Thank you so much to everyone who let me know that sharing this concept of focus areas both here and in the podcast struck a chord. I’m so glad that sharing the specifics of how I have developed clarity around my core focus areas helped you too. Last week on the podcast, I promised that I would share with you how I actively work with these focus areas on a yearly, weekly and even daily basis so here we go!
My core focus areas, honed in on over the years, are: work, home, art & creativity, self, love, loved ones, body, spirit, and money.
My secondary focus areas are: experience and adventure, doing good, learning & style.
And a very special pivotal focus area is: serendipity.
Knowing these makes it easier to say “yes” or to say “no,” to invest or to pass, to fix or to let go. It helps me make choices and take a stand, to decide where to put my energy and my talents and when to walk away. It’s powerful, motivating and useful
If hearing this inspires you to make your own list (and I hope it does) remember, I didn’t come up with these categories overnight. I made a start at identifying my priorities and then I began working with them. Over time, I made adjustments, tweaked this or that. So, don’t feel like you have to know everything right at the beginning. Just make a start.
So, how do I work with them?
Many of you know that every year I spend the time between Christmas and New Years making Vision Cards. In fact, many of you have taken my Vision Card workshop and done the same! At this magical transition point of one year to the next, I contemplate what I wish for in each of my focus areas areas and then create a kind of mini dreamboard for each one.
This year I added something new, inspired by Shannon: two journal writes. The first was a check-in for each of my core focus areas and the second explored what I dreamed of for each of them this year. And let me share a tip for you on this; I timed myself! I could totally have spent days upon days writing about each of these but instead I gave myself a couple of minutes per focus area for a really focused write and I let that be enough.
This is where the whole idea of focus areas began for me. At the beginning of the week I sit down and plan some things that I can do to tend to each of my focus areas. I know you’re probably saying, “OMG, Jamie, that’s too much! You have, like 14 areas! That’s way too many to-dos.” But it isn’t really. First of all, I prioritize the core focus areas, so that brings it down to nine. And no one’s saying you have to plan big earth-shattering events or achievements in each area. In fact, knowing that you’ll be tending to each area again next week really allows you to trust smaller steps.
Plus, knowing these focus areas doesn’t mean you have to add more to what you’re already doing. You simply have a category for recognizing the importance and value of each focus area in your life. For example, if you’re going to a birthday party this week, you can note that as an activity that honours your focus area of Loved Ones. Doesn’t that feel so much better than seeing it simply as a commitment on your calendar or even an obligation?
So, I can look at my week and say,
- Home: a big clean-up because my dad’s coming to visit.
- Work: I’ve got lots of to-dos here! Which ones are going on the schedule for this week?
- Art & Creativity: I’m going to do the next lesson in Lifebook.
- Self: I’m going to stick with my morning pages practice this week.
- Love: I’m going to chat with Justin about what we’re going to do for our wedding anniversary in February.
- Loved Ones: I’m going to make sure to say happy birthday to Suzie on the podcast!
- Body: I’m going to play obsessive amounts of Just Dance 2014.
- Spirit: I haven’t been meditating lately. This week I’m going to make an effort to sit at least once.
I could also look at my secondary areas and say, hmm.. I’m going to pay attention to Style this week too.
- Style: While I’m out this week, I’m going to pop into H&M and look for a new pair of earrings.
Imagine the difference in your life if every week you spent some time focused on your true priorities!
On a daily basis, you certainly could take a similar approach, starting with your focus areas and creating and/or categorizing to-dos with that framework as a guide. Personally, I don’t try and fit in every category every day. That feels way too full and way too structured for me.
What I actually do daily is work backwards. I keep a running document on my computer for gathering my accomplishments during the day and as I note what I’ve done, I categorize it by my focus area. This becomes a tracking mechanism, though I treat it lightly, trusting my awareness. Over time, I’ll notice which categories continually show up and which never do and make adjustments. Maybe I’m having resistance to a certain focus area or maybe the truth is I’m not that interested in it. Paying attention helps me tweak my focus appropriately.
Your Focus Areas
If you’re interested in playing with this model, I’ve made something to support you: Focus Area Journal sheets , a printable PDF for planning your actions to honour each focus area. It includes both the subject areas that I have defined and also a sheet that you can add your own categories to. I hope you love it.
This practice has been key in helping me align my life with my priorities. I hope it inspires the same in you. Let me know how you find working with these.
I’d also love to know how you relate to my focus areas. Are these things that interest you too? If they are, I might expand what I share with you to cover more of these areas or I might find a way to categorize content on my site around those subjects.