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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 March 13, 2019

    How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

    How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

    Have you gotten into a rut before? Or are you in a rut right now?

    You know you’re in a rut when you run out of ideas and inspiration. I personally see a rut as a productivity vacuum. It might very well be a reason why you aren’t getting results. Even as you spend more time on your work, you can’t seem to get anything constructive done. While I’m normally productive, I get into occasional ruts (especially when I’ve been working back-to-back without rest). During those times, I can spend an entire day in front of the computer and get nothing done. It can be quite frustrating.

    Over time, I have tried and found several methods that are helpful to pull me out of a rut. If you experience ruts too, whether as a working professional, a writer, a blogger, a student or other work, you will find these useful. Here are 12 of my personal tips to get out of ruts:

    1. Work on the small tasks.

    When you are in a rut, tackle it by starting small. Clear away your smaller tasks which have been piling up. Reply to your emails, organize your documents, declutter your work space, and reply to private messages.

    Whenever I finish doing that, I generate a positive momentum which I bring forward to my work.

    2. Take a break from your work desk.

    Get yourself away from your desk and go take a walk. Go to the washroom, walk around the office, go out and get a snack.

    Your mind is too bogged down and needs some airing. Sometimes I get new ideas right after I walk away from my computer.

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    3. Upgrade yourself

    Take the down time to upgrade yourself. Go to a seminar. Read up on new materials (#7). Pick up a new language. Or any of the 42 ways here to improve yourself.

    The modern computer uses different typefaces because Steve Jobs dropped in on a calligraphy class back in college. How’s that for inspiration?

    4. Talk to a friend.

    Talk to someone and get your mind off work for a while.

    Talk about anything, from casual chatting to a deep conversation about something you really care about. You will be surprised at how the short encounter can be rejuvenating in its own way.

    5. Forget about trying to be perfect.

    If you are in a rut, the last thing you want to do is step on your own toes with perfectionist tendencies.

    Just start small. Do what you can, at your own pace. Let yourself make mistakes.

    Soon, a little trickle of inspiration will come. And then it’ll build up with more trickles. Before you know it, you have a whole stream of ideas.

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    6. Paint a vision to work towards.

    If you are continuously getting in a rut with your work, maybe there’s no vision inspiring you to move forward.

    Think about why you are doing this, and what you are doing it for. What is the end vision in mind?

    Make it as vivid as possible. Make sure it’s a vision that inspires you and use that to trigger you to action.

    7. Read a book (or blog).

    The things we read are like food to our brain. If you are out of ideas, it’s time to feed your brain with great materials.

    Here’s a list of 40 books you can start off with. Stock your browser with only the feeds of high quality blogs, such as Lifehack.org, DumbLittleMan, Seth Godin’s Blog, Tim Ferris’ Blog, Zen Habits or The Personal Excellence Blog.

    Check out the best selling books; those are generally packed with great wisdom.

    8. Have a quick nap.

    If you are at home, take a quick nap for about 20-30 minutes. This clears up your mind and gives you a quick boost. Nothing quite like starting off on a fresh start after catching up on sleep.

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    9. Remember why you are doing this.

    Sometimes we lose sight of why we do what we do, and after a while we become jaded. A quick refresher on why you even started on this project will help.

    What were you thinking when you thought of doing this? Retrace your thoughts back to that moment. Recall why you are doing this. Then reconnect with your muse.

    10. Find some competition.

    Nothing quite like healthy competition to spur us forward. If you are out of ideas, then check up on what people are doing in your space.

    Colleagues at work, competitors in the industry, competitors’ products and websites, networking conventions.. you get the drill.

    11. Go exercise.

    Since you are not making headway at work, might as well spend the time shaping yourself up.

    Sometimes we work so much that we neglect our health and fitness. Go jog, swim, cycle, whichever exercise you prefer.

    As you improve your physical health, your mental health will improve, too. The different facets of ourselves are all interlinked.

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    Here’re 15 Tips to Restart the Exercise Habit (and How to Keep It).

    12. Take a good break.

    Ruts are usually signs that you have been working too long and too hard. It’s time to get a break.

    Beyond the quick tips above, arrange for a 1-day or 2-days of break from your work. Don’t check your (work) emails or do anything work-related. Relax and do your favorite activities. You will return to your work recharged and ready to start.

    Contrary to popular belief, the world will not end from taking a break from your work. In fact, you will be much more ready to make an impact after proper rest. My best ideas and inspiration always hit me whenever I’m away from my work.

    Take a look at this to learn the importance of rest: The Importance of Scheduling Downtime

    More Resources About Getting out of a Rut

    Featured photo credit: Joshua Earle via unsplash.com

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