top and away I go. But what would I do with a request for a meeting in a month's time. Choices are obviously, 1) Fill in all the dates for the next month in advance or 2) Not record the meeting in the diary at all.

If it was me, I'd go with option 1) (actually I'd go with option '0' which is to buy a preprinted diary) but I'd want to make sure that I didn't forget my important appointment but my guess is that many government officials go with option 2).

One of the joys of Chinese Business Life is that of emergency appointments. My explanation for this is that, thanks to these diaries, appointments simply don't exist until they're written into the diary but, as people only work on the current and the following day, that appointments only come into being a maximum of 24 hours before they take place.

Recently the new head of our local government zone requested a meeting with us, specifically at 2pm on the following day, and would like, after his reception, a presentation - in Chinese - of our company. We don't actually have that as all our clients happen to be overseas so a full day's productivity is magically lost from a variety of management and admin staff preparing for this.

And now, just as I'm writing about American Cowboys I get a message saying could I please attend a meeting on Monday with some visitors from overseas who are coming to the our local government zone. A reply of 'I'm actually quite busy, can you please tell me who the visitors are so I can decide' was met with 'actually we don't know who they are'. My guess is this would have been written down some time ago if only it wasn't for the DIY diaries. Sigh.

1 comment:

NewsElephant said...

I think you have cause and effect the wrong way round here.

DIY diaries are surely a product of the arbitrary, planning-lite culture engendered by an unaccountable bureaucracy that doesn't care what's in your diary or anyone else's (because they don't have to!)

Your ordinary man-in-the-street may as well buy a cheap, un-preprinted diary and save paper by just not bothering to record stuff that's going to change arbitrarily anyway.