As you venture your way into 2012 and try to reach the goals, make the habits, and finish up the projects that you have outlined for yourself, you may start to see a bit of stress and overwhelm building up in your life. You become so concentrated on what you have setup for yourself to accomplish during the year that the “less important things” fall by the wayside.
Most productivity gurus will tell you that this is a good thing; to make sure that they things that you are working on are the things that you want to do, are good at, and are important. It makes sense to concentrate on the things that keep you energized and creative. But, we may that because of all the attention we are giving to our “big ideas” we start to lose touch with some of the other things in life that are important.
We have to accomplish the things that we have set out for ourselves all while staying mindful of what is important to us in our lives. And, boy, it can be tough sometimes.
Make a list
David Allen talks about our “Areas of Focus.” These are all the areas in our life that we deem important and that need attention to ensure that we are operating at a certain level of productivity with the least amount of stress.
GTD is so useful, at least for this geek, because it concentrates on the lower levels of productivity first; tasks and projects. It’s a bottom-up approach that helps one “clear the decks” so they can start to look at the higher levels of their lives (ie. Areas of Focus).
This is where some GTD practitioners get stuck. They concentrate on the task and project portion so much that they forget the higher levels. It’s important to get your deck clear as soon as possible, that is, closing all your open loops and making sure that you have everything on the task and project level accounted for.
Then you can list the areas of your life and start to find balance.
I make the list of my Areas of Focus in a mindmap and then review it at least once a month with my weekly review. Sometimes, especially if you are feeling extra unbalanced in your life, you may need to pull this list out to re-ground yourself.
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Take some time and quiet yourself
I noticed yesterday that most times I only think of myself. What am I going to do today? What am I going to write about? How will I have enough money for that? Am I going to make it this year?
This constant, selfish self-talk had me wake up with a slight realization. I need to stop. And when I stop, I will think of others in my life. I don’t mean thinking of others in the way of “how am I going to do ‘x’ to help them.’ I’m talking about an honest look at the person or situation for what it is.
You’d be surprised how often your mind is selfish. What will surprise you even more is that when you stop and think about others, many things that you may have been ignoring start to show up like realizing your anniversary is coming up, that you haven’t seen your friends in-the-flesh for several weeks, or haven’t talked to anyone in your family recently.
Wash, rinse, and repeat
The only way to stay mindful while accomplishing your goals this year is to make sure that you get in the habit of reviewing your Areas of Focus and stopping to reflect and think of things other than yourself.
Our minds are constantly on; analyzing and troubleshooting everything around us. It’s a good thing that they are so powerful. But we have to use them vigilantly to ensure that we are paying attention to the right things and doing the right things in our lives. You can only make sure this happens by repeatedly evaluating your focus.
If you have been on the productivity kick for any period of time, you know just how hard it can be to stay focused as well as focus on the right things. The only way that I have found to keep this going is to make sure that you have defined what your focus should be and then stopping yourself and become mindful of it. Hopefully with this type of practice you can accomplish your goals this year knowing that what is important to you isn’t being ignored.
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