At the end of last year, I decided I need to be more focused if I want to get all the things done this year. I have dreams, ambitions, big goals, smaller goals, and wishes I hope one day will come true. But nothing is getting done if you don’t plan for it. That’s been my experience, anyway. So, how do you find your focus?
Let’s start big. Why not? I’m a dreamer, a big one. I’ll daydream the heck out of everything. Maybe that’s why I chose to be a writer, I could make my dreams become real by writing them down and sharing them with others. If you’ve read any of my books, you’ve probably read part of my dreams.
But I’m not talking about the visions you see during your REM sleep. It’s also about what you want to accomplish. I’ve previously written about your mountain of success and to never lose sight of it while you’re making decisions. I still stand by that. Dreams are important. They are the big ones, The Biggest Ones. These are the long term goals you’re working towards, and while they might seem far away, feel free to think about them.
Goals are the more realistic version of dreams. These are the things you can actively work towards. If possible, they should be SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely).
The ‘why’ is more important than the what. Why is this goal important to you? Do you want to publish your book because you want to see your book in the bookstore? Or because you have a story to tell? Maybe you want to share your expertise in a niche field that no one writes in. There are dozens of ‘why’s for the same goal. Find yours. It’ll make your commitment so much stronger.
Oh no, not another one of these. Well, it’s hard to be productive without a to-do list. You need to know what you’re going to do. Our brains are terrible for remembering everything. Writing your tasks down actually helps to give you focus. You know exactly what to do next.
You can go for an analogue choice in the form of pen and paper, or go for a digital tool, like Notion, Asana, or Trello. I’ve tried several methods and use a mix of both. I currently use Notion and a bullet journal for my daily planning.
From goals to tasks
The biggest problem I had in my planning was getting from my goals to my tasks. Sarra Cannon has her HB90 method that I wanted to try out. She has a whole course on how to get things done, but I opted for the cheaper option, a digital goal planner. On her Youtube channel, she posts a video every quarter to update her goals list and kanban board, both crucial to the method.
I wanted to give this a go. Most of my goals take up more than a week or a month, and her 90-day plan seemed like something that’d suit me. I bought the goal planner and got to work.
Sarra uses this method:
Goals > Projects > Tasks
Goals are SMART, it’s quantifiable. The projects are needed to reach these numbers. The tasks are the steps you need to take to complete a project.
Everything is explained pretty well, and while coming up with goals, milestones (your goals per month), I had problems coming up with my tasks. These are pretty big steps for a newbie goal setter. Write 50k words for draft one isn’t that hard to come up with. But my goal of growing my platform was so far removed from my tasks, something in my brain short-circuited. Now, getting used to a whole new planning method isn’t something you can do in a few days, nor can you expect to do it all perfectly for the first time. We learn, and that takes time.
Maybe I missed a step that’s explained in the course and not so much in the planner. But what do you do when you have questions? You ask them. Uncle Google knew the answer and linked me this blog post: How to break down big goals and actually achieve them.
In this post, Ana explains step by step how to go from the big goals to the bite-size tasks. She uses this method:
Goals > Milestones > Outcomes > Tasks
The goals are where you want to be later. The milestones are the waypoints you have to pass to get to that goal. The outcomes are what you need to get to that milestones. The tasks are the things you need to do to get the wanted outcome. From big to small.
I haven’t put this to work yet, but I’m going to try to use this method within the HB90 method Sarra developed because I really like it. It’s specially made for writers but any entrepreneur can benefit from it.
This is my plan for the new year. I’m using a bullet journal for daily things, the goal planner specifically for my Getting Things Done list, and Notion for everything else. What are your preferred methods for planning your life?
2 thoughts on “On My Mind: Finding Your Focus”
Reading a couple of the GTD books by David Allen was personally quite helpful for me. Not so much following the technique slavishly, but in introducing some useful concepts.
One was breaking up the collection and clarification steps. Just like in writing, there’s putting down the words and there’s revising and editing. People tend to try to do both simultaneously and if it works, great, and if it doesn’t work, it’s the end of the world. Peter Elbow suggested creating a clear demarcation between the two activities, so that the picky critical editor brain is not stomping all over the more expressive but sensitive muse.
In the same way, David Allen introduced me to the idea that putting things down on a to-do list was not the end of the story, one also has to ensure the phrase written down is not an amorphous blob of un-doability. “Bake cake” is all very well, but is it really the very next action? What kind of cake do I want? Do I have all the ingredients? When I look at the phrase, am I ready to run into the kitchen and start? Or am I just going to look at the task on the list and hem and haw?
Devoting some additional “clarification” thinking time reveals that a) I need to figure out what kind of cake I want and the recipe – aka Google for cake ideas and recipes, b) I need the ingredients – aka go to the store and buy… what? Write a list based on the recipe I settle on. Then store.
Only then, might I be ready for c) On Saturday, at 10am, I shall go to the kitchen and measure out the mise en place according to the recipe. Presumably by the time I’ve conned myself into the kitchen and gotten everything poured out, the rest of the cake steps will follow after that. (Hopefully the oven is working! Throw in a d) Test oven beforehand, or walk to the kitchen and check, since it should take less than two mins to do so.)
All of this planning and organization also takes time and effort though. Therein lies the struggle. You know what you should really be doing, but somehow, there’s always something else taking up the time and mental bandwidth. Improving one’s systems is always going to be a work-in-progress.
You’re absolutely right. It is a work in progress and ever evolving. I heard the quote “plan the work, work the plan” a few years ago and it stuck. The next step after identifying the tasks (plan the work) is to schedule them, then get them done (work the plan) .