The Dutch agenda: plans to take over the world

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First, a note to my editor: I’m really sorry this article is late. I don’t really have a reason. I’m just Australian without an agenda. 

Dutchies balance work, study, friends, family, sporting commitments, and other extracurricular activities – and their primary mode of transport between these activities is on two human-powered wheels. All made even more possible with the Dutch agenda.

And it shows in the results. According to the most recent OECD Better Life Index, the Dutch are the least overworked out of all countries surveyed with only 0.5% working ‘very long hours’ – against an international average of 13%. Yet, despite working less, they’re leading the Eurozone in GDP growth.

So how do they do the Dutch so damn productive? I’ll answer this question with a challenge: ask a Dutchie to meet up for a koffie. Cue: the agenda.

What is this elusive agenda? It’s a secret guarded by generations of Dutchies. It contains the solution to all the worlds problems. It’s the ultimate pen versus the sword. Well, the book versus the sword. It is … a diary.

How is a simple diary the ultimate tool in the Dutch’s arsenal? Well, as with anything, it all comes down to the planning.

The Dutch agenda

It’s a strange social ritual. A group of Dutch friends suggest a dinner together. They stand in a circle, and pull out their individual books. And they trade dates. Next Wednesday? Nee, Joost has hockey training. The following Sunday? Nope, Froukje is travelling to Eindhoven. Tuesday in five weeks? Too bad, Tim has scheduled some Netflix time that evening. Check out the example below:

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A typical example of Dutch Agenda scheduling (Video by Expertise in Labour Mobility)

It’s at the point where scheduling a time-slot to socialise, needs to be scheduled itself, its such a time-consuming activity. But sorry, Lotte needs to schedule the scheduling session for the weekend if that’s okay.

And while the agenda is the greatest tool the Dutchie’s have in their belt, their most prized posession, and quite literally their life in their hands, they quite often look like a kindergartners first workbook. You see, just like the Dutch, agendas are cheap. A €2 option from Hema will do the trick for the full year, or even better a freebie one from the Postcode Lottery filled with coupons.

Even better, unlike the #planners on Instagram, this is not the place for stickers, nice handwriting, and washi tape.

A post shared by Samantha Dixon (@samnotiam) on

A planner like this in the Netherlands? Not a chance. 

The Dutch planner

The Dutch planner is written in only by the most basic Bic blue pen, and the glorious lightweight pages cannot be touched by an item as uncouth as white-out. Instead, in the case of an appointment change, a battle-scar must be shown as the Dutchie vigorously scratches and scabs away the failed date, and writes a the new, superior, appointment below.

the dutch agenda
A typical Dutch agenda in its wild habitat. IMAGE: Fieke Snijder

The result is a casual dinner with friends – in three months time. But, don’t be late.

Does it work? Well, the results speak for themselves. The Dutch rank as some of the happiest people in the world. Want to read about more quirks of the oranje people? Check out 7 Odd Dutch Quirks, right here. No time to read it now? Take a leaf out of the Dutch agenda and write it in your planner.

6 COMMENTS

  1. Well besides being so productive for eons I have to say we did enter the 21st era: we now use our agenda-feature on our phones or iPads. Way more productive: you can even put the agreed upon date in other people’s phones plus alarms for when the appointment is coming up. Now that’s productive. It is in the vein of having build sturdy dikes so Hans finally can get his finger out of it??

  2. I am dutch but live in Canada and this is how my life works too. Everything in a calendar or agenda, because if it is not planned it does not happen. This is so very true of my culture where where would the Netherlands be if they did not plan and then commit to do.

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