Why I Gave Up My Dream Job To Stay Home With My Planners

I was recruited by a defense contractor to serve as a translator and interpreter for the US Army in Romania last month. Being born in Romania and speaking the language fluently, I considered this to be an opportune moment to wrap up my life and live out of a suitcase for 1 year, effectively placing all my other activities on hold. I should be ready. Most of my stuff has been KonMaried, I know where all my documents are. I have scanned copies on Evernote.

During the in-processing with this company (who shall remain nameless to protect the guilty),  I was asked to provide a slew of documents, get physical examinations and was presented with the restrictions on what I could take with me. After having read all the documents, I understood that my life was to fit into 2 rolling duffle bags and anything else had to be mailed to me once I was in country.

THIS was THE opportunity to pop open my planners and belt out my lists contents in operetta form, because I had been preparing for this since forever. I had whittled my planner collection down and was prepared to carry 4 planners in a backpack for 3 weeks until I got to where I needed to be.
I had all the travel loyalty cards and new all their access codes. I had logins and passwords written down for my husband to access all accounts in my absence.
I told my clients to be patient.
I bought new clothes
I closed out loose ends
I deposited checks, sold last minute items, posted things to the mail.
Brand new computer bought (smaller than what I need for editing but perfect for 1 year abroad).

Still paperwork kept rolling in. With a week to spare to my leave date, we decide to take a family trip to the Virginia Tidewater area to look for a house because our lease was up in January 2016. Ten + hours each way with my husband, mother and puppy, with pee pee stops every 2 hours or so. None of the houses we had selected worked out.
One of the houses the realtor suggested worked.
Still paperwork was coming in. No time to respond, no sleep to speak of. Clients pay no attention to "we are closed until the new year" sign. Orders keep pouring in.
"Stop at the underwear store, I need new underwear for one year" Underwear bought

Offer placed on house, Offer negotiated.
Thanksgiving Day Offer is accepted
Next day. We get word my mother in law passed away. My husband starts making plans to fly out for the funeral.
10+ hours driving back in torrential rains.
Phone calls, Pack up husband. Make more lists. A few loose ends still not tied up and now new loose ends with powers of attorney needed for my family.
Now, the family will be moving without me present. All my life will be packed in boxes and stay in boxes until I get back.

It's all going to be worth it. This is the job you've been waiting for, K.

More vaccinations needed for new job. Stop working, start driving to meet all the requirements.
New requirements for new job spring up. Meet requirements. Check.
Tickets? I need tickets? Call company... tickets on the way. Tickets arrive. One business day before weekend of travel:
Mom wants me to follow her in my car to get to Carmax to have our cars appraised. This. Now.
While at CarMax...
We will need the following original documents for your processing-COPIES WILL NOT DO.
"Um, I only have copies." (Friday Morning, flight slotted for Sunday)
"That won't do."
You never said you needed copies before, I have provided you everything in my life and thinking: why would you NOT list such a specific request on day one?!
Friday Afternoon "Am I flying out Sunday or not?"
No phone call, no email. Notice of flight cancellation sent by airline.

Executive revelation had and decision made Sunday while at the dog park with husband and puppy:
You didn't have your life together at all. You had the framework for getting it together. You have now just started to get your life together. What's it worth to you to be away from your life now that you know what to do in order to get it together? What's it worth? Is it worth your health?

These people still haven't called or emailed me. It's Monday afternoon. I have only words of gratitude to them, for allowing me the massive stress, the upset to my health and the horrific last-minute , mad-dash planning on my end to pretend my life was in order.

We are getting ready to move to our forever home. FOREVER HOME after being moved around almost every year for the last 15 years. There is an office for me in our new home (which we haven't closed on yet but are very close to). This office is upstairs and in the back corner. It's a sunny corner of a corner house in Williamsburg, Virginia. It has french doors to it and when you walk in to the rectangularly shaped room, you notice the sun beaming down on the hardwood floors-floors that were reclaimed from a pier during the Boston Tea Party. My planners want to live here and not in boxes waiting one long and lonely year for me. I want to meet my friend Steve during designated hours and record our radio program. I want to start putting down roots. I want to take my dog to the dog park. I want to plan it all out so I can see it from the comfort of my home, which I have earned every square inch of.

