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  • Business and Personal Goals

    Just wondering how and where I should process my personal and business goals. Should they go into the projects list, and if so how should they be distinguished from any other project on the list. For example one of my personal goals is to spend more quality time with my kids on a daily basis. It just seems like such a hugely important activity to just be lumped into the project list. Does anyone keep a separate list that encompasses these types of personal and business goals, and if so how do you handle it. Thanks in advance for any help.

    Paul Skikne - Owner
    Montana Avenue Realty
    Santa Monica, CA 90403[/url]

  • #2
    The way I handle this is to keep a separate goals list, sorted by area of focus. Think of it like this: Goals are to projects as projects are to next actions. Just as every project must have a next action, every goal must have a project (ideally).

    So when I do my weekly review, I go over my goals and make sure they're all moving forward. For instance, a goal may be to lose 10 pounds. An associated project may be to begin an exercise program. And the next action may be to review my schedule and pick a time slot for exercise. I like to keep my projects fairly well defined, whereas my goals can be a bit more open-ended.

    The next level up from my goals list is my personal mission statement. When I need new goals, I look to my mission statement first. Just last week I was looking at my goals and thinking, I can do better than this. The goals I had weren't really stretching me enough. And when I looked at my mission statement, I realized I'd outgrown it. So I spent the afternoon updating it into something much more inspiring. The new mission helps me pick bigger goals.

    What I really like about this system is that I feel I'm always making progress on my goals, not just my most important goals -- but ALL of my goals. Before I learned the GTD system I would set a lot of goals at the beginning of a year, and at the end of the year, maybe 50% would be achieved. But the other perhaps 30% would languish unstarted. Now I have this elegant process in place that ensures that once I set a goal, I will move it forward towards realization. And that's a wonderful piece of self-trust I've never experienced before learning the GTD principles.

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    • #3
      Thanks Steve

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      • #4
        Steve,

        You post is one of the neatest encapsulations of the link between next actions and overall life plans I have ever read. Thanks for the great light-bulb moment!!

        Dave

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        • #5
          Thanks for that! I've had my Projects and Next Actions clicking away quite nicely recently, and my stress level during the busiest time of the year in my work has been significatly lower than in the past (I've gotten many comments from friends and family that I'm "not quite as insane as usual for this time of year"), but I've really been struggling with the sense that I'm moving on projects left and right without doing anything to move my larger goals forward, and was also struggling with what exactly areas of focus are supposed to be. This post was definitely a moment of clarity on those issues.

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          • #6
            Steve,

            Great post! I've been following this methodology for about 2 years or so, and your post really connected some dots for me. Thanks!

            Jim

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            • #7
              Glad I could be helpful.

              I should clarify that I treat the links between each level similarly. So every part of my mission statement must have an associated goal, every goal must have a project, and every project must have a next action. As you move from the level of mission statement down to actions, each level becomes more solid and concrete than the one above it. So at each point you're taking the general (unmanifest) and making it more specific (manifest). Technically the number of distinct levels you have here is arbitrary, but it's helpful to use terms like goals, projects, and actions, since we're all familiar with them. I have four levels, but you could have three levels or five levels if that works better for you.

              When I started using the GTD system two years ago, I also felt the same disconnect that many of you mentioned, where it seemed like I was churning through a lot of low-level work but not actually moving forward in a focused direction. It's very important to me to know how each action moves me towards my major goals, and I couldn't see that very clearly with the raw GTD approach. Once I was able to connect all the dots between mission statement and next actions, it gave me a new level of relaxation and focus. Now my mission statement trickles down through to my goals and projects, such that every part of my mission ultimately has a next action. This way I know that when I'm working on those actions, I'm actively living my mission. I do have projects and actions that aren't directly associated with my mission, but over time I was able to reach the point where most are on the path of my mission. And that actually shifted my life into a whole new direction where I feel a lot more congruent. Before I did this, I felt like the work I was doing was out of phase with my mission.

              I think keeping all these layers separate and well-defined is helpful, since it allows us to view our objectives at varying levels of abstraction (50,000 feet all the way down to the runway). Imagine what it would be like if you only had two levels. You'd look at your mission statement and somehow have to figure out the next action that would move it along. I think that's a bit too much for our minds to handle. It would be like putting an army general directly in charge of all the army's foot soldiers with no intermediate officers.

