the Tao of Filofax

I am a perfectionist. Always have been, always will be.

The odd thing, however, is that rather than attempting to meet some unreachable, unknowable, cosmic form of perfection…which may or may not even be possible…I strive to reach the pinnacle of what I personally find ideal.

I could give a hoot about being what society considers perfect; I merely desire to be the perfect Me…and that includes following the path I decide to set out upon, and embracing the imperfections that make me who I am.

In other words, to the question of ‘Who am I?’, the answer is ‘Me’.

Did I lose you?

Okay, try this…one of my favorite quotes (and there are many) is from “The Tao of Pooh”:

“While Eeyore frets …
and Piglet hesitates,
and Rabbit calculates,
and Owl pontificates
…Pooh just is.”

Tao is, in layman’s terms, a way, path, or code of behavior, that is in harmony with the natural order of things.

Pooh, a bear with a very little brain, didn’t tie himself up in knots trying to figure out the world around him. He just sort of did his Pooh thing and everything worked out the way it was supposed to.

Turns out just being you, doing your thing and being true to yourself isn’t as easy as Pooh makes it sound.

Which is probably why, for us humans of very complex brain,  it is a journey that takes a lifetime to complete.

No, this is not a post about philosophy or spirituality, and if you are wondering when I will get to the Filofax part…it’s right now.

Along the way on my own, personal trek to Myself, since the mid to late ’80’s I have used a good, old-fashioned, analog, paper planner as a tool; a compass if you will, to keep me on my path.   In it I track, record, journal about, prioritize and plan pretty much all of the important aspects of my life & myself.

In discovering a community so ripe with wonderful, amazing people who also appreciate things such as the scent of a fine leather binder, are finicky about the grade of paper they use, and thrill at the scratch of a fine writing instrument upon it, I have come to see that there are more to these planners than meets the eye.

More, in fact, than I ever imagined.

True, we all seem to be rather obsessed taken with one particular brand, (which I actually can find no concrete, logical reason for now that you mention it) but that aside, I think our drive to incorporate a planner into our lives comes from a similar place within us all.

Recently, MIT published a study showing that meditation actually changes the brain. After a mere 8 weeks of meditation, the hippocampus, an area of the brain  associated with memory, sense of self, learning and empathy grew. The region connected to anxiety and stress, called the amygdala, shrunk.

Meditation – which is simply focusing one’s attention, whether it be a focus on sensations of breathing, or emotions or thoughts, or observing any type of body sensations – is all about bringing the mind back to the here and now. When we do this our brains emit alpha waves, and it is this “alpha state” that affects the sympathetic nervous system in a positive way.

It sounds more complicated than it is…when a child is laying on the floor, happily coloring away in her coloring book, her brain is in alpha. There. Simple.

I have a theory. I believe that, for people like us, dubbing around with our planners…which we all seem to do rather endlessly…is our own unique form of meditation.

Perhaps we think of this practice harshly. As something we waste time with, obsess over. Perhaps we feel it is akin to a dog that chases its tail – a pointless act that never seems to reaches a suitable ending.

But what if what we dub Planner Nirvana isn’t the point at all?

What if the point is to sharpen our focus? Unify our busy, wandering minds? Bring us a feeling of empowerment over a chaotic world? Keep us rooted in the here and now?

I have come to believe it is our adult version of sprawling on the floor, humming away, losing ourselves in the simple, meditative joy of coloring.

So, when you get planner envy (which as a matter of fact happened to me this very day when I saw how freaking awesome Stirwise’s Pocket Malden is), or develop some strange desire to completely re-jigger your system, or feel compelled to create a new use altogether for a planner that has been sitting unused on your shelf (or a new one you see that you just MUST have but as yet have no purpose for)…perhaps this is your body telling you it needs some alpha time.

Give some thought to that the next time you prepare to sit down and re-copy the first half of the year onto a new diary page format.

Don’t throw up your hands and decide you are impossible to please.  Don’t think you’re a nut.  In fact, don’t protest it at all….

Go with it. Enjoy it. Maybe  it’s something that is good for us.

Maybe it is just our Tao.

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4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Laurie
    May 12, 2011 @ 04:51:01

    Zoe you have absolutely nailed it here. From my own personal experience it is usually when I’m stressed or anxious that I obsess the most about planners. I think switching over to a particular planner will make me feel better. Sometimes it does, for awhile. (Sometimes my planner really did fail and moving to a more functional planner solves the problem, but often I just want the novelty of trying something new.)

    Anyway, I agree that I feel a type of meditative calm when I’m flipping through my planner. Seeing my goals, plans and tasks all written out on paper in front of me makes me feel more in control. And that’s definitely a good thing.

  2. kanalt
    May 12, 2011 @ 10:53:49

    Excellent post! I too feel more calm when looking through my planner and feel better after having tweaked it if that is what needed. Even if I feel overwhelmed with places to be and things to do, I feel better about them all if they are organized in a way that makes me feel more in control.
    I love to color, though I don’t do it often, specifically for the meditative purposes. This is also the reason I got into knitting. There is something about the rhythmic counting of stitches. For me, it’s not what I make that counts, but the act and process of making something. I guess you can say the same about my planner – it’s not the planner itself (though that is a great thing) but the act of planning that calms me and puts my mind at ease.
    On a similar note, I was thinking about the community the other day, and how we all got so lucky to meet such wonderful people. Maybe because we’re all planning nuts, this means we care about what happens in our own lives and therefore care about what happens in others’ lives. That’s just one theory.

  3. Sandra
    May 14, 2011 @ 13:54:35

    Thank you for putting so eloquently something many people do not understand. I, too, find comfort in maintaining my planner and in the semblance of control it offers me over my sometimes repetitive, yet often, unpredictable life.

    My dream planner will always be a good fit for me, my organizational (somewhat disorganized) style, and my daily doings. I, like Laurie and countless others, have hopped from planner to planner. I am hoping to find the ideal external tool to address my internal struggles and shortcomings. No planner can do that, but it can be a tool for productivity and for providing a sense of calm in the storm.

    I am grateful for you and others that share my planner quirkiness and related personality traits. The camaraderie is priceless as well. I think Kanalt is right–how lucky we are to connect with such a caring group of people. 🙂

  4. J
    May 23, 2011 @ 21:38:39

    I’m a little late to the party, but this post is amazing! I agree with every word. (I actually own The Tao of Pooh, but haven’t read it yet) Oops.

    Like Kanalt, I got into crochet because of the zen-like state it puts me in. And now you’ve got me wanting to go buy a coloring book!

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