I'm calling Apple today to see if I can swap out my very tiny laptop for a 27 inch iMac so I can clearly see the wonderfully horrid resumes my clients send me, so I can help them move past their unhelpful resumes and move into what they need, a document to serve them.
I'm scoping out yoga and pilates studios, and making pedicure dates with my girlfriend in DC and wrapping my head around what it might feel like to not have to ever pack up and move again. Being an interpreter is still my dream job and I don't want to have to live in a self-induced nightmare to get it. Because when a dream shows up as reality, the effort needed to get there should have already been made, gracefully and not in a panic, without the terror of not knowing if one has enough underwear to last a year.
Getting ready to KonMari the rest of the house before the move. Now that's a dream I can look forward to.

Tidying Up Your Life And Other Steps To Loving Yourself

There may be quite a few fanatics of author, Marie Kondo out there. I am one of them. I have devoured her book, "The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up" and am quite content FINALLY understanding what all the stuff in my life was doing. 

Some of it was filling a void. Some of it was trying to be first class. (please read my blog post on being first class to fully grasp this concept). Some of it was useful and some of it was a very good representation of my emotional state while armed with a credit card. 

And so we come to Charlie Chaplin. Yes, Charlie Chaplin. I paraphrase this thoughts here because the actual quote varies on many levels. 

As I began to love myself I freed myself from anything that is no good for my health-food, people, things, situations, and everything that drew me down and away from myself.
At first I called this attitude a healthy egoism. Today I know it is "love of oneself."

I have experienced the "magic" of #KonMari's techniques. I have seen my house linger with the awesomeness of being complete in all tasks BEFORE the weekend even begins. I have...seen the back wall to my closet. And all of these are unpaved steps on the journey of self love and self respect. 

Sadly, this is not a topic taught by most parents or schools. The self care my body, mind and soul requires is compartmentalized within the scope of exercise, study and prayer. However, no one has ever conceptualized the divine grace of combining all three aspects into a discipline of the self as a form of active self respect and self love. There can be no greater gift. No amount of money can purchase this sense of well-being and there is something wonderfully attractive about discipline. 

I have already seen the social media commentary about people who have tidying up their lives so completely that their therapists are beginning to intervene, requesting their clients not take up so much time tidying, as it is most probably serving as a distraction from real issues. If this is your therapist please understand, your therapist probably says that because he or she thinks the focus on tidying up takes away from purposeful living. Most people freakishly tidy up as a matter of bringing temporary order into their lives. Your therapist doesn't get that you are mindfully invested in living deliberately. This is not a chronic thing. It used to be and to most people perpetual cleaning, unstopping, decluttering, and all that that entails is manic behavior which is indicative of a long-term (read long time paying) client. 

The ability to self asses and realize that living in a tidy and orderly home is not a fantasy and having something like that is not reserved for the rich and famous. 

Have you noticed how the wealthier people are, the less stuff they actually own? Clutter is non-existent in wealthy homes, while it is pervasive in poorer homes or homes where debts are owed. 

In order to change the direction of your life, particularly if you agree that self respect and self love are the best gifts you can give yourself. Then why not start disengaging from anything that draws you "down and away from" yourself? This is the premise of KonMari's book. She captures her concept with "does this item spark joy"? I HIGHLY encourage a new reader to follow the order of releasing items from your home because the order actually determines your ability to succeed. There are many who will advise you begin decluttering by working in one room a little bit each day or setting aside a box of items you no longer use. These are all the same methods you are already aware of and these methods have led you to the same stuffed closets and cupboards you have today. Belongings MUST be grouped together in like categories before attempting any release. All Clothes, all books, all papers, FROM EVERYWHERE around your home must be gathered up together. That's why she urges one grouping at a time. 

