Planning

Wabi-Sabi-The Japanese concept of finding perfection in imperfection

The widely referenced website, Wikipedia, has a rather accurate description of Wabi-Sabi:

Wabi-sabi (?) represents a comprehensive Japanese world view or aesthetic centered on the acceptance of transience and imperfection. The aesthetic is sometimes described as one of beauty that is "imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete".[1] It is a concept derived from the Buddhist teaching of the three marks of existence (三法印 sanbōin?), specifically impermanence (無常 mujō?), the other two being suffering ( ku?) and emptiness or absence of self-nature ( ?).
Characteristics of the wabi-sabi aesthetic include asymmetry, asperity (roughness or irregularity), simplicity, economy, austerity, modesty, intimacy and appreciation of the ingenuous integrity of natural objects and processes.

I recently decided to purchase an "as-is" Gilliodoro planner from Gillio
Photographed from the point of view as a "flawed" item, this Red + Gold (dual tone) Amica A5 planner, was positioned on display with the intent of disclosing, with full transparency, the obvious issues, the most prevalent being a discolored spine from having been placed in a sunny window display. This decidedly red planner had a blotchy, orange spine.
I kept looking.
The description stated it was missing its original box and as an added "flaw," it was equipped with a non-elasticated leather pen loop.
I kept looking.
And heard a little whisper say, "Look at the perfectness of this imperfect item." Thousands of miles away and I took a chance to order this unwanted item for a more than reasonable price. It finally arrived last week.
Here are my thoughts as we go through some photos I took early on a cloudy, Southern California morning. The cloud coverage added a hint of blue to the red. In fact, the red is brick/crimson red with soft, soothing undertones bringing an overall harmony to the entire planner.
Here is the open planner. As you will notice, the spinal discoloration is hardly visible in this light.





Let's take a closer look at the leather on the cover. You will notice a rather sumptuously textured and grained epoca leather.

There is a simple, refined, old world elegance to this planner. It's almost pensive.

As I opened the planner, I noticed the workmanship on the clasp, including the even and consistent stitching, the unbridled graininess of the gold leather on the inside and the little pocket of collapsible leather alongside the popper to add aesthetic design, show mastery of leather-work and clearly define this important mechanism of the planner-the gateway.
We are now presented with a rich visual marriage of red and gold autumnal colors to underplay the subtle and nuanced aesthetics of proper craftsmanship and design.

Notice the careful stitching alongside the pockets and card slots.
The interior is a visceral and tactile experience, drawing the senses to experience all the tamed portions of leather. This is the embodiment of refinement.

As we move across the planner from left to right, let us observe the matte Krause rings. My fingers took a loving stroll alongside these rings when I came across them. In a world where often gaudy color palates combat sophisticated and simple tastes, I am BESIDE MYSELF to find understated, high-quality, REPLACEABLE rings in a luxury planner. This small gesture speaks volumes to the overall value added when looking for an every day planner to inspire, quiet and record daily thoughts, plans and calls to action.

The back inside cover has two, full length pockets and 3 card slots with the Italians reminding us once again, they are, indeed, the gods of quality design and execution.

 As I wrap up the planner tour, I will attempt to highlight the blotchy orange spine again. To try and convince you there is actually something wrong with this planner. The lighting in my office and the cloud coverage blend the orange but it is readily visible to the naked eye.
It doesn't bother me. I thought I was going to rush out and get the color matched evenly, to try and bring it to a uniform standard of quality Gillio is notorious for upholding.







I am happy with this perfectly imperfect planner. It is a planner that I have been waiting for without even knowing it. I accept this planner with its perfect imperfections and would like to impart upon you the value of luxury ownership through something one of my heroes is quoted as saying:

"Luxury lies not in richness and ornateness but in the absence of vulgarity."-Coco Chanel

If we begin to look at our lives (our planners are a part of our lives) as an experiment of building consistent quality, then we ought to certainly not be afraid of finding imperfection. The Gilliodoro planner I shared with you is imperfect and can also be brilliant example of luxury. The imperfections do not take away from its essence of old world elegance. Similarly, your imperfections do not alter your essence. 

I consistently refine and simplify my life. I encourage all my clients to do the same-to remove what is unnecessary and become mindful of all our abilities and blessings. This A5 Amica, with no back pocket, no-elasticated leather pen loop and blotchy orange spine has now become the most valuable and luxurious planner I own and although I own more expensive planners, there are none more perfect than this imperfect model. 

