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My Life Planning Model

My Life Planning Model

    (photo by Drunken Monkey Photography). I thought I’d explain a little more in detail about how I plan my life, and what tools I use to achieve my goals. I like to separate my thoughts on planning and organizing into two levels: upstack and downstack. I often talk about Getting Things Done (GTD) as a good downstack framework. But this post will be about my upstack efforts, and for that, I often turn to Covey.

    Covey’s Habits

    Since 1995, I’ve been practicing variants of Dr. Stephen R. Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective people. One of the very best visual icons he gives in his work is the premise of living one’s life by the compass instead of the wristwatch. The premise is that one be guided by their “true north principles,” and not the whims of the hours passing in a given day.

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    To short-hand what Covey talks about in the 7 habits, here’s the rundown.

    1. Be Proactive. Realize you’re the programmer, and that YOU write the program.
    2. Begin with the end in mind. Now, go write the program.
    3. Put first things first. You’ve written the program. Organize and execute around what you’ve written.
    4. Think Win-Win. Seek third solutions that leave everyone happy.
    5. Seek first to unerstand, then to be understood. Listen more than you talk.
    6. Synergize. Use the team around you. Build on strengths. Accentuate the positive.
    7. Sharpen the Saw. It’s not over when you accomplish something. Stay sharp. Grow.

    Principle-centered living means having a set of “operating instructions” that you can execute in any setting. If you’re on an island, you can do most of the stuff that’s in your instructions, just the same as if you’re in a busy office building in Singapore.

    The thoughts and ideas I laid out in the other post with “streams” and the like are anchored to these compass settings I’ve built into my general self. So, I have a strong sense of family in my compass. I’ve got a sense of what I want to do with communities. I’ve got a sense of what matters to me with my work life. I know how I should better my finances. And I understand what should be the state of my physical health and well-being.

    Every goal I’ve set for myself since 1995 relates to the sense of those compass settings. Sometimes, I adjust what matters to that compass, but I always align myself to a set of operating instructions instead of to set micro goals. If you re-read my post on planning and time horizons, you’ll see that I haven’t laid out specific targets. Instead, you’ll read that I have aspirations in those various areas.

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    Signal to Noise

    Most of our lives are filled with mental clutter. We have music, tv, movies, games, comics, books, groups, clubs, friends, hobbies, sports, email, cell phones, business trips, and other vocations to fill our skulls and our waking hours. We’ve got complex social relationships involving online “friends” we’ve never shaken hands with or hugged, and we’ve got plenty of other ways to chew into our mental calories and thought processes.

    By building a compass setting of the things that matter to me, and trying hard to align my actions, time and effort to that compass, I work hard to move things forward. Those of you who’ve gotten to know me know that I operate on a lot of things at the same time, and that I’m good at working tirelessly at a lot of projects simultaneously. I use my efforts in setting my guiding points to ensure that I’m doing the right things and spending the appropriate time and energy on the things I believe matter most to me.

    Course Corrections

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    Covey points out that when an airplane travels from Boston to Los Angeles, it is off-course 90% of the journey. The majority of the time that the plane is in the air, then, is spent making course corrections. He says life is like this as well. So, I take time often to consider the goals I’ve set for myself within the boundaries of my internal compass, and I consider whether I’m on course. These corrections are how I get closer to the vision in my head of what I consider success.

    Aim High

    The last part of my planning and goal-setting efforts involves a quote I read somewhere (and I forget where). Essentially, set your goals high, even if you only hit halfway, because if you set them low, you might not even reach THAT goal. This has served me well in life. When I hadn’t run an inch, I decided I’d train to run a marathon. I was successful. When I started setting smaller goals, I fell off the fitness wagon entirely.

    Everything of value I’ve ever done in my life came from setting a goal so high that I *might* achieve it, but that I very likely wouldn’t. This has led to lots of successes that I doubted myself capable of achieving, but that then fueled further successes. My career today is largely a part of my efforts using the system I sketched out above.

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    Wrapping Up

    If you want the short-hand to everything I just wrote, here it is:

    Figure out what matters the most to you. Focus on it. And then do THAT as often as possible.

    Yep. That’s it. I work hardest to accomplish things that I believe relate to what matters most to me. This seems like a “duh” thing to say, but ask yourself how closely your day-to-day efforts match this model.

    Let me know if I can help you with anything.

    Chris Brogan is community developer for Video on the Net, a conference about the impact of broadband internet on the future of TV, Broadcasting, and Film. This article was cross-posted to Chris’s blog, [chrisbrogan.com].