The relationship I had with my belongings before I read Marie Kondo's book was almost non existent. I was the perfect consumer, buying, slightly using and then throwing or donating items to cycle in the newer and fresher things, never grasping the magnitude of my wastefulness. Particularly in full understanding the amount of money being spent on things that continued to make me unhappy. This realization alone, was worth the read for me. And it is very different when you read these words off a blog instead of living them. 
I also recommend the two-part Japanese video series about a fictional KonMari character who does a better job of explaining why belongings need to be sorted in a particular order. 

Droves of people are swearing by her technique. I am one  of them. I also see the value of how tidying up your life is the greatest demonstration to the rest of the world of how to treat you. 

Be First Class In Everything

I recently came across a sticker that read:
You can't have a first-class body while eating off the dollar menu

This truly resonated with me and in my journey to streamline all aspects of my life. How can I expect to have anything worth having if I don't commit my whole self to it? I have to be first class in everything I do so I can live the first class lifestyle.

There are plenty of celebrities who we see traveling in style and jet-setting in first class accommodations. The critics will criticize but, one thing is abundantly clear, you never see them eating off the dollar menu. Some of the wealthiest people have full-time live-in chefs that create daily menus. These celebrities make a concerted effort to eat well, take care of their bodies and create a daily routine that makes their well-being the centre of their activities.
Yes, they do get paid to take care of themselves. But in a way, you and I get paid to take care of ourselves too. We are the ones that have chosen the careers we have. We have chosen our mates, our homes, our cities our menu items, our routines or lack thereof.

In our every day lives we all pay a price to buy the things we want. We also pay a price for neglecting the things we don't take care of. In essence, if you don't take care of yourself and instead, you neglect yourself, you have a great chance of losing your given investment of health and well-being.

The actual cost is then measured in co-pays, drug side effects, insurance costs, time away from family, time away doing things you HAVE to do in order to make it through another day, phone calls with incompetent administrative clerks, mistakes, schedule changes and various other time suckers which would otherwise not exist in a healthy person's world.

The sicker we feel the less we are able to do for ourselves and I'm sure most of us have held a pity-party or two for those god-awful, can't get out of bed-days. So how do we come out of this comatose state of perpetual dis-ease? It starts with our mindset.

Mindset, or the things you tell yourself when there are no words coming out of your mouth, defines your life. 

Research has shown that 95%-97% of the choices we make during the day are made by the unconscious mind. That's a HUGE percentage! The number really has had an impact on me. I have made a vision board out onto one of the walls in my pilates room. Yes, I am that woman. My husband bought me a pilates reformer machine when we first moved to Kentucky. The entire room is dedicated to well-being. The wall that faces the machine is covered with images I would like to incorporate into my lifestyle. These images include, fit people, disciplined people, images of faraway, exotic travel locations, camping gear, fine dining, prayerful images, hopeful images and all the other daily moments that I want my 95%-97% to be influenced by. I visualize my life on paper through planning but I also visualize where I would like my life to go through an ever changing collage of images to give my brain clear guidelines on what to create. My path is created by my DELIBERATE efforts to coax my unconscious mind into purposefully select things that are good for me.  This is the first fundamental of being First Class in everything.
Create space in your life for your first-class lifestyle

How to create space in your life for deliberate living

The next step is eliminating anything that does not support that first-class lifestyle. Ratty t-shirts, clothing that never gets worn and only takes up space, miscellaneous items that clutter up space, books upon books of stories that have already been accessed and are sitting, lifeless on the shelves. These things take up space. They take up all the second and third class space you are willing to allow. 

Ever notice the main difference between first class and economy seating? More space. The nicer treatment is a plus, but what everyone is really after involves more space. First class lounges vs. economy lounges? More space. Fine dining vs fast food? More space (even in the kitchen). In cultures where space is at a premium, like the Japanese culture, you will find people eliminate a lot of other miscellaneous items to create the sense of space, which in turn, creates a sense of calm. Some sushi bars and ramen shacks are extremely tiny. People have to squeeze in. Nevertheless, every millimeter of space has been accounted for to create a space worth sharing or a space better left empty. Compare wealthy peoples' homes with those who complain about not having enough. Notice, I am not saying poor people.  Truly poor people have very few belongings. I am talking about those who complain about not having enough money and yet their homes are bulging with belongings. Why do all the home makeovers look so drastic when they are complete? Because they have created more space, either by building a bigger room or eliminating excess clutter.

