I am of the mindset that it is impossible to plan anything, solve problems, manage time, or reach goals without having a daily habit of reviewing and tracking your priorities. I mentioned in my previous post that I have had a series of setbacks and that is largely because my daily routine of setting, reviewing and tracking my priorities were neglected and then postponed indefinitely. For the last two days I have been working on getting organized so that I can create a plan to get my medical and financial life back on track and running as smoothly as possible again.
Over the years I have learned many different tools that help to do exactly that and I’d like to share some of the best systems with you over a series of posts that I’ll refer to as The Git’er Done Series. In this series, each blog post will go over one system in detail. Try one or all and see which you like best and standby as I try to combine them all into one easy (and hopefully digital) system.
Initially some are more complicated than others to learn and get started but they all work really well and quickly (about 5-20 minutes a day) once you get the planning stages completed (about 2-5 hours). It may seem time consuming but I can’t stress how helpful this process is. Although I feel like my life has spiraled out of control, these systems work so well, that as I have been reviewing my goals from previous years, I see have met almost all of them even though I got distracted and fell on difficult times.
To make this a bit easier for you all to follow along, I created four worksheets that I reference below and they can be found here. You can either print them out and then fill them in by hand or you can type in your answers in Microsoft Word and then print out the completed copies. Give it a shot and let me know what you think in the comments below. Also, let me know if you think a corresponding YouTube video would be helpful.
Here we go….
The Power of Focus—Personal Master Plan
- Step One: Determine your Categories of Improvement
- Step Two: Think Long-Term
- Step Three: Then Mid-Term
- Step Three: Then Short-Term
- Step Four: Then Right Now
- Step Five: Review
The first thing you want to do is determine the 7-9 major areas in your life that require your focus and your resources to maintain and/or improve upon. Author and Coach, Anthony Robbins calls these areas Categories of Improvement or COIs. Everyone, whether they know it or not, has COIs in their personal life and also in their professional life. If you don’t know what yours are, chances are you are not doing as well as you’d like in those areas of your life. Professional Categories are more variable and often depend on the type of work you do but Robbins states that everyone has the same SEVEN basic Categories in their personal lives. Think of these as areas of that require constant focus, time, energy, money, or other resources in order to maintain or improve their current state. These areas, in order of priority, are: Physical Body, Emotions and Meaning, Relationships, Time, Work/Career/Mission, Finances, Celebration and Contribution.
They are prioritized in that order because each “layer” builds upon the others. For example, If you have poor time management skills you are unlikely to be able to manage your work/career responsibilities or finances let alone have time to celebrate your achievements and contribute to society regularly. Similarly, if you have perfect credit but are physically ill or depressed, it likely won’t matter much to you. I will talk more on how to rate your COIs and how to determine your professional Categories in a future post.
Now that you have the seven basic Categories that we will use to create our Power of Focus Personal Master Plans, think about if you have one or two other areas specific to your personal life that you know need your attention or it will get worse. For instance, I added Vanity to my Master Plan. It doesn’t fit into any of the other groups but I know if I do not actively work at it, I will look ridiculous 99.9% of the time. I also added a Home Life section because if I don’t make it a priority, décor, get-togethers, routine chore scheduling, etc. become highly sporadic or unlikely. So, take some time and think if you have any areas that you’d like to add and fill them in the blank spaces provided. Make sure you add no more than 1-2 because the idea is to FOCUS and master these areas versus dabble in them.
*I removed Time from the worksheets because the nature of using the system requires active time-management.
Now that you have your categories you’re ready for….
Studies suggest that the reason people rarely complete to-do lists, resolutions, or goals is because they often set goals that are tasks divorced from values, priorities, or purpose. So the first step is to think Long-term; 10 years into the future to be exact. In 2025 what would you have liked to achieve?
Lengthening the scope through which we view our lives makes it easier to create goals, plans, and to-do lists that are more aligned with our values and important to our actual fulfillment. For instance, one year physical body goals often include weight loss (a task). But physical body goals for ten years out would likely focus on weight/health maintenance (a priority). This is a good thing because, let’s be honest, who hopes to still be losing weight ten years from now? Not me!
Take this time and the worksheet attached and look at each Category and ask yourself: What three things would I like to have accomplished by 2025? There are no wrong answers. I do have some tips though:
- Set goals over which you have control. Meaning, “My son is on the Honor Roll.” is a great goal for him but a problematic one for you. One you might consider could be: “I spend an hour a day helping my son with his homework and school projects.” The latter is in your control and the other is not.
- Pick your TOP three achievements versus things you just would like to maybe, possibly do one day. We all have a lot we want to do with our lives so be sure to consider what you truly believe would bring you the most I find it helpful to write my future age on the top of the sheets. Currently, I’m 28 and I have plenty of current goals that I may not care so much about when I’m 38. Seeing my future age helps me keep things in perspective. Like, is it really a top personal priority that I run an Iron Man from the vantage point of my 38 year old self? Maybe, but it definitely doesn’t make my top three.
- Make sure you’re setting YOUR goals and not someone else’s. When goal setting it can be easy to assume you want certain things that you might not actually want. Our friends, families, culture, media and past all play a big role in socializing us to want things that don’t hold any true personal value or significance for us as an individual. Before you write it down think, “Is this me or my mother/husband/child-self/friend talking?” It helps to think of yourself in a vacuum or as that proverbial tree in woods. If no one saw you achieve it, if no one would think better of you for it, if no one was there to like your status, photo or tweet about it, would you still want to achieve it in 2025. If so, write it down in the “Specific Goal” section of the sheet. If not, write it down on some scratch paper or in Notepad on your computer until later.