I help my clients create strategic life plans, focusing on creating and designing a streamlined life. Yearly goals are broken down into monthly, weekly and daily routines that are built around small but permanent habit changes. I am thrilled, beyond measure, to place my routines, goals and permanent habits into this planner and carry with me the imperfectly perfect legacy I am working on in 2014 and will happily carry over in 2015. Automation Nirvana resides here. 

Stay tuned for my upcoming book "The Streamlined Life: Quick + Easy Tips Bringing Order to Your Whole Life, by Planning, Tracking and Designing Small + Permanent Habit Changes



Color-Coding, Categories and Other Words That Begin With "C" But Are Pronounced With a Hard "C" Phoneme.


Modularlization during a planning session happens in various categories and whilst planning we may find ourselves, as I often have, in color-coding turmoil. Come out, come out wherever you are, all you colour-coders. This post is for you.

As avid colour-coders we know how to segregate the portions of our lives through color and by using the varieties available, we  literally, showcase the areas of our lives we've taken the time to plan. There is your life, in all the weekly or monthly glory, defined in high-definition colour by the use of analogue products. Gaze at the wonder of what you have created.
A coding system error occurs when we want to define the various portions of our lives and begin to dissect EVERYTHING we do as a category. Categories are VITALLY important in parsing out specific detail and clumping like bits together. Categories allow us to focus on what needs to get done within the home, or while away from home. Categories give us the limitations of mental space and free spirits though we are, we still need clear delineations on where to stop.
But how many categories do we create? Do we have one for our spouse? children? Errands? Separate by stores? Here's what I've come up with and I hope it helps you see through the mental clutter of basic human categories (assuming you are living in a developed country). I am also sharing the colors I've assigned each category.

1. Body (Lime Green)
2. Mind (Marigold Orange)
3. Soul (Eggplant Purple)
4. Food (Forest Green)
5. Work (Fuchsia)
6. Style (Hot Pink)
7. Home (Aqua Green)

8. Plan (Atlas Grey)
9.Travel (Sky Blue)

10. Write (Vermillion)

I struggled with adding the concepts of "Think" and "Beauty" but don't those technically fit under "Mind" and "Body" respectively? Similarly, if we choose to create a category for "spouse" are we not then creating and following an agenda within an agenda? in other words, if your husband has a doctor's appointment that YOU need to keep track of, why not simply identify it as "Body", use the designated color for "Body" and simply define the appointment as one for the husband. These overarching categories are vague enough to capture major life occurrences for me.

I've included "Style" to encourage my journey in finding and maintaining my own style for clothing and life-style as well. Also, you will find "Travel" may not suit your needs. I do travel often for work and identify work travel under the "Work" category, which is why I created the "Travel" slot for everything involving holiday travel and vacations or getaways.

I also realise that the "Write" might seemingly need to fit under "Work" as I am a writer and spend time writing to do work. However, I like to create time to write about subjects that are outside the scope of work, like children's stories. These moments are planned and designated to encourage the honing of writing skill. Any decent writer will (or should) write consistently to maintain a level of fluency and strive to ritualize the artful practice.

I'm very keen on this set of words to help me define the parameters of my life because when all is said and done, I can flip open my planner and visually see which colors are not appearing during the course of the week. I know, instantly, THESE are the categories which require more attention. And we all know, in life, energy flows where attention goes. I have weeks where I notice only a smattering of Aqua Green. Those are usually weeks where I am completely absorbed in work, either facilitating a workshop or engrossed in coaching clients. This system helps keep me honest about where I am spending my time, very similar to Benjamin Franklin's diary.

Deliberate living happens when we are deliberate about our planning. We must be able to face our own lacking in certain areas just as we are willing to celebrate areas that we champion with ease. The categories we use simply lay down waypoints in our journey of harmonizing our lives to purposefully live with grace and ease in as many categories as we care to curate.

What other major categories do you modularize your life besides these? I want to hear from you. For more information about the strategic life planning and career coaching, please sign up for my newsletter here: Career + Life Planning Success
If you sign up, you will have access to a free downloadable publication I wrote called "Top 7 Steps To Career Success." 

Analogue Versus Digital Planning Formats (and which is best for your life)

We have long since left the days of the Industrial Revolution. However, we have not left the argument of whether we ought to fully adapt and change to an ever modernizing world, embrace the digital lifestyle yet secretly continuing to stroke the books we find in bookshelves, hoping no one will see us whispering sweet nothings to it as we take a big whiff of its innards.  