Space give us a clean slate to do with that space whatever we want. I don't like filling up my walls with paintings or decor. Wall art is not decor for me. It's visual noise, even if it is a beautiful work of art. That bit of art is another artists's interpretation of how my wall should look ALL THE TIME. There is no room for me to bring in my own thought or interpretation. Blank walls, empty desks, or roomy airplane seats allow for breath and movement. This empty space will also allow for your mindset to shift. This is really the only way to provide yourself first class service in life. Always look for more space and if there isn't any, create it. My hero for creating space has been author Marie Kondo "KonMari." In her book "The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up" she gives the formulaic layout for creating space in your life FOR EVERYTHING. I highly recommend her book and her system to as the first step in understanding the process of being first class in everything.

October (is really the last month of the year) A Planner's Perspective on the most important planning month of the year.

This was meant to be published in October of 2014. However, due to a cross-country move, I am now extremely early for October 2015. Consider this your first quarter check-in for your annual goals. 

So, October. Right.

 How can it really be the last month of the year? I mean we all know the last month is December. 

Let me break it down for you.

Most of the Northern Hemisphere on planet Earth begins slowing down, rhythmically with the seasons. One of my goals in 2015 is based around mindfulness. Therefore, if I am being mindful of the fact that seasons indicate change in nature, then as a natural being, I too must align myself with that change. So, starting in the Fall, things start to slow down. I am very fond of this season, because aside from dealing with an unhealthy dose of anxiety, I enjoy watching nature slowly turn the volume down a little bit each day, from muted colors in the plants and trees to the changing winds that bring the aromas of apple cinnamon spice cider, pear tarts and pumpkin soups.

Right about the time the Halloween nonsense starts to appear in stores, I start a virtual timer in my mind and take into consideration the "turning down" of the home, work and life, very much like the turning down of a hotel room and bed. There is a certain freshness in having deliberately decided to do a particular activity. When we leave our hotel rooms, the staff come and "make up" the room. Preparing it for activities that involve being "up." We could just get into a made bed. That's what most of us do at home. But the mindfulness aspect of living comes into play when we purposefully, "turn down" a bedroom to prepare for doing things while "down." The "making up" or "turning down" implies a routine, simple steps that take a space from x to y. I find October to be the month to transition from "made up" to "turned down."

Unless you are hosting massive halloween parties every year, there is really not much planning to have to get done for October. However, right around the corner is Thanksgiving. Meal prep, family phone calls, spare room refreshening and general house tidying comes alive. My birthday also happens to be at the end of November so I am usually planning a getaway for us. Sure enough, right after Thanksgiving, Christmas celebrations are in full swing and depending on where you live in the world, the weather starts making itself very known. When we lived in Alaska, one of my favorite moments was the rush to ensure we had enough provisions to get a good chunk of the winter out of the way without having to leave the house too often. No one really wants to make a run to the store for bulky items at -35F. Porches were swept, cobwebs  removed, garage cleaned-out and a small stockpile of dry goods would magically appear in the house.

With all this going on, I really am not thinking about the planning that is going to happen for the following year.  I don't want to think about the future right now; I want to enjoy the now. These 3 months are the most magical months for me and I allow myself to mentally and physically enjoy the final months of the year by using the first 2 weeks of October as "Turn Down" weeks. October 15th is my deadline to order planner inserts for the next year. This way, I am not caught in any of the Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas or New Year's rushes and my inserts arrive with plenty of time for me to work out any new tweaks to my system.

Ordering inserts in October also gives me time to start filling in what I will be doing the following year. Now, I may not know where I will be but, I can certainly start defining what my goals I want to incorporate into my life and how I want the year to play out. Having my inserts early, allows me the time and space within the spare moments stolen during the quiet months to get my thinking done. I make time to be alone and I make time to ensure my Master Task List from the previous year has been reviewed and unfinished items moved into the new year's list.

