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Sunday, March 19, 2006

WEEK 3

GET ORGANIZED!

Take note of how to sort out your life


Staff writer

Despite working late every day, Yukihiro Misawa always felt he wasn't getting enough done.

News photo
Multi-tasking Kaori Sasaki with her vital organizer

"In the past, I used to leave most of my work half done because I was hopping from one thing to another without thinking much," the 25-year-old member of Tokyo-based Adire Law Office's personnel and public relations section said, adding that he somehow wasn't able to see things in perspective.

But these days his life has completely changed, and Misawa beams as he declares: "I can now get things done more efficiently."

The secret of this remarkable transformation? Quite simply, Misawa is making better use of his techo (personal organizer) -- though he stresses that this helps to achieve much more than just better time-management. He's deadly serious when he says: "Making good use of a techo is a step toward making your dreams come true."

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A user consults her organizer, which can be used for far more than just logging appointments.

As fanciful as that may seem, Misawa is only reflecting an "organizer boom" that's been reshaping lives all over Japan since the publication of several books and specialist diaries written and designed by prominent business figures. The books and diaries offer guidance on how to achieve your goals through effective techo techniques.

Although Misawa is not yet sure about the specifics, his dream is to start his own business -- and he is using his techo to identify what kind of field he wants to enter.

So, as Misawa flips through his organizer, he said, he not only checks on what to do that day, but he also reviews the wide range of clippings, or even words and phrases, he's stored there after gleaning them from a wide range of books, television programs and Web sites. By looking over the information he keeps in his organizer on a daily basis, the would-be business baron said he is trying to put his thoughts into a shape that he hopes will spark a winning idea in his mind.

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Organizer advocate Miki Watanabe

Misawa's view echoes the feelings of many people in Japan who turn to organizers not only to overcome poor time-management, but to achieve whatever goals they have -- whether it's improving their work performance, saving money or losing weight.

In his case, the book that inspired Misawa was "Issatsu no techo de yume wa kanarazu kanau" (You Can Definitely Make Your Dream Come True With an Organizer)" by Masatoshi Kumagai, the president of GMO Internet Inc., a Tokyo-based Internet consulting firm. The best-selling book has sold nearly 150,000 copies since its release two years ago.

Another title that's struck a similar chord nationwide was penned by Kaori Sasaki, a mother of two who runs two companies. She made use of the coined word millioneze (women who earn eight-figure annual incomes) in the book's compact Japanese title, "Millioneze no techojutsu" -- which improbably translates as "Learn How to Use Your Organizer From Women Whose Yearly Income is Over 10 Million yen." To ram home her message, Sasaki also designed a business diary to guide others in how to multi-task the way she does.

Both her book and her diary became a big hit, with the book selling about 100,000 copies since December 2003, and the 2005 and 2006 organizers -- named "Action Planner" and priced at 3,500-9,500 yen yen -- selling some 20,000 units.

Sasaki, 46, who is president of communication consulting firm Unical International Inc. and ewoman Inc., a marketing and human resource development company, says that her "techo philosophy" is simple -- "just to make myself happy every day."

"If you can get things done properly, you'll feel happy. But there are many people who cannot carry out the things they want," she said.

In her book, Sasaki explains her view that life is basically an accumulation of seconds, so wasting time means wasting life. She goes on to tell her readers to use an organizer which divides time into 30-minute units, and to write down everything they want to do in each unit -- and to make it conspicuous.

"Fill in the diary with what you want to do," including allowing for the time you need to think about something, she said, adding that mapping out a schedule will be possible by making an appointment with yourself that way.

Meanwhile, another book riding the techo wave is "Yume ni hizuke wo (Date Your Dream)" by Miki Watanabe, which has sold around 100,000 copies since its October 2005 publication, while his business diary for 2006, priced at 10,500 yen, has found some 15,000 buyers to date.

However, Watanabe, the 46-year-old president of Watami Co., which operates Watami and other izakaya chain restaurants, said that "in the beginning, I didn't write this book for publication. It was for my employees who joined the company with their heads full of dreams, but then tended to forget their ambitions when they faced the reality at work and became overwhelmed by daily matters."

Not surprisingly, then, a key message Watanabe conveys to his readers is to set a specific time-frame to achieve a specific goal -- and then count backward to clarify the necessary preparatory tasks, how long they will take, and how to incorporate them into your day-to-day schedule of other duties. By doing this, and writing it all into an organizer, Watanabe says it is possible to do nothing short of "changing your way of living."

For example, if someone wants to lose weight and sets their target at 60 kg, they must think what should be done to attain that goal, Watanabe says. Then, if an hour in the swimming pool every Sunday is their weight-loss method of choice, he says, the way to achieve it is to block out the time in their organizer for every Sunday through the year.

Personally, Watanabe says he uses a techo to lay out his schedule, a handy note pad to write down his dreams and a diary to look back on what he did every day before going to bed.

"The point is to encourage yourself by looking over the dreams and the goals you've written down, and repeatedly imagining yourself being successful," Watanabe said. Meanwhile, checking the note pad helps to renew determination to attain the goals, he said.

Whatever the effect on people's personal lives, though, the organizer boom is certainly good news for retailers like Maruzen Co.'s Marunouchi bookstore in Tokyo, which has one of the largest areas of floor space devoted to organizers -- about 82.5 sq. meters -- in the Kanto region during the season from mid-September through late January every year.

"We've seen an increasing number of customers buying two different organizers, including one they've been using for many years and a new one designed by someone famous," said Masatsugu Sugimoto, floor manager in Maruzen's stationery department.

Suggesting that the rising popularity of "how-to-use-your-techo" books has prompted many people to think whether they can change their way of life by changing their organizer, Sugimoto said he believes this reflects a shift in people's philosophy toward seeing their life on a long-term basis, because in many cases just having their hands so full of daily tasks has forced them to become short-sighted.

"As society becomes more competitive, I think people have begun to believe they have to do more than just carry out their usual assignments and produce the usual outcomes," Sugimoto said. "I think the techo boom shows that an increasing number of people are becoming more ambitious about their personal growth."



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