Earlier today, I came across an article on the Time Magazine website that is worth remembering: “Warren Buffett’s Strategy to Maximize Your Focus and Master Your Priorities”. The idea presented in the article is simple, yet powerful. Make a list of your top 25 goals and circle the five that are most important. The twenty that you didn’t select are to be avoided at all costs, until the top five are done. Simple, right?
Aligning actions with priorities
So, this got me thinking. A couple of years ago I read (about half) of the GTD book and dove into vertical planning, laying out my goals according to the airplane analogy David Allen describes in the book.
Lifetime/Long-term (50,000 ft)
3-5 year goals (40,000 ft)
1-2 year goals (30,000 ft)
Areas of Responsibility (20,000 ft)
Current projects (10,000 ft)
Tasks to move my projects forward (Ground level)
For a time, it helped me make sure my todos were aligned with my ultimate priorities. While I do think about the vertical view from time to time, I generally find myself chained to the current projects level. I want every task I put on my todo list to be clearly connected to my lifetime goals. To that end, I’ve decided to use a tag for each of my lifetime goals (there are only four). Any task that can’t be tied back to one of the four long-term goals is one that I can safely skip.
For the next month I’m going to try this out. I’m hoping for two things. I’ve already mentioned the first thing; actions clearly aligned with goals. The second thing is that I want to be able to look back at the end of the year and see how much I moved closer towards a 1-2 year, 3-5 year, or lifetime goal. We’ll see how it works out.
If you asked my wife, or my closest friends, what my greatest struggle is, they would say “time”. I’ve often felt that there isn’t enough time in the day, or in life, for me to do all the things I’d like to. I feel less like that since spending five months in India last year. But the feeling creeps up every now and then.
Which leads me to why I’m writing about this today. I visited the website of Dr. Elizabeth Lindsey, a fellow of the National Geographic Society, to see if there were any updates recently. The most recent post is It’s About Time…an unforgettable lesson. She talks about a Micronesian man who asks her why she’s always going so fast. She says her film crew is waiting for her. The man pauses and says “You folks have watches but you have no time.”
That’s me sometimes. Trying to do everything, now.
They say that college will be the best four years of your life. I always thought that was a rather depressing statement. Doesn’t that sort of thinking mean it’s all going to be downhill after college? Don’t get me wrong, college was great. I met some wonderful people, took some great classes, and learned a lot. But it wasn’t close to being the best four years of my life.
After college, I realized what kind of person I want to be. Since then, each moment has been a step in that direction, so long as I maintain focus on what’s important to me, with unwavering attention. Since then, my experience of life has been greater than I would have thought possible, that’s even taking painful events into account, like losing loved ones.
Several things come to mind when I think about the workshop. I wrote about my goals for the year, why I want to write, and thought about what I want to write about. I wrote post about my tendency to want to do everything NOW and the need to pace myself, made an About Me page, and changed my blog template to one I’m much happier with. Oh, and it’s taken me closer to 20 days and it was fun too.
One of the most useful things for me was writing down the goals for the year. I don’t think I’ve ever done that before. So I can keep track of my progress, I’m going to dump them into a Google spreadsheet. I’ve never done a personal retrospective before, so it should be interesting come 2016.