Once the New Year is come and gone, I am normally eyeballs deep in getting resumes out and giving talks on streamlining. I don't want to have to start thinking about what my goals are in the first month of the year. I have been thinking for three months and am activating all the processes I have planned out. I admit, January carries with it a sense of heaviness. There are 12 long months ahead of work and plans and all sort of things that need sorting out. There is also a sense of freshness and newness and the chance to make everything new with what didn't work in the year before. I make a point to steal quiet moments in January, as much as I can. These moments usually involve my planner and I would not want to be in the second week of January hoping my inserts would arrive already!

I hope this year, you create some permanent rituals for yourself and your household to "turn down" the year but, until then, we've got some work to do.

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

Planning Your LIfe On-The-Go

I was not born knowing how to plan and keep my life organized. I learned this process by experimenting with different set-ups and invariably succumbing to consumerism. Being able to design a life on the go requires some planning. Not a lot. But some. 
First, how long will you be on the go? 

Are you taking short business trips, able to use your home as a landing space?
Will you be taking 1-2 month long trips away from your home State or country?
Are you just planning the "on the go" to mean time away from the family and the house while you are at work?

Assess your needs. Then create a plan. And work on it every single day. 
The household must keep running while you are away. What information will a stranger need to help your household continue running smoothly?
Gardner? Handyman? Pool guy? Seasonal charity? Cleaning? Pets? 
Inventory of things and life are probably the most valuable items one can have, away from the home. One of the most frustrating things I experienced was being in a foreign country and unable to determine how much damage was incurred to my flat, back home, from flooding. 

Here iis how I have set up my On-The Go planners for my needs.

Business travel 2-3 times per month
Average stay 4 nights 5 days 
Mode of transport: Airplane and car

1. A5 Gilliodoro Amica planner which contains my client list, schedule, and project management.
2. Medium (Personal) Gilliodoro Navy with DIY Fish inserts to track personal goals, development and well-being, including gratitude journal, vitamin tracker and exercise log.
3. Filofax Piccadilly Red Slimine for my wallet which has Daytimer soft silicone credit card inserts to hold practically every credit card, loyalty card, gift card or any other unnerving card that has a tendency to float around my office. They are all contained there. And when I do find myself shopping while away, I can always have my gift cards at the ready. I do a little happy dance when I use one up and can get rid of it. Making space in my wallet means making space for money to find its way to me. 
4. Laptop (depending on the workload) or iPad Mini, a tripod stand and a bluetooth keyboard with access to a full version of Word to keep my editing on track. 

At the airport, I merely have to have my slimline with me to show ID or use a debit card for miscellanous purchases. None of these babies get checked in. EVER. The only things I am willing to check-in are things that I would be ok losing. That is, I can always replace clothes, make-up, shoes, etc. But I would be lost without my planners and my trip would probably come to a standstill without proper ID to check into hotels, money and cards for car rentals. These items are always on me-usually in my handbag.

I travel with (read: carry on) a vintage Louis Vuitton Randonee Grand Model (GM). This has been a staple for me in the last 5 years and no matter how many other bags I try, nothing else comes close to the simple, practical clean lines. It goes with everything and holds the whole lot!
One suitcase: A Rimowa Cabin International (black) which can be checked in or carried on. I will do a separate post on what I take and how I pack. 

Keep in mind this is only for 5 days travel. However, the minute I leave the house (and my office) all my clients want to reach me. So I make sure I carry the essentials with me to remind myself of conversations I have had with my clients. Having a personal assistant (thank you, Joanne) also helps tremendously. 

International Travel
Average Stay: 1-2 months
Mode of transport: Airplane, train, car

When my husband and I travel we like to take our time and see our friends. We are lucky enough to have access to free plane tickets around the world and as such have to have a VERY flexible schedule. This means traveling light and being able to manage the home while we are away. 