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              • #8
                I work similarly to Steve, but I don't really think in terms of goals, but rather, borrowing from Covey, roles. It works for me.

                Technically, I use ShadowPlan on my Palm to accomplish it. It starts with a top-level list of roles: Husband, Manager, Teacher, etc. I use Personal in place of a Covey "Sharpen the Saw". (fyi, @Agendas and Someday/Maybe are not currently linked to any roles, but that's more mechanics than intention.)

                Under each role I have a list of outcomes or goals that relate to each. "Spend time with kids individually" is an outcome under "Father". Each of these goals or outcomes is a Project (in GTD terms) and is linked to the "Projects" list in my Palm ToDo app.

                Under each project/goal/outcome I have the tasks associated with it. These are associated with the appropriate contextual list also on the Palm ToDo app (@Home, @Computer, @Office, @Waiting For, etc.). Thus, I spend my week using only the contextual ToDo lists, and only refer to my ShadowPlan list sorted by roles during my Weekly Review.

                This makes it nice, because I can both make sure that all my projects/goals/outcomes have the right Next Actions associated to them, but seeing them grouped by their purpose (or role) helps stimulate my thinking about what other projects need to be added. And since everything is sorted out into the natural context lists, it makes the doing part easy, natural, and thoughtless.

                During the week, I don't separate out my thinking about whether something is personal or business. It's simply a matter of context. In one location, there's certain tasks that can be accomplished, regardless of where they came from, and that's what I'll do. As much as possible, I save the meta-thinking (about roles, etc) for my Weekly Review.

                It works for me. I can describe it more in depth, if anyone wants to know.

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                • #9
                  Actually this is very similar to what I do as well. All my goals are grouped by roles, and my mission statement also contains one paragraph for each role. My "areas of focus" are essentially my roles in the Steve Covey sense. I have ten roles, so I maintain a separate set of goals for each one. I also keep my projects grouped by roles, but then I sort by context when I get down to the level of next actions.

                  I agree that sorting goals by roles is helpful. It ensures that you've got all your roles covered with goals and projects.

                  I also put a Tony Robbins style spin on my roles by giving them names that help personify my objectives. For instead, for the area of focus on health or the role of being a healthy/fit person, I label it "Energy Dynamo." I only recently added this twist, but I find that it helps increase my enthusiasm to work on my roles & goals.

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                  • #10
                    Goals

                    Steve, please explain where you keep your goals lists - in Outlook? Word? Shadowplan?
                    Thanks

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                    • #11
                      Outlook and Word tend to be too slow for my needs, and I've never tried Shadowplan.

                      To manage all my various lists, I use a program called ActionOutline ($35, www.actionoutline.com). It's brainlessly easy to use, takes only minutes to learn, and it allows you to create nested outline structures for managing information, including text, images, URLs, etc. It's similar to using Windows Explorer, except that instead of navigating folders and files, you're navigating pieces of information, stored in a hierarchical structure that you define. So as you navigate through a hierarchy on the left side of the screen, you instantly see the corresponding information on the right side of the screen. What I love most about this program is that it's a super-fast way to organize and retrieve any pieces of info. You can download a free trial version from the site mentioned above.

                      I have ActionOutline set such that I can pop it up on the screen at any time with a hotkey. I use it as a general purpose information manager. Unlike Outlook or Word, ActionOutline has never crashed on me, and it's extremely fast to use because there's no need to save or load files manually. All the information you've stored there is immediately accessible.

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                      • #12
                        ActionOutline OK

                        I downloaded and tested the demo version of ActionOutline 2.0 today. As Steve says:
                        It's brainlessly easy to use, takes only minutes to learn, and it allows you to create nested outline structures for managing information, including text, images, URLs, etc.
                        You can control it without a mouse which is much faster than pointing and clicking all the time. Plenty of clever and intuitive keyboard shortcuts make it easy to manage the information using hierarchical tree structure. The search engine is efficient and knows Polish language which is essential for me. Good product.

                        Steve, thanks for information about it.

                        Regards,
                        TesTeq

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