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    Last Updated on January 2, 2019

    7 Steps For Making a New Year’s Resolution and Keeping It

    7 Steps For Making a New Year’s Resolution and Keeping It

    Are you keen to reinvent yourself this year? Or at least use the new year as a long overdue excuse to get rid of bad habits or pick up new ones?

    Yes, it’s that time of year again. The time of year when we feel as if we have to turn over a new leaf. The time when we misguidedly imagine that the arrival of a new year will magically provide the catalyst, motivation and persistence we need to reinvent ourselves.

    Traditionally, New Year’s Day is styled as the ideal time to kick start a new phase in your life and the time when you must make your all important new year’s resolution. Unfortunately, the beginning of the year is also one of the worst times to make a major change in your habits because it’s often a relatively stressful time, right in the middle of the party and vacation season.

    Don’t set yourself up for failure this year by vowing to make huge changes that will be hard to keep. Instead follow these seven steps for successfully making a new year’s resolution you can stick to for good.

    1. Just pick one thing

    If you want to change your life or your lifestyle don’t try to change the whole thing at once. It won’t work. Instead pick one area of your life to change to begin with.

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    Make it something concrete so you know exactly what change you’re planning to make. If you’re successful with the first change you can go ahead and make another change after a month or so. By making small changes one after the other, you still have the chance to be a whole new you at the end of the year and it’s a much more realistic way of doing it.

    Don’t pick a New Year’s resolution that’s bound to fail either, like running a marathon if you’re 40lbs overweight and get out of breath walking upstairs. If that’s the case resolve to walk every day. When you’ve got that habit down pat you can graduate to running in short bursts, constant running by March or April and a marathon at the end of the year. What’s the one habit you most want to change?

    2. Plan ahead

    To ensure success you need to research the change you’re making and plan ahead so you have the resources available when you need them. Here are a few things you should do to prepare and get all the systems in place ready to make your change.

    Read up on it – Go to the library and get books on the subject. Whether it’s quitting smoking, taking up running or yoga or becoming vegan there are books to help you prepare for it. Or use the Internet. If you do enough research you should even be looking forward to making the change.

    Plan for success – Get everything ready so things will run smoothly. If you’re taking up running make sure you have the trainers, clothes, hat, glasses, ipod loaded with energetic sounds at the ready. Then there can be no excuses.

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    3. Anticipate problems

    There will be problems so make a list of what they’ll be. If you think about it, you’ll be able to anticipate problems at certain times of the day, with specific people or in special situations. Once you’ve identified the times that will probably be hard work out ways to cope with them when they inevitably crop up.

    4. Pick a start date

    You don’t have to make these changes on New Year’s Day. That’s the conventional wisdom, but if you truly want to make changes then pick a day when you know you’ll be well-rested, enthusiastic and surrounded by positive people. I’ll be waiting until my kids go back to school in February.

    Sometimes picking a date doesn’t work. It’s better to wait until your whole mind and body are fully ready to take on the challenge. You’ll know when it is when the time comes.

    5. Go for it

    On the big day go for it 100%. Make a commitment and write it down on a card. You just need one short phrase you can carry in your wallet. Or keep it in your car, by your bed and on your bathroom mirror too for an extra dose of positive reinforcement.

    Your commitment card will say something like:

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    • I enjoy a clean, smoke-free life.
    • I stay calm and in control even under times of stress.
    • I’m committed to learning how to run my own business.
    • I meditate daily.

    6. Accept failure

    If you do fail and sneak a cigarette, miss a walk or shout at the kids one morning don’t hate yourself for it. Make a note of the triggers that caused this set back and vow to learn a lesson from them.

    If you know that alcohol makes you crave cigarettes and oversleep the next day cut back on it. If you know the morning rush before school makes you shout then get up earlier or prepare things the night before to make it easier on you.

    Perseverance is the key to success. Try again, keep trying and you will succeed.

    7. Plan rewards

    Small rewards are great encouragement to keep you going during the hardest first days. After that you can probably reward yourself once a week with a magazine, a long-distance call to a supportive friend, a siesta, a trip to the movies or whatever makes you tick.

    Later you can change the rewards to monthly and then at the end of the year you can pick an anniversary reward. Something that you’ll look forward to. You deserve it and you’ll have earned it.

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    Whatever your plans and goals are for this year, I’d do wish you luck with them but remember, it’s your life and you make your own luck.

    Decide what you want to do this year, plan how to get it and go for it. I’ll definitely be cheering you on.

    Are you planning to make a New Year’s resolution? What is it and is it something you’ve tried to do before or something new?

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