1. Traveler's style leather notebook with important client details transfered over to include the past month only. Special pocket holds my passport
2. iPad Mini with tripod stand and bluetooth keyboard.
3. Filofax Piccadilly Red Slimine for my wallet

We have annoyingly cheesy, matching Gregory Rucksacks and we only take about a week's worth of clothing with us, because we usually get our laundry done on the go and can always buy more as we go. On trips where we are going to stay put in 1-2 places for the whole tiime, we pack regular suitcases and have now gotten into the habit of posting them via UPS ahead of our travel, so our belongings can meet us at the hotel. No losses, no damaged suitcases and we can always ship what we want home. 

Staying connected is important but even more important is having a system to make sure things are running the way they always do. Finding reliable and trustowrthy housesitters is probably one of the best choices you can make for youself on long trips away. Providing your housesitters with a manual on how to run your home is priceless. Currently, I am using a Filofax A5 Red Finchley. It seems to be working fine and holds up to the daily wear. 

I am a big fan of enjoying life. Being a connoisseur of life, such that travel is actually enjoyed and when I get home from my travels and I don't need a week to recover because I have been resting enough while I have been away. Although we do travel with alarm clocks, we only use them to make sure we are on time for the often early airport roll calls. Other than that, the alarm clocks stay tucked away and we do what we like. If we feel like we want to stay in and sleep, we will. That is a tremendously freeing experience. Our mantra has been: Travel light and often. Eat well while on the road, sleep in dark, cool and quiet rooms and stay hydrated. 

We hope to spend Christmas with my Godmother in Germany this year. Traveler's notebook is ready to go!

Permanent Habit Changes (PHC) Doing The Things That Matter

Everyone wants the feel-good, quick-fix, get-it-done-yesterday pill. I want one too. Often. 

However, here's the problem: Even if we had the pill the immediate issue would be resolved but our fortitude in dealing with said issue will have been cast aside. The reason some things in life are more difficult than others is because life is trying to teach us a lesson at that particular moment and unless we train our emotional infrastructure to deal with a particular load, we are doing ourselves a disservice by seeking instant gratification. Furthermore, life will continue to teach us the same lesson until we get it. If you are noticing patterns of various issues in your life, I guarantee those patterns will continue until you change the actions taken when dealing with those issues.

Toddlers cannot walk with grace and ease, they struggle, and in doing so develop the heavy-duty muscles that will serve them their entire lives. If you find you are dealing with a particular issue repeatedly in life, this is a sign that you haven't learned your lesson yet. I don't know what that lesson is. Only you can tell and in order to decipher the universal messages of success or stagnation, you've got to get attuned with what's working AND what's not working. Most people can quickly and definitively work out what's not working. Period. Notice, I didn't say "success or failure." Often the terms are deemed opposites. They are not. Failure leads to success. Success is rarely sustained without failure.

In order for us to get aligned with our lives and have elements of our lives run smoothly, we must engage what IS working. There are some things you are doing right. Focus on those. Study them. See why they are working? Are you able to give more time and energy to those elements? Consider spending 10 minutes a day writing down what's working in your life. Are you healthy? Breathing? Not living in a country where war is at the door? Consider yourself blessed and start counting how many times life just keeps giving you things without you ever having to ask for them.

There are portions of our lives often out of balance, and that's a good thing. 

I worry about people who try to constantly get their lives "in balance." Those of you who are hoping to one day get in balance can take a opportunity to answer this question: What happens to water when it is balanced? Stagnant water goes stale. Perhaps the solution then is to not seek this mystical creature of balance and attempt to harmonize ourselves with the bits of our lives. Sometimes your relationships are in perfect working order, and your finances are down. Other times you have your work life sorted but your spiritual life is out of whack. How do you know which of these elements is harmoniously working or causing you anguish? 

We must analyze our habits and our selves to see what we repeatedly do. How often are we on automatic pilot? Only by tracking our lives can we begin to see the patterns of behavior that lead to the results we have in our lives. Tracking is crucial part of growing up and be willing to take responsibility of one's own life. This means being accountable for the good things as well. Very quickly people will deconstruct themselves and consider "everything a mess," when in fact, only 1-2 elements need attention and realignment.
More importantly, focusing on what's not working perpetuates the "what's not working." Why not make an effort to feel good about what's happening in your life? I am sure there is at least one good thing to feel good about. If you focus on this, and begin a gratitude journal where you list 5 things you are grateful for each day, you WILL notice a difference. Your attention will shift and you will begin to see how you can affect change in the areas of your life that require a different strategy.

