Posts Tagged ‘clover management research’

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 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

Imagine if your view of the world was restricted to what you can see in front of your face. This was the case for much of human history. It is hard to fathom to what extent technology has changed our view of the world, giving us zoom access to the outer reaches of space, the microscopic world, cameras transcending time and space, and the web connecting our world.

What if there was a tool that acted as a zoom lens for your life? What if you could step away from the fray to see the big picture, zero in for analysis or action, without losing track of how everything is connected? The Mandala Chart is just such a tool, acting as a viewfinder with flexible focus. In all periods of history, the people with flexible focus have been able to dance circles around the rest.

The biggest room in the world…

My personal belief is that the biggest room in the world is the room for improvement. This is compatible with the philosophy of Active Garage to be always experimenting and implementing to improve. Increased access to ideas hidden in foreign languages and cultures offer opportunities for a new magnitude of improvement.

Until now, the vast majority of knowledge about the Mandala Chart and its development has been hidden from view behind the wall of the Japanese language. The purpose of this column will be to cross over that wall, and make this knowledge available for the first time in English. I have lived for much of the last 4 decades in Japan, working in my own business as an entrepreneur, in a career as an author, speaker, martial artist, and calligrapher, experiencing Japan from the inside.

We live in a fascinating reality, in which history repeats itself, and at the same time the future is unpredictable. Generations learn the same lessons under entirely different circumstances. We live in a world in which actions speak louder than words, and yet the pen is mightier than the sword. Proverbial wisdom comes in opposite pairs.

One reason for this is that the view changes depending on where you stand. Where we get into trouble is when we assume that our fixed view is absolutely right, and all other views are wrong. If wonder is the beginning of wisdom, then flexible focus is how you sustain it.

A tool for all times

The word Mandala comes from Sanskrit meaning essence of the universe. It is Hindu and Buddhist in origin, and for thousands of years has been used in Eastern religions as a means to enhance spiritual teaching and meditation. It was introduced to Japan with Esoteric Buddhism in the 8th Century by Kūkai, who studied the Mandala teaching in China, and it similarly spread to all of the cultures of East Asia.

Thanks to the work of Swiss Psychiatrist Carl Jung (1875~1961), the mandala has come to be known as symmetrical charts or geometric patterns that represents both the human subconscious and a microcosm of the universe from our perspective. Jung found mandala patterns to be fairly universal, ranging from the rose windows of the Gothic Cathedrals in Northern France, to the Navajo sand paintings of the American Southwest.

Its origins in religion, applications in psychology, and appearance as cultural archetypes are widely known. But there is one less-known evolution of the mandala in Japan, the Mandala Chart, which over the last 30 years has developed into a powerful tool for life planning, idea generation, project management, and continuous improvement.

The Mandala Chart was developed by Matsumura Yasuo, founder of Clover Management Research and of the Mandala Chart Association, who describes it as the practical framework of wisdom, without the external aspects of religion. It has evolved into a marvelous tool for flexible focus, with a popular annual Mandala Business Diary, a series of books in Japanese on its applications for life planning, eMandala Chart software, and a Mandala Chart Association to spread knowledge of its personal and professional uses.

Mastering the matrix

The Mandala Chart works like a multi-layered matrix. The word matrix means the field from which something originates or develops, and derives from the Latin word for mother. It is also connected to the word master. The matrix is the key to mastery, because it allows us to flexibly frame and reframe our world. It has been used throughout history in many forms, from the artist’s grid viewfinder for making accurate drawings; to the Golden Ratio and Rule of Thirds in photography; to navigational grids and mapping.

The frames in the Mandala Chart matrix can contain text, images, or links, each of which forms a window on the world, empowering you with greater vision and mastery of your own space and time. The fun begins as you start working with the tools and templates, and the applications are abundant.

It is no surprise that the Mandala Chart developed in Japan, a culture which has mastered the process of kaizen, or continuous improvement, almost as a way of life. The Mandala Chart is a lens through which you can see the big picture, the small detail, and the connections all at once. In future articles I will show how this works, and ways you can use it to make continuous improvements in your personal and professional life.

The Mandala Chart is a tool for applying practical wisdom from Japanese and Asian culture to solving the problems of modern business and living. This series will run weekly, and in future installments we’ll explore:

  • The Art of Flexible Focushow to gain clarity and flexibility of mind
  • The Framework of Wisdomhow to practice the principles of wisdom in daily life
  • The 8 Frames of Lifehow to gain comprehensive life/work balance
  • Mandala Toolshow to give structure to your ideas and schedule your dreams
  • Japanologycool themes on ways of wisdom from Japanese culture
  • Thinking Inside the Boxconnecting your consciousness to the roots of creativity
  • The Temple of Templatescool templates to get you started and facilitate the process
  • Art of Abundancehow to get in flow and leverage your value

For a visual preview of what is to come, download the PDF Mastering the Mandala Chart.