Flexible Focus #5: The Mandala Business Diary

by William Reed on June 10, 2010

Life and business have a lot to do with how we navigate. Where you go, who you meet, and how you spend your time, makes an enormous difference in the quality of your life and your legacy. Wouldn’t it be nice to have a compass to guide you where you want to go, rather than drifting with the tides and currents?

In The Dash Poem, Linda Ellis speaks of the value of a life not being measured in the dates on the tombstone, but by what happened in the dash between those years. With its reminder of the urgency and opportunity in life, this poem has touched millions of people.

The Mandala Chart gives you a flexible focus framework for looking at that dash, and for doing something significant while you are in it. We have already looked at the Principle of Interdependence in the 8 Frames of Life, Health, Business, Finance, Home, Society, Personal, Study, and Leisure. At the same time, each of these frames is actually a stage for a drama that unfolds over time. Whether you think of time proceeding on a linear timeline, or in repeating cycles like the seasons, you might agree that time is not a noun but a verb. It flows like water, flies like an arrow. It heals all wounds, and wounds all heels.

What you do with time, and how you engage with it makes all of the difference. Time is amorphous like an ocean. As long as time remains a subjective sensation, it is very easy to get lost at sea, as many people are. To get your bearings in life, it helps to have a compass and a map. The function of the Mandala Business Diary is to apply the power of flexible focus to the passing of time. This tool is designed to help you become a power user, learning and applying all of the principles of the Mandala Chart in the process of life work planning.

Although it can function as an ordinary day planner, containing a calendar with the weeks and months of the year, as a tool for the Mandala Chart it has far greater potential. Your skill in using the tool will improve with your understanding of the Mandala Chart.

The Mandala Business Diary was developed in 1979 by Matsumura Yasuo, founder of Clover Management Research and of the Mandala Chart Association. It has a popular following in Japan, but is different from other day planners in several important respects.

Mandala Chart format

It begins with a Personal Planning Chart containing the 8 frames of life, and a Mandala Chart for your business or working goals. Each week is laid out in a Mandala Chart format, with the central frame for Weekly Objectives and Results, surrounding frames for the 7 days of the week, and the 8th frame dedicated to a Review of Weekly Progress. There is also a MEMO section for notes and illustrations.

Multiple entry process

Whereas many day planners have you make an entry once, checking off To Do items as you go, the Mandala Business Diary has you make entries of the same information in several different places. The reason for this is to track your activities with flexible focus. The significance of an item becomes clearer when you can view it alternatively in the context of a day, a week, a year, or even a lifetime. There are also ways of tracking whether or not your goals are integrated synergistically in the 8 frames of life. This prevents you from falling into typical goal traps based on short-sighted vision or outside pressure.

Flexible time frame

The Mandala Business Diary contains a Year Planner, a Monthly Schedule, Weekly Activities, and a Mandala Chart One Hundred Year Life Plan. There are pages for Checklists, which enable monthly measure of your progress toward chosen objectives, as well as pages for free note taking. There is also an expanded Mandala Chart for looking at the bigger picture of 8 x 8, or 64 frames.

The Mandala Business Diary is published annually in a bilingual format, in Japanese and English, and of course the calendar year is in common use. There are a few pages of tips in Japanese, but not as much detail as found in this column. It is published in Japan, but can be ordered through Amazon.co.jp. Don’t be thrown by the appearance of Japanese characters on the Amazon site. Just follow these instructions, and while international shipping rates apply, Amazon ships products all over the world.

Although the process of using the Mandala Business Diary is not complicated, it does take practice to master it as a tool for flexible focus thinking and planning. The force of habit has a strong and unconscious grip on your thoughts, attitudes, and behavior. Without understanding the reason for the design of the Mandala Business Diary, it is easy to skip certain sections and revert to using it as a simple day planner. What we do with our time is what we do with our life. Ultimately, that is what determines the quality of the Dash that connects the years in between.

The Mandala Business Diary fits in your pocket or briefcase. It is a great way to capture insights and observations in one place as you plan your life work. However, if you don’t have the Mandala Business Diary, I have created a makeshift version of the Weekly Activities Mandala, which you can download to get started.

There is no problem starting the Mandala Business Diary mid-year, because in any case it can takes months or years of practice to fully integrate the process into your life work planning, and to fully engage with the 8 frames of life. Just start where you are, and create good habits by using the Mandala Chart in your daily life. Then watch the power of continuous improvement begin to work its magic over time

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