Developing areas of focus lists

Discussion in 'PUBLIC: Discuss the GTD Methodology' started by tominperu, Feb 29, 2008.

  1. tominperu

    tominperu Registered

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    I'm finding a more systematic use of Areas of Focus has helped me recently.

    In a weekly review I am writing down the areas of my life that need my attention or that are bugging me in any way and for whatever reason. I will then open a note for each one in Outlook. Then I write ideas on what I can do to get on top of the issue. From these projects and actions are generated. If I don't have time to go over all the areas of focus then going through them will become actions in themselves.

    I've also recently started doing this in my daily commute.

    Of course I have been doing this sort of things for months/years, as it is staple to GTD - many of you will just call this mindmapping/brainstorming about issues that are foremost in the mind. But a more systematic and conscious process using the term "Areas of Focus" seems to have helped me.

    I find that I need different lists of Areas of Focus for different altitudes. For instance the Areas of Focus mentioned above may be only runway, while I find a more long term list of Areas of Focus is useful for looking through in the weekly review and for a periodic assessment of more long term goals etc.

    It seems I find I benefit for Areas of Focus at different levels that correspond to the more processed levels of actions, projects, goals etc. Does this make any sense to anyone? Has anyone developed a similar sort of approach?
     
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  2. madalu

    madalu Registered

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    Yes, that makes a lot of sense. I think of the 20,000 feet level as "Areas of Responsibility." But I like the phrase "Areas of Focus" -- it makes me feel like I have more agency in deciding what my responsibilities are.

    I love how one can do the same things in GTD with very different technology. I use index cards to map out the higher levels of GTD. So, here in a nutshell, is my review process:

    1) My projects are all on index cards. One project per index card. I keep these organized by context, depending on the current action. (I use symbols to make it easy to sort the cards.) I like this approach because on days when I need additional focus, I can pull out the cards for the 3-4 projects that have to get done that day and focus on them, all the while knowing that I can go back to the big stack of cards and work by context at any time. (I also have a someday/maybe stack, which makes it easy to promote and demote projects.)

    2) I have a separate stack of cards that outline goals and "areas of responsbility/focus." So during my review, I arrange these on a table and put my project cards beneath them. For instance, I have a set of upper-level "Finances" cards that list my goals and responsibilities pertaining to Finances. During my weekly review, I put all my projects related to finances under the "Finances" card and see if my current projects are moving me towards my goals.
     
  3. sdann

    sdann Registered

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    This is a goal of mine. A month ago I outlined my Horizons of Focus. What I noticed at that time was that I was already well on my way to accomplishing many projects toward many of the goals. But, defining the HOFs gave everything new meaning. Aside from altering the HOF as they change or as I define them better, I now want to "draw paths" to my projects and to any new items in my someday/maybe.

    I too would like to see how it worked for others.
     
  4. rivergal

    rivergal Registered

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    20,000-ft. vs. 30,000 ft.

    In revisiting the descriptions of the 20,000-ft. and 30,000-ft. horizons, I'm feeling like they're flipped around.

    My Areas of Focus/Responsibility (20K) remain fairly stable from year to year, both personally and professionally, whereas I revise my Mid-term Objectives and Goals (30k) over the course of 1-2 years.

    For me, then, shouldn't they be flipped? Doesn't the level reflect how often we review them and revise them?

    Examples:
    Areas of Responsibility (personal): Relationships, Home, Spirit, Finances, etc.
    Areas of Resp. (professional): Ecological management, Science & Planning, Preserve Management, Fund Raising, Alliance Building

    Objectives (professional): Write at least one grant proposal; Complete dam removal on Salmon Brook; Contact at least 5 forest landowners; Define & create steering committee

    Objectives (personal): Select new day care; Convert office to bedroom, etc.
     
  5. mebstein

    mebstein Registered

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    Another thought

    rivergal: that's a really good point. My 20k list is also very static and rarely changes. My counter would be that while it's true I don't revise it much, I do need to review it more frequently. As I review that list and consider each of my roles, I am frequently reminded of projects and tasks hidden inside those roles. So, for me anyway, I find that my 20k list is a checklist that I need to consult more frequenly than my 30k goals even though the list itself seldom changes.
     
  6. Håvard Pedersen

    Håvard Pedersen Registered

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    I have come to the conclusion that Areas of Focus does not belong in the hierarchy along with the rest, and should be thought of as a separate set of categories. Visions, goals and projects will fit nicely in a hierarchy – AoF won't. Some times a project will belong to Goal 1 and AoF 3 and other projects within the same AoF might belong to different goals. Or projects within the same goal might belong to different AoFs even. So you will never be able to link them perfectly.
     
