Part I is about describing the purpose of your work.
Step Two: List Your Major Focus Areas
Armed with an awesome or even “okay” purpose for your work, there’s still the whole of your life to take into account. But yikes! That’s what causes the “I can’t do anything” reaction in the first place. Never fear: let’s look at…
Life in Smaller Pieces
Take a little time to list four to seven main focus areas for your life. Here are some examples:
- Religious or spiritual
- Family & Friends
- Professional Organization
- Home & Finances
- Second Business or Major Hobby
Your areas will be unique to you, depending on your purpose, commitments, and stage of life.
Warning: more than seven can be overwhelming.
If your list is too long, see if you can create bigger categories. For example, you could potentially have something like these four:
- Home & Finances
- Self. In this four-part list, “Self” includes your personal relationships (friends, family…), taking care of your body (food, clothing, exercise, sleep…), mind (learning something new, spending time in nature…), and spirit. You can’t serve anyone else if you don’t take care of yourself. (See Sharpen the Saw.)
“If you nurture your mind, body, and spirit, your time will expand. You will gain a new perspective that will allow you to accomplish much more.”~Brian Koslow
- Home & Finances. Included here: taking care of the place where you live (clean, organize, maintain, repair), keeping the car washed and tuned up, budgeting, paying bills, preparing tax info (oh boy!), giving, and planning for your financial future. This is your (and your family’s) personal infrastructure.
- Work. Tasks, projects, meetings, events, planning, networking, and professional development. Whether this is work you get paid for, volunteer to do, or do for the sake of your family, this is where you make a contribution that you think of as “work.”
- Other. Hobbies, volunteer work, or an emerging business that isn’t quite your “work,” at least not yet. Often, this area includes “extra” things that you look forward to doing—but that don’t fit in the other categories.
Start Where You Are. Make your list based on where your life is right now. Don’t agonize, because you’ll make changes as you work with your list and as priorities change over time. That’s okay.
Focus areas help you to organize your on-going and project-based tasks and activities. By giving yourself a way to look at the many things that clamor for your attention in specific focus areas, you make them hold still and calm down.
For Part III we’ll look at ways to use your focus areas to divide and conquer all those millions of things that you want to get done.
Book | D. Allen (2001). Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity
Book | S.R. Covey (2004). The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People (See especially the chapter called “Sharpen the Saw.”)