Back when I first started working on my productivity system, my primary goal was to be in control of my tasks. I wanted to know which tasks were most important and what I should be working on at any given moment. And I wanted those two things to be connected. Most of all, I desired to work on tasks that would move me closer to achieving what was important for me. Over the past five years, I’ve built a system that helps me realize that vision. Let me show you how I connect the dots!
I use the Goalscape application to manage all of the information described below. All of the screenshots are from this application. The maps in the screenshots are for my plans for 2015. These are all real examples from my personal Goalscape map.
Start with a Vision
If you want to work on what is important to you, you first have to know what is important. Sounds simple, right? Unfortunately, for most of the people I work with, it’s a struggle to discover that big vision for life. (I'm working on a complex step-by-step guide for discovering your vision. You can expect a post about that soon.) For this post, we have to assume that we already have a vision.
I'll use mine to explain my points.
My vision is:
I will die with no regrets.
Once I’ve defined my vision, all of my goals should be aligned with that vision. They must make me move closer to achieving it.
Define your most important contexts and visions for them
We have a lot of different contexts in life. We are partners, parents, employees or employers, we want to be healthy and make progress. When your vision is ready, the next step is to define the most important contexts in your life. You need to create visions for each of these contexts. These visions should support your main life vision. My contexts are (as is visible in the screenshot from Goalscape above):
- My relationship
- Me as a parent
- My health
- My work
- My company
- My financial status
- My self-development
For each of those contexts, I have defined a vision. A few examples:
- My health – I’ll be able to run marathons in my 70s.
- My self-development – I’ll constantly learn something new. Each year has its own theme.
- My financial status – I’ll work as much as I want to, not as much as I have to.
Can you see how those visions are connected with my main vision? For me, they support my life vision.
What are your long-term goals for each context?
You have your main vision and the most important contexts and visions for each of them. The next step is to define long-term goals for each context. By long-term, I mean goals for the next 2 to 5 years. I defined 5-year goals for myself. Of course, they should be SMART goals. Again, I'll show you what I mean with examples. My long-term goals are:
- My health – In the next 5 years (between 2016 and 2020), I’ll run at least one marathon under 3:30. In 2017, run an ultramarathon (race longer than 50km).
- My self-development – I will position myself as an expert (high position in Google search, invitations to conferences ) in the field of strength-based development in Poland. I’ll publish an e-book about strength-based development.
With each step, I'm narrowing my focus to the NOW. At the same time, the very next step is connected with and supports the previous one. My vision is supported by my context visions. Each context vision is supported by long-term goals. The next step is to define a goal for the current year. I want my yearly goal to support my long-term goal.
Once I’ve defined a long-term goal for each context, I can then define a yearly goal That goal should support my long-term goal and should be doable by the end of the year. If you are working on your vision in the middle of the year, define a goal you can accomplish by the end of the year. It’s easier to work with calendar years. I'll use the same contexts as before to give you examples of my yearly goals.
- My health:
- I'll run 4 times a week throughout the whole year.
- I'll define and follow a strict diet plan.
- My self-development – I will read at least one book a month till the end of 2015. I will do a Coursera course in positive psychology.
I divide a year into 12-week chunks. It allows me to really focus on each week. I will describe why and how I do this in a separate post. What you have to know for now is:
- For each upcoming 12-week period, I define goals for each context.
- I define tactics for each week that are to help me achieve my goals.
What I get from this way of planning is a weekly plan. That way, I know what I need to do each week to be closer to achieving my 12-week goal for each context.
My goals for the next 12 weeks are (examples):
- My health – I will follow this running plan: http://treningbiegacza.pl/training-plans/15-cracovia-maraton-3-15-42-tygodnie
- My self-development – I will read four books (Die Empty, The Compound Effect, Michael Jordan, Life, How to Run a Great Workshop).
Tactics are concrete tasks that I have to complete in a given week in order to fulfill my 12-week goals. I create a list of tactics for each goal that I’ve defined for the next 12 weeks. They can be assigned to be done during a chosen week—for example, in week 4 of my 12-week period. They can also have other frequencies assigned to them, such as every day, the first week of the month, or every second week. It’s important to have this written down when I’m planning the upcoming 12 weeks. That way, at the beginning of each week, I can just check the tactics that need to be done that week.
Below you can see examples of some tactics for my 12-week goals.
- My health
- Run 4 times a week according to the plan – every week
- Run at least 25km every weekend – every week
- Create a week-long diet plan in advance for each week – every week
- Do pushups every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday – every week
- My self-development
- Read the book Michael Jordan, Live – weeks 1, 2, 3, and 4
- Read the book How to Run a Great Workshop – weeks 1, 2, 3, and 4
- Read the book The Compound Effect – weeks 5, 6, 7, and 8
- Read the book Die Empty – weeks 9, 10, 11, and 12
- Do three lessons from the Verbal to Visual course – every week
After each week, I can summarize how I scored (number of tactics realized divided by total number of tactics for that week). I always strive for a score of above 90%. This allows me to see how much closer I am to accomplishing my goals.
Weekly overview of tactics
Before the start of each week, I create an overview of the tactics that need to be completed during that week. I do this in OneNote with a simple table like this:
|Read the book "Michael Jordan, Live" – 75% should be read||Week 3|
|Read the book "How to Run a Great Workshop" – 75% should be read||Week 3|
|Do three lessons from the Verbal to Visual course – lessons 58-60||Week 3|
This is the last step in my method. At the beginning of each week, I review the tactics that are to be done that week. I add them to my to-do list and mark them as having the highest priority. I review this list to determine what to work on next. If any of these tasks need to be completed, I do them. These are my top priority tasks.
After I finish these tasks, I process all of my other tasks. That way, I know that the most important things have already been completed
I created the above system and structure to ensure that I always know what I should be working on (as stated in the title of the post Connect your next task with your vision) I’ve been using this method for the past few months, and it’s really working for me. Never was I so focused on what is most important. And never have I had such a clear overview of how my current actions support my long-term plans.
I realize that some concepts from this post require further explanation. I'll blog about them in the near future. Topics to be covered include:
- The 12-week year
- How to choose what is most important for you and what to focus on in the next 5 years and the upcoming year.
- How to block time for your most important tasks.
All links to the Goalscape applications are affiliate links. This means that if you purchase the application using the links from this post, you’ll pay exactly the same price as if you went directly through Goalscape, and I’ll receive a small commission. Thank you! :)