Saturday, April 12, 2014

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I've read plenty of bloggers rather bigoted points of view which categorize those who use paper planners as "defunct" "outdated" "antiquated" and have even REFUSED those who enter meetings with a paper notebook and writing implement because they would be "slowing everyone else down."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. 



Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Automation Nirvana: Routinizing our Lives for Maximum Spontaneity



We Are What We Repeatedly Do. -Aristotle

If the way you lived your life today was captured and recorded for review by complete strangers to get an impression about who you are, would the things you did be a reflection of how you want your life reflected to others?

If today was the last day of your life, and you only found out in the last hour of the day, would you have spent it the same way you did knowing it would be your last within the first hour of the day? 

Asking these questions is fundamental to understanding why routines are key to deliberately living our lives. I've seen people's faces grow sad or bored when the subject of "routine" comes up, almost as if I have recalled an unpleasant experience from childhood. Routines are wonderful things. Automating one's life can be the difference between spending money and making money. Truly. 

I want you, dear reader, to get excited about the idea of a routine, boring as though initial thought processes may sound. I usually get "pee pants" excited about the idea of setting a up a new routine because it means I have unlocked the automation process to one more nuanced level of my life. That is,  one more level of unraveling complete, allowing my mind to focus to focus on other ideas. 

This systemization of thoughts culminating in #AutomationNirvana or Streamlining follow 3 basic steps.
1. Observation of the moving bits of your life
2. Placing those bits into processes
3. Connecting those processes into a consistent schedule where they occur calendrically

Making Peace With The Moving Bits In Our Lives


Streamlining my life seems to come as a natural progression. I used to have a lot of stuff. Now I have some stuff that I need, use and love. My goal is to only have stuff that I need, use and love. Chalk it up to being obsessive about having 1 quality item versus 45 bad quality items. I am particularly fond of going through this journey because it allows me to find systems processes throughout my life. If we can agree on the basic concept of a business' strength determined by the ability of the owner to walk away from it and have the business continue chugging along with minimal interference, then we can also agree the systems processes we place in our lives determine the strength the life systems that hold us up in place. I suffer from this condition daily. I seek out constant refinement of process and have given the syndrome a name: Automation Nirvana. I have nothing but love for myself when I operate out of this space. 
In my mind's eye, there is nothing more gratifying than knowing, at a moment's notice, just how many:
1. White T-shirts I own
2. Where a particular book lives in my library (and being able to look up my inventory of books, identifying its genre and realising that's number 4 out of 7 Science Fiction books, in fact).
3. Being able to systemise my life, such that, I can set up a home planner, with the various processes outlined, hand it over to a house sitter, grab my keys, passport and handbag and head to the airport because MY LIFE IS IN ORDER AND ORDER IS IN MY LIFE. 


What is streamlining? 

According to Merriam-Webster:

streamline

 transitive verb
to make (something) simpler, more effective, or more productive 
So why am I obsessed with getting all the moving bits of my life to work more effectively, more simply? The answer for me is based out of my inability to cope with clutter. Oddly enough, I am the one creating most of the clutter in my life. But what is clutter exactly? A collection of things lying about in an untidy fashion (according to the dictionary). But, I want to go one step further. I've noticed people having massive collections of dolls or cars or (insert odd collectible here). What's the point of all this stuff? I collect planners. HOWEVER, all my planners have a purpose and are used. The moment a planner stares at me from across the room with no purpose, it becomes clutter. It goes from $80.00 to clutter in 2 seconds. The actual monetary value of things do not increase their inherent value for me. I have a planner that cost me $19.00. It is one of my most loved planners. (It's the Personal Buckingham Filofax in red, in case you planner geeks are wondering). 

There must be a point when we walk into our homes and reach a level of satisfaction with life such that we can make peace with the things in our lives. I have become acutely aware of the loveliness of less. The more I let go of, the more space I have to enjoy what I have. And so, it is not the accumulation of collections that make us happy, but the search for the happiness within the collectibles that has us convinced peace is hidden somewhere within the stuff. Haven't found *THE* planner yet? Keep looking. But in the name of everything holy, save yourself a lot of time, money and aggravation. Take the time to see what you actually want, write down a list of "wants" in that particular planner (or whatever you are looking to bring into your life). When the process of bringing new items into your life slows down and you begin to address the moving bits in your life as things that need love, attention, care, etc., only then will you ask yourself the question that determines where you are in the spectrum of stuff: "Am I willing to have THIS item be the only item grab and run if there were a fire blazing in my house?"