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  7. treelike

    treelike Registered

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    When I asked about this on the forum the explanation I liked best was that the Horizons of Focus are organised in order of frequency of review rather than necessarily a hierarchy . So you (normally) review the AOF list more often than your Goals list.

    I'm intrigued by the idea of different Areas of Focus at different Horizons but I'm just trying to get my head round what that actually means!
     
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  8. Håvard Pedersen

    Håvard Pedersen Registered

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    This probably boils down to a specific rigid mindset of mine that really wants everything to form a nice hierarchy. :p Which is why it took me so long time to recognize that this doesn't fit my world.

    The GTD podcast episode 20 "Defining your areas of focus" says (loosely transcripted):
    Also this quote from a blog article called "GTD Horizons of Focus - A framework for success":
    So for OmniFocus (which is my GTD manager of choice) my current setup is one tag hierarchy for goals and one for areas of focus. And I try to make sure that all projects have atleast one of those, two if possible. But if a project doesn't fit into neither, it probably means a) I should not do it or b) I lack something in my horizons.
     
  9. AFG

    AFG Registered

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    This seemed appropriate given that you are "in Peru". :)
     
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  10. Cpu_Modern

    Cpu_Modern Registered

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    Maybe that is part of it. But here's another aspect of this. When you "want to form a hierarchy" you maybe have something like this in mind, or have seen it somewhere:
    VISION-MISSION.jpg

    You see nicely the higher-level stuff, the vision and the mission statement, at the top, at the narrow end. From there you go through the lower level all the way down to the runway, where you will find myriads of actions. This resembles the data in a GTD system: a few top-level items and loads and loads of action items.

    But I think this is an illusion or better yet, just one half of the story.

    Let's go back to the bronze age of time management system and even further back to the silver age of time management. (Joke stolen form Merlin Mann.)

    Bevor their merger to form Franklin-Covey, these two companies had their own respective materials. Here we find this pyramid diagram for the first time. In the teachings of Hyrum W. Smith, the founder of the Franklin Quest company. His Pyramid looks like this:
    Discover-Plan-Act-Pyramid.jpg
    You can see it is the other way around! The action items are at the top, at the narrow end. The purpose and goals stuff, the higher levels, are at the broad end.

    I think what he factors in is the aspect of time. You do one action at a time, right? If you are awesome at time management, what you do in each moment is the best possible action, all things considered.

    So, in each moment of time only one action plays a role (haha), but the more of your goals and visions and dreams and values etc etc get consideration - the better!

    Yes, the raw amount of data might contain a lot of lines for action items and a few lines for lofty goals, but the "size" of these things is exactly the other way around!
     
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  11. treelike

    treelike Registered

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    Yes! This is how I have come to see things. My actions are "experiments" which yield information that allow me to "discover" what my purpose is. Then when my purpose is known, the other half of the story comes into play- purpose leads to vision, goals and then more actions. And then these actions may result in modified purpose depending on the information (or lack of) generated.

    But where do AOF's fit in to this concept???
     
  12. mcogilvie

    mcogilvie Registered

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    Perhaps a better metaphor is a wheel, or even wheels within wheels, signifying the cycles of gtd. Or maybe boxes with arrows, like a state diagram for a simple computer. David Allen used two axes in “Making It All Work” to conceptualize and explain much of gtd. The problem with metaphors is that they only go so far in describing reality.

    I used to rely more on my areas of focus as a conceptual organizing tool, but they’re so well assimilated now I think about them less. Looking at upcoming changes in my life, I have been giving more thought to those longer horizon items. I think this is all pretty natural, and I don’t give it much thought, that is, I’m not thinking about the structures so much as using them.
     
  13. TesTeq

    TesTeq Registered

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    Are you moving to Amsterdam too? ;) Like @DavidAllen and @kelstarrising ?
     
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  14. mcogilvie

    mcogilvie Registered

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    Oh, Tes, you had me rolling on the floor laughing. What a great idea!

    No, my wife and I have three small granddaughters (2,2 & 4) and a fourth on the way. My wife would like to visit the Galapagos (she’s a biologist) and we both have Alaska and Africa on our bucket lists. In the past, we’ve piggy-backed pleasure travel on top of professional travel, so balancing travel to see family and pleasure travel is new. The kind of trips we’re starting to think about have a 3-5 year horizon for us.
     
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