At the end of each year I review what happened. This is crucial if you want to learn from your past – mistakes and successes. And I spoke about reviewing your year in three steps here.
Part of that review is to consider the opportunities that you may explore in the future – in particular, for the coming year.
Typically when I sit down to coach people about opportunities they rattle off five, ten or even twenty different things they’d like to do. For some, this is brilliant. For the left brain planners that love step-by-step planning and sequential pathways to completing their goals this can work.
For others, the Oblique approach may be better. This is outlined in John Kay’s book Obliquity which was our #1 Most Influential Book for 2011.
Essentially this says to have a broader focus to your goals. And, a more indirect approach. It implies that if your focus is too tight and potentially on the wrong thing you might screw up the whole game. And, the way that I apply this is to planning my year is have a theme that I pursue.
Principles for Planning Around a Theme
Here’s the general principles for planning your year around a theme:
• Your theme is like an umbrella for all your activities. It can even overflow across domains such as work, family, friends and adventure.
• It becomes a single thing to focus on. You will have smaller projects within this overarching theme.
• It’s a broad and general direction. It gets you roughly to where you want to go. It’s like Columbus deciding to sail west. He didn’t quite know what he would find/create and this simple theme enabled him to get into action.
• It allows for flexibility. I usually break my year down into 4 quarters of 13 weeks that is further broken down into 4 week blocks. This makes it easy to design for the next 90 days only. Once this time is up or you’ve achieved your goal, you can create what’s next then.
• It suits project based work. Having a project with a specific beginning and end makes it much easier to commit. Like an alcoholic who commits to be dry one day at a time, creating a project means you can explore new things because it’s not forever. And, if it really suits, you can re-commit and play some more.
• We can take advantage of opportunities as they unfold. As they say in mountain climbing, the view changes as you progress towards your goal. And, sometimes better opportunities emerge as you take action. This is much better than being stuck in plan that seemed like a good thing at the time and no longer is. This is not a license to chop and change. This is tight and loose planning. Loosely follow your theme and tightly stick to your project.