So many times when I feel “stuck” in my life, it’s because I’m lacking clarity around my vision. I don’t have a clear grip on what I want my next business steps to look like, or I haven’t had time to check in with my personal goals, or I’m running around on autopilot just responding instead of claiming what I want out of my life.
I have a feeling I’m not alone in this—and my dear friend Marie Forleo taught me just how to figure out what matters most in order to decide what to focus my energy on inside her (brilliant) time-management program, Time Genius. She says that limitations are everything, and they can be positive if we utilize them in the right way. Limiting yourself to one singular priority or goal lets you be more focused and less stressed. And, it lets you move through your days with intention (rather than hopping around aimlessly to put out another fire).
Here’s a piece of the method she teaches in Time Genius that has TRULY changed the way I approach designing my life in order to prioritize what matters most!
#1. Determine what you don’t want
It’s important to know what you don’t want to do because it can help you make more informed and deliberate choices about how you want to spend your time and energy. By identifying the things you don’t want to do, you can avoid situations or activities that are not fulfilling or meaningful to you.
Sometimes to gain clarity about what we DO want, it’s easiest to start with what we don’t want first. Sit down for a few minutes and write down anything in your life that you’d like to eliminate (think: the things that leave you feeling depleted, stressed, or aggravated in any way). These can be as broad or specific as you’d like them to be. Here are a few examples…
“I don’t want”:
- To be attached to my phone 24/7 and working every day of the week
- To have to answer to someone else’s timeline, demands & goals
- A partner who pressures me to “have it all” and be everything to everyone
- A business where I’m the bottleneck and that needs my daily maintenance
You get the picture! Now do a brain dump of YOUR “don’t want” list.
#2. Determine what you do want
Determining the things you want to do in life can be an important part of setting goals and creating a sense of purpose and direction. It can help you focus your energy and attention on the things that are most important to you, and can help you make choices that are aligned with your values and aspirations.
Having a clear sense of what you want to do in life can also help you make the most of your time and resources. It can help you prioritize your activities and focus on the things that are most meaningful to you, rather than getting caught up in distractions or pursuing goals that are not truly fulfilling.
Once you know definitively what you don’t want, you can more easily build out what you DO want in your life. Take a few more minutes to write down all the would-like-to-haves in your life—things that make you feel excited and at peace and fulfilled. Here’s what I mean…
“I DO want”:
- The ability to work from anywhere
- A team of independent self-starters who are passionate about serving others
- To build a home for our family in the woods that meets all of our needs
- To feel confident and healthy in my skin
That sort of thing! Feel free to incorporate all elements of your world, from work, family, and home to health, lifestyle, and schedule.
#3. Map out your dream normal day
Mapping out your dream day can be a helpful tool for prioritizing your goals and priorities. By visualizing what your ideal day would look like, you can get a clear sense of the things that are most important to you and what you want to focus on in your life.
Paint the picture of what your dream NORMAL day looks like in your mind. This isn’t a dream day where you’re on a yacht in Spain (unless you want that to be your everyday norm, in which case, more power to you!). Instead, this is a regular, ol’ Tuesday with your job or family in the BEST case scenario. Try to incorporate as many things from your “do want” list and leave out as many items as possible from your “don’t want” list.
Some things to include might be…
- Where you live
- What your home is like
- What your hobbies are
- What time you get up each day
- What you do first thing in the morning & how you feel
- Who you live with
- The meals you eat
- What you do throughout your morning
- Who you’re spending time with
- How you spend your evenings
- What kinds of projects you’re working on
- The activities that restore you
Get really, really specific here because once you know the result you desire, you can almost work backward to get there!
#4. Review your past year
Reviewing your year can be a helpful way to reflect on your experiences and accomplishments over the past year and to consider how you want to move forward in the future. It can help you identify patterns and trends in your life, and give you a sense of perspective and direction. Take a look at the past 12 months to see where you spent most of your time and attention. (It helps to have your calendar/planner/photos on hand so you don’t miss anything big!)
You’ll want to write down and take stock of:
- Your accomplishments
- What you learned throughout the year
- How satisfied/content you felt over the last year
And then take a few minutes to write down what’s next: What felt like it was missing from the last year? What did you feel like you didn’t get to spend enough time on? What big goals do you hope to accomplish next?
Jot it ALL down—but keep this visioning to just the next 12 months. If you want to build a house in the next 5 years, but it probably won’t happen this next year, then go ahead and leave it out. We want to hyper-focus in on the next 12 months.
#5. Break down your goals into quarters
Once you know what you want in the next year, you can “assign” yourself smaller sub-tasks each quarter to work toward each larger goal! Marie recommends breaking your goals into categories (like Self, Relationships, Work, etc.) so you can break up your goals into organized sub-sections. She also encourages you to keep your quarterly focuses on your desk or somewhere you’ll see them every day so they stay fresh in your mind!
Breaking big goals down into smaller pieces can help you achieve them by making them more manageable, increasing your motivation, improving your focus, reducing the risk of failure, and increasing accountability.
So, why is doing an activity like this even important? Honestly, I’ve seen how easy it can be to slip into living on autopilot, where you’re responding to others’ needs instead of designing your life with intention. Having ultimate clarity around what you want, your big goals, as well as action steps to get there can help you move toward greater alignment with your greater life vision. And that’s always worth prioritizing.