Once you fill in your top three specific goals for a particular Category, write the reason you want to accomplish it in the “Reason for Accomplishing This Goal” section. This serves three purposes:
- It forces you to get absolute clarity on why you want it by making you state your reason succinctly enough to fit in the space provided (Keep in mind, all of this has to fit in that box and on ONE sheet). This is important because rationalization requires a lot of words. **For fun, try to rationalize something in your head right now using one short sentence. It’s very difficult.** One of my favorite sayings is, “Rationalization is spelled L-I-E-S.” If it takes a lot of words to state your reason you either need to get more clarity on why it’s so important to you or it likely falls into the category of something you think you should want but actually don‘t.
- It provides leverage at a glance. Another favorite saying of mine is, “You can figure out any “how” if you have a strong enough “why.”. As you use these Personal Master Plans in the future to plan your day to day activities and if you come up against any obstacles you will want to easily and quickly know, “Why am I doing this again?”
- It allows for flexibility when new information or circumstances present. How many times have we all stuck with a plan, project, or relationship that wasn’t working because we felt like we couldn’t change our minds because that would be giving up? After all, how many times have we heard that if you start something you need to finish it and quitters never win? The Reasons section allows you to focus on and commit 100% to what’s important (The Why) while allowing flexibility with goal itself (The What and/or How).
For example, if you have a goal of running a marathon and that’s all you focus on because you don’t have a clear and succinct reason for why you want to do it, what happens if you get injured one day and can’t run anymore? Guilt, shame, resentment and then depression set in. If you’re overweight and write down: “To eat 1200 calories a day” (the goal) so that you can “be healthy and more attractive” (the reason), what happens if that plan causes you to become too tired to complete your workouts and leads you to binge on the weekend? Not only would that not be an effective goal for losing weight it would actually lead to weight gain and possible disordered eating. In a situation like either of those, it’s not best to “finish what you start”. The Reasons section will make it super easy to assess if your goal is still the best and most efficient way to get what you’re ultimately after without forcing yourself to white-knuckle your way through when the goal is NOT what we actually want but the feeling we get when we achieve it.
The last column is left blank so that you can write down the date when you complete the goal! Do this for all of your different COIs and then move on to…
In this step use the Five Year worksheet and go through Step Two again. Steps three through five helps you take your priorities and break them down into smaller goals and also to think about some of those things that didn’t make it onto your Ten Year sheet (remember when I told you to write down those ideas on a scratch sheet of paper?). If your Ten Year financial savings goal was $25K then you have a better chance of getting there if your Five/Three/One year goals are helping make that a reality. This does not mean that all of your goals have to be similar from one time frame to the next, but you do want to be aware that your top priorities do not detract from ones in the future.
Maybe this is a good place to put that marathon you were thinking about. Maybe you realize that one of the achievements you put for Ten Years is a little unambitious and you want to do it in five years instead. This is your show so make as many changes and edits as you want. Remember, there are no wrong answers and none of this is set in stone.
Repeat Step Two thinking three years out. Here, your goals will start seemingly more attainable but don’t make them any less exciting or ambitious. Granted you can do more in ten years than you can in three but you can still do a lot so make them challenging and exciting.
The final sheet of the Power of Focus Personal Master Plan is the one you will use the most often. You will use this at least once a week so take a break if you need to but do not rush this process. This is the part where you say, “I know what I want ten years from now, five years from now, and three years from now. I not only know what the top three most important goals are for each of the most important areas of my life, I know with absolute clarity WHY I want to achieve them. Now, what do I want to achieve in the next 365 days that is in line with my true priorities?”
Again, make these YOUR goals and make sure you have clear, succinct reasons for them.
Review all of your Master Plans. If you’ve stuck with this process this far, I am almost positive you never realized how important achieving certain things were to you and how others that you focus the most on didn’t make the cut at all. You might have noticed it was so easy to come up with goals in one area and very difficult to do the same in another. You may have noticed that some areas you are more excited about than others and some give you more anxiety or boredom. This is all perfectly normal and there are reasons why. The short version is though we all have seven areas that we have to focus to master our lives we still have preferences. Some people like to invest themselves in their relationships, others in work, and others still in one of the other areas. Because of those preferences, when we don’t have clear goals in each we tend to be unbalanced in our attention and interest. How many of us can name seven diets but only one type of retirement fund? It’s perfectly normal but the goal here is to become more aware and balanced so that we can enjoy our preferences more fully.
It is important to note that starting a time management system is always the most time consuming part. Now that you’ve finished, the only sheets you will completely re-do are your One Year Goals and you will only do that once a year. The others you will only end up tweaking here or there as you change goals or meet them sooner than expected!
In the next part of this series we’ll go over what to do with all this information and how to meet every goal by completing only three tasks a week!
The Power of Focus by Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen, and Les Hewiit (Less than $1 for Paperback or Hardcover)
Re-Awaken the Giant Within by Anthony Robbins (Free!)
Change Your Life Workshop–(Free!) A simulator that allows you to measure each COI and see how balanced or unbalanced your life is.