A big part of being happy and successful is about figuring out two things:
- What’s important to you?
- How do you organise yourself around what’s important to you?
I’ve been obsessed with goals and productivity for a long time. My thinking has changed a lot in the last fifteen years — but has settled in the last couple.
I’m happy with what I’ve settled on. I’ve gone from rigid goal setting frameworks to having no goals. Instead of goals, I have a bunch of habits and systems that keep me pointed in the right direction. It’s working pretty well. I’m getting stuff done and I’m happier and less anxious.
Here is how I run my life now:
I experimented with no goals because goal setting was making me unhappy. I was constantly rewriting my goals because I either set them too high or my priorities changed. It was tough at first. I felt lost and aimless. But over time I found habits and systems that replaced goals. I move forward, but in a more flexible way.
I still get urges to set goals. But now I notice them, and let go.
My life document
This is the closest replacement to goals. I have a document called ‘My Life’, which has 3 parts to it:
- The areas in my life (health, ella & fearne, career etc.).
- Quotes I like.
- A list of things that are important to me and that I want to focus on. They are not goals. In fact, I intentionally make them the opposite of smart goals.
You can see my ‘My Life’ doc here.
I look at this document a few times a week. I don’t try and do all these, all the time. They are not in priority order. They are just a collection of thoughts, ideas and things to focus on for now. When I read through the document, it helps bring me back to what’s important. It influences my planning and what I choose to do. Who I try to be.
It’s a living, breathing document. I often add, remove or tweak parts of it — depending on what’s becoming more or less important in my life.
I have morning and evening routines. I get up early in the morning and do my mobility exercises, meditate and write. In the evening, I remember 3 moments in the day I am grateful for and then do my mobility exercises. It means every day I do a great deal of mobility, write and be grateful.
The best advice I can give on daily routines is to keep them simple. Don’t try and do more than 3 things and aim for a little each day. It’s tempting to squeeze lots of things in and spend a lot of time on each thing. This is a guaranteed way to fail. Notice the temptation and don’t do it. Keep it simple and keep it short.
To do list
My to do list keeps me organised and productive on a day to day basis. I use a google doc and it’s basically a list of stuff I need to get done. Make a birthday cake for Fearne’s 1st birthday, cancelling a subscription — that type of thing.
The most fancy I get with it, is to put higher priority items up top. I also group related jobs together (DIY jobs etc.).
Throughout the day, when things pop up that I need to do, I make a note of them (in a pad or on my phone). I then transfer them to the google doc when I next get chance.
I use google calendar for all meetings and appointments. Also to remind me of people’s birthdays.
Starting the day without a plan usually leads to an unfocused and unproductive day. So, I take 30 mins each day to make a plan for the day. I used to do it in the mornings after I write. Recently, I started doing it just before the evening so I can more easily switch off as the day ends.
I start by reviewing my to do list and often read through the ‘my life’ document. I also look at my calendar for any scheduled meetings. From these, I make a list of items I want to get done. Once I have what feels like enough, I start a fresh page and make a detailed plan. I split the day into AM, PM and evening. I put times next to scheduled meetings and batch things into work blocks of 90 minutes. Often there is only one thing in a work block, but sometimes I batch related jobs into work blocks.
I refer to this plan several times throughout the day to keep me on track.
Wow, that’s a lot of stuff. You might be a bit special — like in a weird way.
Yeah, it does seem like a lot of stuff. It surprised me when I wrote it out.
Bear in mind, these habits and systems have developed over many years. They are second nature now and don’t take much time to do. But, boy do they make a big difference to how I spend my time and how much I get done. I couldn’t imagine not having them.
Hopefully some of them are useful and give you ideas. I’m not suggesting you do any, or all these. Everyone needs to find out what it is, that helps them be focused, productive and happy. Trust me, it’s worth the effort and time out figure out.
What’s important to you? How do you organise yourself around what’s important to you? It’s worth thinking about.