Is Your Next Task the Right Task?
Written by Professional Academy Management and Leadership Tutor, Kathryn Knights
You can’t have it all but you have to do it all. This can mean you feel like you’re constantly drowning under a sea of tasks. So how can you make sure you’re working on the right task at the right time?
David Allen’s ‘six horizons of focus’ framework aligns daily actions with goals, visions and overall purpose. Having a deeper understanding of who you are and what you’re trying to achieve in life will help you to prioritise your daily tasks far more easily.
A word of warning
As with most things in life, you get out what you put in. So to get the best out of this tool you will need to invest some serious thinking time. However, if you are prepared to do this you will reap the rewards in the long term.
Six horizons of focus
Allen uses the analogy of an aeroplane flying at six levels of altitude as the basis for his methodology, which he calls the ‘six horizons of focus’.
He breaks down the six levels like this:
1. 50,000 feet – purpose and core values
2. 40,000 feet – 3 to 5 year vision
3. 30,000 feet – 1 to 2 year goals
4. 20,000 feet – areas of responsibility
5. 10,000 feet – current projects
6. Runway – day-to-day next actions
You use the tool from the bottom upwards i.e. start with the runway and work up through the levels. The reason for this is that it can be hard to focus on the big stuff when the immediate things aren’t in order. By working through each level of the tool and you will find that when you reach the top you will be able to connect the dots from everything you have considered to bring clarity to your life’s purpose and core values.
Take a pen and paper and reflect on each level. Consider both your personal and professional life as you work through each stage. Here’s are some pointers to help you.
Write down all of the one off tasks you need to complete e.g. emails, calls, errands, reading, filing, clearing out. Allen states that if you got no further input in your life it would take around 300-500 hours to finish all of your outstanding tasks. That’s 7.5 working weeks (based on a 40-hour week!
This level covers all of the projects (both at home and at work) you are working on i.e. all the things that you have commitments to finish and that take more than one action step to complete. Write down as comprehensive a list as possible.
What is your job? Think more broadly than just your title. Think about the areas of responsibility that you have. Outside of the workplace think about the roles you have e.g. maintaining the house. List everything down.
What are your 1 to 2 year goals for your job and your personal life? In the modern world jobs roles are moving targets so use this as an opportunity to get involved in new projects that support your goals. Write down where you see yourself in the short to mid-term future and be clear about the actions you need to take to get you there.
What do you want to be in 3 to 5 years? What skills do you need to acquire to get you there? What will the organisation you work for look like in the future? Can you see yourself still being a part of that organisation? Outside of work where do you see yourself? Will you live in the same street or even the same country? Is there a sport you want to master? How will you get there? Write down everything you can think of.
This is the highest and biggest level: life goals. Think about what your purpose on Earth is, your destiny or your ‘why’. The answers to these questions will give meaning to the other levels you have already given answers to and this is the key finding motivation on a daily basis. If you’re a natural big picture thinker you’ll find this level easy. If you’re not familiar or comfortable doing this type of thinking then take baby steps and give yourself plenty of time to reflect on this level e.g. what do you like to do?
Tips for Implementation
As with every tool, the key to success is using it. Here are four ways you can help that to happen.
1) Create a vision board
Level 5 asks you to define your vision. To do this create a board on a wall or use a sheet of paper in a notebook. You should look at this physical one-pager on a regular basis. By doing so you will re-confirm your big thinking ideas.
2) Create affirmation statements
Hal Elrod championed writing affirmation statements and saying them out loud. Affirmations allow you to develop your mindset to take any area of your life to the next level e.g. I am the most successful salesperson in my region this year. Write some down and say them out loud each day.
3) Live up to your core values
Level 6 asks you to define your core values. Once you have these clear in your mind write them down and put them somewhere prominent so that they become ingrained within you. When making decisions ask yourself: what should I do based on my core values?
4) Get your support network on board
Alignment equals power. When you’re all pulling in the right direction the overall force is greater than the sum of the parts. Share your aspirations with your family to help you achieve success.
If you need further advice, get in touch via My Website or LinkedIn.
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