At the beginning of 2011 I decided to do a little soul searching and look at what area’s I wanted to work on in 2011. As a result of this I come up with two major focus areas and 4 minor focus areas. This was for me a good way to see what areas of my life I wanted to put focus on and which areas were maybe not so important.
Over the past year working with these focus areas and reviewing them I have realised that there are some things that can really help in this process. Things that will help you maybe select better areas to focus on, take more advantage of what you are focusing on and being more clear about what the outcomes should be. As such before it gets to close to the beginning of 2012 I wanted to share some of the things that I have learnt in this process over the past year.
Think It Through
The primary reason why I wanted to get this to you now was because I think that this is a process that takes some time. If you read this today and have a list tomorrow with your focuses for 2012, chances are you may not have thought about it enough. While it might be possible that you can do that list by tomorrow it would mean you have already been thinking about it up to now.
Ideally I would suggest putting thought into the process over a period of about 3 to 4 weeks. Taking time once a week on a day off or when you can get some time alone to compile your thoughts into a list, sort of like a review session. Ideally you might follow a method like this.
Week 1 – Think through the areas of your life that are showing some important to you are the moment, or that keep popping up as things you would like to do.
Week 1 Review Session – Compile a list of all the areas of your life that you feel you would like to work on or focus on over the next year. This may be 5 or 10 or even 20 different areas at this stage it doesn’t matter how many there are.
Week 2 – Keep the list you created handy and keep looking it over when you have a spare moment. Think about what you have put down on the list, and also think about what you have not put on the list.
Week 2 Review Session – Take the list you created in week one, and add anything new that you may have thought of. Then remove some, in your thinking this week some of the items on your list may have appear to be not so appealing on second thought, so just get rid of them.
Week 3 – Again keep the list close by, however this week don’t think so much about what you included and didn’t include. Look at each item and think about how you feel about that item? How you would feel if it was a larger part of your life? and most importantly, Is this an area that you really want to send time working on.
Week 3 Review Session – This week is going to be more difficult if you have a lot of areas on your list. We are looking to cut this list down to just five or six areas. For some of you this might mean removing nothing, for other’s this might mean making a decision of removing half the list you have or more. However I think that five or six areas is going to be the ideal number for most people.
Extend this process out to as many weeks as you need to become clear on each area you plan to include in your focus areas. Repeat the process of week 2 as many times as you feel you need to before moving onto week 3. It is better to be 100% clear and take sex weeks for this process then to go through three weeks and not be sure you have made the right choice.
Look At Things You Are Already Doing
As a good way to get started on the above three+ week process is to look at the areas of your life that excite you right now. What really makes you go wow. What makes you want to wake up in the morning.
A good example of this is from my own experience over the past year. In June 2010 I had a small wish to travel but it was far from something that really get me excited or wanting to focus on it. Until October when I took my first trip overseas. This trip was such an amazing experience that come December when I started working on what I wanted to focus on, travel was the number one thing that came to mind as and area of focus.
It is moments like the one I describe above that should be immediate indicators as to areas that you may want to focus on. Just thing that gets you really wanting for more.
Be Clear And Concise
In my own experience in the past year this is one area that I have really not succeed at very well. However it was something that I have been able to realise, through my own review of the year that has just passed. At least half of my focus area’s were not concise enough, and in at least one place they were not clear at all.
When you create a group of focus areas the idea is that they are area’s that you focus on. As such I believe that it is also very important to create a very focused description of that area. Of course the result at the end of the year does not have to look anything like what you may have described at the beginning of the year, as you want to be fluid in you ability to change course. However knowing what the focus area is likely to be in a definite way is much better then just having a random piece that kind of says what you want.
Put System’s In Place
I found out the hard way that having systems for this process is something that you really need to do. In the past year one of my focus areas was totally ignored because I forgot about it. Of course creating your own systems is an important part, what works for me may not work for you, or someone else.
The number one system that I feel is essential to this process is a way to keep reminding yourself about what you are working towards. Ideally this for me will lie in doing a monthly review of the progress on each focus area. Rather then just leaving it to the end of the year like I have this year. If you are expecting to review something each month you are more likely to take the time to stop and look at what you are working towards.
Don’t Over Do it
As I mentioned earlier in just how to find your focus areas, I think it is good to keep your focus to just five or six different areas. If you try to focus on a list of 10 areas you may just find that you actually are not focuses on anything enough.
The reason being is that while you do create this list of areas to focus your life on, it does not often include the biggest parts of your life. Like for me, I did not include sleeping as a focus area but I spend almost one third of my time doing this. I also did not include career or job which is another one third of my life. So be aware that you do only have a limited time to spend on the focus area’s and you don’t want to spread this time to thin.
Make It Measurable
This will entirely depend upon you and how you want to measure your achievement. For me this is just a success or failure. However you may like to make it some other form of measurement. If you cannot measure your achievement how can you know if you have actually achieved anything throughout the year or not
Make It Challenging
This is something that I like to do for my focus areas is to make it challenging to me. This does not mean that it has to sound challenging to everyone. But it needs to be something that will make it more challenging for you. There is really no point at all making something an area you want to focus on, putting a measurable goal on it, and then get to the end of January and realise you have succeeded in all of your focus areas.
Where To From Here
Ok now it is your turn to get started. Whether you choose to follow the process as I have outlined above or choose to use your own process to determine your focus areas does not really matter. The only thing that matters is actually getting into it and working out what areas you want to focus on for the coming year. Then make it the best year of your life.