Not sure about you, but I have A LOT of things on my mind, in my plans, in my backlog, and on my Someday List. Everything from work and business to self-improvement activities to skills and hobbies and chores and whatnot.
This means that at any given time I have dozens if not hundreds of activities I could be engaging in, and many of them require quite a big time commitment.
Over the years, I’ve been experimenting with different prioritization approaches:
- Doing whatever I feel like doing in the moment. Works great when the thing I feel like doing is the thing I need to be doing. Otherwise, it's a problem!
- The most important thing first. Pick one project and work on it as hard as I can until it’s done. Works fine for short-term activities, but can be a problem in the longer term. More than once I’ve spent months ultrafocused on a single thing to the detriment of the rest of my life that I’ve essentially put on hold.
- Different days for different things. Writing on Mondays, consulting on Tuesdays, self-improvement on Wednesdays, ruminating on Thursdays, Friday I’m in love. No good – life is far too dynamic to neatly fit into weeks like that.
- Time blocks for different activities. Splitting weeks up into time blocks of up to a few hours and sticking activities in them. Theoretically, this way I can fit dozens of things into any given week. Practically, this leads to a lot of busyness and overhead with little progress in any given area.
- Single focus weeks. A week of writing, a week of business development, a week of self-improvement. This has potential, but the drawbacks are similar to the “one activity per day” approach: life is too dynamic to spend a whole week working on a single thing exclusively.
Lately, I managed to combine a few of these approaches into something I call Weekly Focus Areas. Every week I select up to 3 areas, activities, or projects that I want to focus on. The higher the activity is on this list, the more time and attention I allocate to it every day, and the proportion of time I’m allocating can change depending on how important a specific activity is.
A few simple examples of Weekly Focus Areas:
Week 1 (let’s say I’m trying to combine work with self-improvement and learning new skills)
- Focus #1: Consulting project (at least 4-5h/d)
- Focus #2: Mental Library / Organization (at least 2h/d)
- Focus #3: Learning Macbook basics (at least 1h/d)
Week 2 (let’s say I’m writing a book that requires a lot of effort)
- Focus #1: Writing (8-9h/d)
- Focus #2: Chores (1h/d)
- Focus #3: N/A
Week 3 (let’s say I’m working full-time but want to get something done beyond that)
- Focus #1: Work (7-8h/d)
- Focus #2: Learning (2h/d)
- Focus #3: Chores (1h/d)
Once I’ve picked my focus areas I’ll usually break them down into specific projects or tasks and try to get them done during the week.
This of course doesn’t mean I’m ONLY doing these 2-3 things throughout the week. Life is fluid, plans change all the time, and I’m always open to the unexpected. But these lists remind me of the general direction I’m moving in and help me stay on track even if I don’t stick to these activities 100% of the time.
What’s better, this allows me to make progress on the “important, not urgent” stuff – things I know I need to do that never feel urgent enough to make them my top priority. A lot of organizational and self-improvement work falls into this category: it’s critically important in the long run, but almost never urgent, so it’s easy to keep putting it off indefinitely because life always gets in the way. Placing these activities into the #2 and #3 slots allows me to make steady (even if small) progress on them week over week while still spending most of my time on #1.
How do you make progress on your “important, not urgent” things? Let me know!
Have a focused week,
A few thoughts
Online vs offline, perception vs reality. How often do you meet someone you’ve known online and they end up feeling like a completely different person in real life? It doesn’t happen to me often since I’ve grown up online and have learned to understand people quite well through online communication, but when it does, I’m always fascinated by how big the gap between perception and reality can be.
The core components of extraversion. My #2 focus area this past week was extraversion and leadership, so I spent quite a few hours thinking about extraversion, confidence, and social awkwardness. It’s fascinating how many different aspects something seemingly simple like “I’m having a hard time talking to strangers” can consist of. Like a dozen different things!
Reading as a priority. I’ve found it interesting how reading goes out the window when I have my focus areas filled out with other things. I can socialize and do chores in the background, but reading just doesn’t work as a background activity for me. If I don’t consciously make myself sit down to read, I just won’t do it.
It's Still a Long Game “If you’re not willing to go for years with people you know watching you publicly perform to crickets, you shouldn’t even start.”
The Climate Denier's Playbook Podcast My favorite climate communicator and comedian Rollie Williams from Climate Town has a podcast now! Highly recommended.
The Surprising Power of Questions “People don’t ask enough questions. In fact, among the most common complaints people make after having a conversation, such as an interview, a first date, or a work meeting, is “I wish [s/he] had asked me more questions” and “I can’t believe [s/he] didn’t ask me any questions.”
The fun part
I repeat: having photographer friends is underrated. And I don't even smoke.