Everyone can say "this is broken;" very few people will tell you to focus on the repair or look at everything else that works. Even more so, what about tracking the habits of your life? What about wanting to go from point A to point B? How do we shift the mindset that shifts the action that shifts the results? 

Through small, almost minuscule but permanent habit changes.

Everyone wants to change the world. No one wants to take the time to change the habits they have developed that are at the cause of their current quality of life. If you don't like where you are in life, move. You are not a tree. Consider tracking you life and color-coding the various elements, distinguishing one from another and allowing to more easily track where your time (energy) is going. To find out more about deliberately planning your life, sign up here with Thinker Extraordinaire, LLC. None of us are born knowing how to set up our lives on purpose. Most western cultures scoff at those who are disciplined in their planning, marginalizing these people as "extreme", at best. Why? If a normal human being decided to wake up 2 hours earlier than normal every morning to plan their life, people might think that person odd. If Jason Statham does it, all of a sudden "It's OK, he's a professional actor" and the "eccentric" now is embraced someone who works to maintain professionalism. I am the owner of Thinker Extraordinaire, LLC. I started this business from the ground up and here we are 8 years later and perhaps we are doing something right. I know, because I track my success. This is my planner, a red, Filofax Deskfax.

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. 

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:


 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?"

Deliberate Living- Designing Your Own Life (and why it matters)

Deliberately Showing Up.

Life is for the living and in life, if you are not living, you are dying. I am absolutely dedicated to creating a life worth living for myself. A life which allows me the luxury of time and space to do with as I please and to work when I want to, on projects I care about, spending my time with people whose company I enjoy. A life where money flows with ease and relationships are treasures. I am creating a life where I design my purpose with God's blessing, to honor everyone that came before me and didn't make it as far and to remind those that come after me, to take the slow road, to check the map, laminate it, hole punch it and place it in their planner, because maps are useful creatures and SatNavs often lose connection with satellites.

I am writing these notes as a guide to those who seek the same things in life. This blog is dedicated to all those who understand this writer's simple desire to travel the world at a moment's notice and have a life so streamlined and effectual, that she could, with a phone call from the first class airplane seat, notify the current house-sitters that "the packet in the third drawer on the left side in the office desk will be picked up by the accountant on Thursday" and could then easily pull her eye mask down, plug in some ambient music and relax, knowing that every thing has been taken care of to the fullest degree of self actualization. This blog is about deliberately being the best you and tracking those experiences by:
  1. Identifying the various important portions of your life, 
  2. Turning them into palatable projects (modules)
  3. And understanding how to manage those modules through small but permanent lifestyle changes, resulting in a self-actualized and deliberately designed life. 

So Why Does Designing A Deliberate Life Matter?

Without an objective view into our own lives, we are bound to live it based on the needs and pulls of others, rarely to our own benefit. Even at our best, during a given day, the internal monologue machine leans on being highly critical instead of highly inspirational. Inspiration is sought out on occasion, filling a well that often satiates others but leaves us very little for our own inspirational thirst. All the retreats and holidays in the world can't make up for an unfulfilled life and when it comes to living, fulfillment is the first need that is set aside for more practical gains, like salary or vacation time. 

Which reminds me of a story: A business executive find himself working 50-70 hours a week. He gives up time with his family, time for himself and his well-being to ensure the company moves forward with its mission. In fact, the company offers him 3 weeks paid vacation at the end of his 10th year instead of the regular 2 weeks. Overjoyed, he takes his family to an all expenses paid, island getaway. On his last morning there, the business executive decides to talk a walk out onto the rocky cliffs, overlooking the pristine water. He notices a local selling fruit juice, made from the fruits collected under the very tree that was providing him shade, the local had a makeshift sign that read: Fifty cents a cup.

