02 Jan 2011

Areas of Focus

In 2009 I created a website to keep track of the simple goals in my life. It was a new way to set goals for me: set one simple goal each day. One Simple Goal was born out of a few days of work, because the concept is simple, and as you all know, I like simplicity. It helps me focus on what matters most, while assisting me in ignoring what doesn’t.

In the lead-up to 2011, I’ve been quietly thinking about what types of resolutions I will make, if any. Typically in the past I’ve shied away from making grandiose resolutions, usually just picking certain directions I’d like my life to flow, and then storing them as high-level ideals about my life. This year will be different.

Not different in that I’ll be buying that gym pass or whatever cliché’s abound when talking about resolutions. No, I am fairly certain I won’t be doing that kind of generalized stuff any time soon. Different because I’ll be more concrete about two things: 1) Focus, and 2) Time-frame. Humans generally love to set goals, and almost always find a way to not achieve them. I’m no different. But when I realized that I still wanted the results of those goals, I stumbled on the idea of making a simple goal every day. No long to-do lists, no lofty “Mount Everest” goals. Simple things, like:

  • Finally paint wall patches I did last August. Go me.
  • Push out some code to OSG. Anything.
  • Write the first of the ruby daily series

Fast-forward to tonight when I realized that OSG is exactly how I should be determining (and implementing) my goals for 2011, with a few tweaks. The first and most noticeable tweak is the time frame. Instead of limiting my goal work to one day, it’ll be 2 to 4 weeks, with a preference to lean on a full month. The focus aspect changes slightly also, as it’s easy to set a specific focus for a given day, but more challenging to do so for a given month. I have a few ideas about how using a system like Scrum can help me achieve real focus with a longer time frame. Keep in mind that as with OSG, the idea is that you have something concrete that you can say: “I did (insert goal here)”. So things like “Become more good looking” don’t count because they’re arbitrary in what their completion may look like. We’re looking for concrete goals, things that (as Seth Godin says) you actually ship. The concept of shipping is paramount.

I threw a list together on SpringPad with a few ideas that I plan on thinking into a little further, but the first month is more or less solidified in my mind as to what I’ll be working on (and yes, it actually is scary to me, in a good way). The over arching focus for 2011 is to develop myself further. 2010 was a banner year for me professionally, and 2011 is poised to be the same or more. But something I felt was lacking was a commitment to be better, not for my career or job, just for me. So 2011’s list looks like that.

One over-arching goal that falls out of this framework is that I want to get back into writing. I was into blogging in ‘07 and ‘08 and thoroughly enjoyed it. Not the page-views and all that garbage, just the act of writing about something. Anything. I want to enjoy it again. With all that in mind, I’ve decided that I’m going to work hard at documenting my ride through 2011 and the way I’m setting this whole thing up. Hopefully it’ll help somebody out, but mostly it’s for my own records and enjoyment.

So here are a few rules for setting goals this year. And yes, I just made them up.

  1. Only concrete goals that can be definitively completed within a month are allowed. Can you answer “Yes” or “No” to the question: Did you ship it?
  2. Do things that are worthwhile and that stretch me. No maintaining of status quo, go beyond.
  3. Planning for the month’s goals happens at the beginning of the month, preferably the first day of the month. Plan only for the current month (iteration).
  4. Retrospectives about what was or wasn’t completed happen at the end of the month. Honesty is key here.
  5. Blog often.
  6. Have Fun.
  7. Write more lists like Ryan ;).

I’ll post more soon. In the meantime, why don’t you go set some simple goals?