Are you a Kindle or are you a book?
iPhone or address book?
iPhone or Desk Calendar?
iPhone or notebook?
iPhone or tape measure? You get the gist. 

Despite the mass production of digital devices, and much to the detriment of our environment, paper planners are not only still around, but are making a comeback. I've read plenty of bloggers rather bigoted points of view which categorize those who use paper planners as "defunct" "outdated" "antiquated" and have even REFUSED those who enter meetings with a paper notebook and writing implement because they would be "slowing everyone else down."
Let us then first create distinctions between Analogue and Digital objects so that we can better relate to the world around us. The following information is stolen from a Scientific American article, entitled "The Reading Brain"dated April 11, 2013.

Analogue vs. Digital 

  1. Information Processing and can be identified as analogue if it is discrete rather than continuous pieces of information. The purpose of a piece of information or object one is looking at can be readily understood without explanation such that even if you don't know what it does, you can determine what is "most likely" used for. 
  2. Digital information or objects can be simulated by a digital computer or algorithm and their purposes are not easily identifiable just by looking at the object. 

ALWAYS ALREADY OBSOLETE is the mantra of digital devices and feed the consumerist mindset making users crave and reject an item simply based on modifications that hold the promise of a "productive" lifestyle. 

In "Proust and the Squid" by Maryanne Wolf, the author delves into the story and science of the reading brain. She very clearly states "using one kind of technology does not preclude us from understanding another." And so perhaps a combination of collection devices is best for humans who live in an analogue world but have brains that are both digital and analogue simultaneously. 
Our brains respond differently to onscreen text than to words on paper and the evidence collected in a Scientific American article dated April 11, 2013 called "The Reading Brain in the Digital Age: The Science of Paper versus Screens" we see that although people have embraced e-readers for their convenience and portability, they admit for SOME REASON they still prefer reading on paper, even those who have already vowed to forgo tree pulp entirely.
But handwriting and reading text on paper as opposed to e-ink allows us to establish mental map generation, a physical landscape of the material that if laid out would very much have hills, valleys and mountains, much like topographical map. We carry the "cities" of books in our heads allowing us to rest, exert and most importantly retain the information in way that cannot be manipulated digitally. The four or eight corners of a page or book allow us physical limitations within which our brain remembers that the butler murdered a guest at the bottom left corner of page 59. Paper is a dynamic medium, much more dynamic than touch screens. We as human beings are more dynamic than the smartphones we carry, which is why we still crave dynamic mediums and print out emails. 
Understanding this, and how our own handwriting 
The research results may seem common sense or obvious to many of us. If you're interested in the biology behind writing's effect on our achievements, though, here's a little background: Writing stimulates a bunch of cells at the base of the brain called the reticular activating system (RAS). The RAS acts as a filter for everything your brain needs to process, giving more importance to the stuff that you're actively focusing on at the moment—something that the physical act of writing brings to the forefront. In Write It Down, Make It Happen, author Henriette Anne Klauser says that "Writing triggers the RAS, which in turn sends a signal to the cerebral cortex: ‘Wake up! Pay attention! Don't miss this detail!' Once you write down a goal, your brain will be working overtime to see you get it, and will alert you to the signs and signals that […] were there all along."


Which brings us back to figuring out what kind of system would work best for you in lifestyle modularization. See if this chart can help you.

Things That Can Happen To Your Device Or Your Device Can Do
Digital Devices
Analogue Devices
Lost, damaged, stolen
 
Killed with a magnet

Used without electricity

Transmits information quickly and internationally
Scan and send!
Quickly duplicated
Carried through airports with no additional fondling by security

Dynamic interface

Can be used within .01 seconds of opening

Indicates how much space is used without opening

Must be stowed away on take off




Personally, I use the Filofax (with a hint of Mulberry thrown in) brand of paper planners. I tried a variety of brands and ultimately settled on a system I can trust. Even at 2:00 in the morning when I used to wake up wondering if I forgot to "insert panicked thought here". My planner has all these details. The more time I spend with my planner the more I understand how my brain works and the easier I can begin to compartmentalize and break into do-able chunks the uncultivated areas of my life. Ann Vital has a wonderful Infographic that includes 7 areas of life that can be streamlined into processes. (Here is a link to her infographic: http://notes.fundersandfounders.com/post/59500063068/productivity
We will discuss productivity and GTD in future posts. Let me know if you have an intense desire to want to print out the infographic. Don't worry, I won't tell anyone.