The business executive chuckled to himself, walked over to the native and said "Why don't you charge more money for your juice? You could make more money per cup."
The native responded "Why do I need more money?"
The business executive retorted "So you can pay someone to stand here and sell fruit juice while you take your family on vacation. It has taken me 10 years to get to a point where I have sold enough product so I can have the money I need to bring my family here. Don't you want that for yourself?"
The native blinked once and said "I have that already. We just wake up here in the morning."

To offer no resistance to life is to be in a state of grace, ease and lightness. 

-Eckhart Tolle in The Power of Now

The Way We Live

We are perpetually thrust into conforming around the world's schedule, those of us caught living in the Occident. We imbue our lives with to-do lists, pilates schedules, work routines, hydrating events (yes, I heard it referred to as an "event") and various time mismanagement set-ups that focus on simplifying overcomplicated lives by overspending money we overwork to produce in order to pay the bills that allow us to complicate our lives ad nauseum.

While the process of simplification, a noble process at that, is seemingly an aggregate of our conscious minds' ongoing to-do list of things to...do before we die, we discover that no one ever writes: "Pilates 3:00-4:00, hopefully I'm still alive then." We assume, in linear fashion, time will speed up or slow down proportionally based on the scale of exciting to boring events we've either planned to go through willingly or exposed ourselves to, in order to get one step closer to death. Really.

So if this is a zero sum game, this life, why bother planning at all? Is it, hurry up and get x-much done before we buy the farm? Or is it, hurry up and get the boring bits done so we can sit and relax before we buy the farm? Or is it, hurry up and get it done because we are buying the farm and want the kids to have the keys before we go? Either way, the farm is getting bought! Assuming we are channeling our inner Aristotle and we want to examine our lives to make them worth living, are we then in fact, examining or lives through planning or merely beating the battle rhythm of what life presents us by writing down the unfortunate events that will eventually lead to our demise?

What if we decided to extrapolate the concept of planning into modular blocks of life, which, upon desired arrangement, offer a blueprint of how to live vis a vis how we are living? What if we made our life's purpose creating a systematic approach to arranging the chunks of limited life into a rearrangeable order such that we left behind legacies of how to best live life a-la ( insert your last name here)?

So, how is this blueprint to be captured? Do we use paper systems that can get lost, stolen or damaged to capture our information or rely on digital systems that can be lost, stolen or damaged? Part two of this series will discuss Analogue vs Digital formats. For now, let's err on the side of using analogue systems. That is, systems that do not have an on/off switch-Paper Planners. Any brand will do! Some brands to consider are Filofax Personal Organizers, Day Timer, Franklin Covey, Gillio, Midori Traveler's Notebooks and Moleskine Notebooks. The whole point is to find a system that can be streamlines, duplicated and integrated.

My suggestion is to set up a planner and deliberately begin designing your life.

Where Do I Start? Start Where You Are.

There certainly must be areas of your life that are working, areas where things are flowing as you would want them to be. These are the modules of your life that may need tweaking every so often but you've figured them out. Perhaps you just want to track these areas. Creating an entire planner for finances, when everything is flowing right, might be a bit much. However, tracking finances as a tab within a planner would be a logical conclusion.

Why not begin with an area of your life where you have a complaint? An area that has a pattern of showing up in ways that are not pleasing to you. Pick that one. That's a good one. Yes, the one you just thought of and said to yourself "Why would I ever want to bring THAT skeleton out of its closet?" That's the very one we are talking about. Let's shine some light on the bugger. It's not like anyone else is going to see him.

In case you haven't picked up on life's many secrets yet, here's Life Lesson No. 1: Life will continue to teach you the same lesson until you get it. So, if you are experiencing a repetition of problems or patterns in your life you would like to stop, consider this to be a "module" for you to work on. Create a tab, label it with whatever you want to call it, e.g., "Healthy Eating" and start focusing your attention on everything that rings true to your senses. If it "feels" good to think about a subject, continue to focus upon it. If it doesn't, don't.

Where are all your important phone numbers listed in case your phone is ever stolen?