The Dutch agenda: plans to take over the world

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, dashing quickly between these activities on two human-powered wheels. This is made even more possible by the Dutch agenda.

The Dutch people’s organization shows in the results. According to the 2020 OECD Better Life Index, the Dutch are the least overworked out of all countries surveyed with only 0.4% working ‘very long hours’ — against an international average of 13%.

So how are 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 world’s 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. Then the date trading discussion begins.

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.

READ MORE | 7 odd Dutch quirks: the stranger side of the Netherlands

A typical example of Dutch agenda scheduling.

In fact, scheduling a time-slot to socialise almost needs to be scheduled itself because it’s such a time-consuming activity. (But sorry, Lotte needs to reschedule the scheduling session for the weekend if that’s okay.)

The Dutch agenda ain’t pretty

While the agenda is the greatest tool the Dutchies have in their belt, their most prized possession, and quite literally their life in their hands, the agendas quite often look like a kindergartner’s 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 a freebie from the Postcode Lottery filled with coupons is even better.

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

Only the most basic Bic blue pen may write in the Dutch agenda, and its glorious lightweight pages cannot be touched by an item as crude as White-Out. Instead, if an appointment changes, a battle-scar must be shown as the Dutchie vigorously scratches and scabs away the failed date, and writes the new, superior, appointment below.

Scribbles and scrawls all belong in a typical Dutch agenda. Image: Daria Rem/Pexels

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

Does the Dutch agenda work? Well, the results speak for themselves. The Dutch rank as some of the happiest people in the world. No time to read this now? Take a leaf out of the Dutch agenda and write it in your planner.

As an international, have you adopted the Dutch agenda? Tell us in the comments below!

Feature Image: Cathryn Lavery/Unsplash
Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in March 2, and was fully updated in May 2021 for your reading pleasure.

Samantha Dixon 🇦🇺
Samantha Dixon 🇦🇺
Sam has over six years experience writing about life in the Netherlands and leads the content team at DutchReview. She originally came to the Netherlands to study in 2016 and now holds a BA (Hons.) in Arts, a BA (Hons) in Journalism, and (almost) a Masters in Teaching. She loves to write about settling into life in the Netherlands, her city of Utrecht, learning Dutch, and jobs in the Netherlands — and she still can’t jump on the back of a moving bike (she's learning!).

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  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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