Seven points of focus for the year ahead

I recently read an old blog post by nonprofit social media expert Beth Kanter, about a book she’d read called 18 Minutes: Find Your Focus, Master Distraction, and Get the Right Things Done. Kanter praised a number of the book’s ideas, but she was especially excited about picking a theme for the year ahead and applying it to a limited number of goals, which forces you to get strategic about the way you spend your time.

I haven’t read the book, but these ideas do sound appealing. Learning to adapt my goals and lifestyle to the needs and responsibilities of fatherhood is already the theme of my year to come, whether I like it or not (and I do, for the record). Zeroing in on a few points of focus seems like a great way to do that.

Author Peter Bregman suggests that you start each day by spending five minutes thinking about what will make your day successful and further your focus for the year. He recommends you take a break every hour to reflect on how you’re doing. Finally, he challenges you to spend another five minutes at the end of the day thinking about what you’ve accomplished, what you’ve learned, and how you can improve.

I’ve decided to give it a shot, though I might skip the timers and stick to a look ahead in the morning and a look back at night. Also, rather than pick five specific goals, I’ve cheated and chosen seven broad points of focus. If I do something significant in each of these spheres each day, I can call that day a good one:

  • Family. At the risk of sounding cliché, this one comes first. Doing the bare minimum doesn’t count, either; this is about finding ways to go the extra mile each day.
  • Work. Likewise, this is more than a matter of showing up; it’s about doing things that will push my job and career forward. Even on weekends, I can do a little reading.
  • Health. Simple, but not negligible. Diet, exercise, etc.
  • Writing. Pitching ideas, pursuing new leads, working on broader projects.
  • Blogging. Sure, I could have lumped this one in with writing, but the range of jobs that comes with it seemed to merit its own category. Web design, outreach, etc.
  • DJing and Music. This includes events like Everyone’s a DJ, as well as the podcast I keep threatening to launch someday.
  • Activism. I hate this term, to be honest, because I hate the notion of calling myself an activist. It really seems like the sort of thing you should earn the right to be called by other people. But I do like the notion of working each day to make the world a better place, so there you are.

Each morning, at the kitchen table, I can look at this list and think about what I can do that day to move each of these aspects of my life forward. It doesn’t have to be anything complicated; pitching a new article, for example, can count as that day’s writing work.

The point is to do at least a little something each day, beyond the norm, to move forward in each of these respects. Plus, acknowledging that these are my priorities helps me acknowledge when I’m not meeting them. I’m not saying it’s wrong to take a break; I’m saying it’s easier to relax when you feel like you deserve it.

What do you think? What theme would you like to apply to the year ahead? What would you like to focus on? How much of a challenge do you think it would be to meet your goals? Feel free to sound off in the comments.

Posted in Uncategorized