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Archive for December, 2009

Refocuser in 2009: Year in Review

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Click for photoThe year is coming to a close in just a few hours, so now feels like a good time to wrap-up with an end of the year post!  Posts like this can help serve as a restart, just like the 1st of the year does for many people.  It’s also fun to use this opportunity to talk about interesting stats… and re-introduce some of the forgotten posts from the past year in a single place.  If you’re in a hurry, this one entry will give you links to every post on the site so far (below).  It’s a great way to catch up on things you may have missed!

This year, Refocuser’s first in existence, has been a great one.  After an entire decade of thinking about starting a site like this, I up and decided to just do it one day in early 2009.  A few weeks later, the site soft-launched – and thanks to all the great tools out there like Twitter search, people started to find it within a few minutes!

Writing here really has been a lot more rewarding than I thought it would be.  To get emails, comments, and – in the case of family and friends – phone calls to discuss some of the topics on this blog is the primary reason I wanted to start it to begin with, so that’s been a lot of fun.  The site has also given me an outlet to crystallize my thoughts and processes into something (hopefully somewhat) understandable, and to connect with new people who are interested in similar topics.  And then there’s the added benefit of writing practice.  What a blast!

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Written by Mike Torres

December 31st, 2009 at 9:15 am

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12 Goals: Tools You Can Use

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Before starting here, you might first want to read the introduction, Step 1, Step 2, & Step 3.

Twelve Goals (or 12 Goals) is a goal-setting program for beginners.  If you’ve never set goals before – or if you’ve tried and failed – Twelve Goals can help get you unstuck and on path to achievement.  There’s nothing magical or mystical about this process at all.  In fact, it’s downright boring and overly practical; you aren’t going to find any talk about magnetism, psychic powers, or the law of attraction.  What you’ll find is a systematic way to look at your personal goals over the course of a year, along with some step-by-step advice and accompanying tools to help you achieve them.

Twelve Goals is still very much a work in progress.  My hope is that the program will adapt and evolve over the course of 2010 based on feedback from you!  If you ever forget how to find these posts, they will be available at www.12goals.com (or www.twelvegoals.com).

Click for photoNow that you’ve made your way through the details of the Twelve Goals program, it’s time to get serious by employing the use of some tools.  These tools are meant solely to supplement your plan, not to replace or define it.  In order to get the most out of these tools, you have to have your vision, your monthly goals, and your habits & tasks ready to execute throughout the year.  These tools are only as good as your plan is.  Far too many people in situations like this get more carried away with the tools themselves, tweaking every setting imaginable, instead of focusing on the thing that matters: the plan itself.

So before going further, please do spend the time to make sure your plan is as complete as you can make it.

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Written by Mike Torres

December 29th, 2009 at 8:30 am

12 Goals: Define and Track Your Habits & Tasks (Step 3)

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Before starting with Step 3, you might first want to read the introduction, Step 1 & Step 2.

Twelve Goals (or 12 Goals) is a goal-setting program for beginners.  If you’ve never set goals before – or if you’ve tried and failed – Twelve Goals can help get you unstuck and on path to achievement.  There’s nothing magical or mystical about this process at all.  In fact, it’s downright boring and overly practical; you aren’t going to find any talk about magnetism, psychic powers, or the law of attraction.  What you’ll find is a systematic way to look at your personal goals over the course of a year, along with some step-by-step advice and accompanying tools to help you achieve them.

Twelve Goals is still very much a work in progress.  My hope is that the program will adapt and evolve over the course of 2010 based on feedback from you!  If you ever forget how to find these posts, they will be available at www.12goals.com (or www.twelvegoals.com).

Breaking Down Each Goal

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I find it fascinating that most people plan their vacations with better care than they plan their lives. Perhaps that is because escape is easier than change. – Jim Rohn

Twelve Goals is an annual plan you create for yourself.  A plan of inspiration, a plan of action, and a plan you can be accountable to.

By this point, you should have all twelve of your goals locked and loaded for the year.  It’ll probably be frustrating then to hear that even though they’re 99.9% committed, they can still change throughout the year.  How so?  By identifying what it will take to actually achieve them given your circumstances. 

In Step 2 you probably did a “squint test” or “t-shirt sized cost (i.e. Small, Medium, Large, X-Large) ” of feasibility.  Meaning: if you squinted hard enough you could probably see how a particular goal could be achieved in the month you assigned it to.  But guessing really isn’t good enough.  Sometimes you don’t know just how much work needs to happen in order to get something accomplished, and it’s easy to get sidetracked or delayed by unforeseen events.

This step is all about figuring out what it’s going to take.  It’s about getting real.  But it’s also about being agile and adapting your plan throughout the year as conditions change.

In project management, the approach of breaking down a project into smaller work items is called a work breakdown structure (or a work backlog).  As defined by Wikipedia, a work breakdown structure consists of "the end objective, successively subdividing it into manageable components in terms of size, duration, and responsibility which include all steps necessary to achieve the objective.”

In Twelve Goals parlance, this is identifying every task that needs to be checked off in order to accomplish your goal.

Sounds like a lot of work… and it can be.  But spending the time now to squabble with yourself about what it takes to make something happen is better than fighting yourself when you’ve hit a wall halfway through your second month.  There’s nothing more frustrating than assuming you know how to do something, just to find out you weren’t ready to begin with.  In other words, this step above everything else is about being honest with yourself about where you are, what you need to do, and what needs to happen around your goal to make it achievable.

Preparation is key.

Defining a work breakdown structure for a complex project can be harder than coming up with a task list for a single goal, but the intent is the same.  Your primary objective throughout this process is to learn.  Learn everything you can about the thing you’re going to accomplish so you have all the ammunition you’ll need when you need it.

Remember: your future self is lazier than you are right now.  Right now you have energy, you have positive intent, and you have that elusive feeling that you can conquer anything.  Use this vigor for the next few hours to lay out your plan for the year.  Because if you do it now, you’ll have something to refer to for the next twelve months.  No excuses.

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Written by Mike Torres

December 26th, 2009 at 4:16 pm

12 Goals: Set Your Monthly Goals (Step 2)

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Before starting with Step 2, you might first want to read the introduction and Step 1.

Twelve Goals (or 12 Goals) is a goal-setting program for beginners.  If you’ve never set goals before – or if you’ve tried and failed – Twelve Goals can help get you unstuck and on path to achievement.  There’s nothing magical or mystical about this process at all.  In fact, it’s downright boring and overly practical; you aren’t going to find any talk about magnetism, psychic powers, or the law of attraction.  What you’ll find is a systematic way to look at your personal goals over the course of a year, along with some step-by-step advice and accompanying tools to help you achieve them.

Twelve Goals is still very much a work in progress.  My hope is that the program will adapt and evolve over the course of 2010 based on feedback from you!  If you ever forget how to find these posts, they will be available at www.12goals.com (or www.twelvegoals.com).

Getting Ready

Click for photo You have your vision.  Now it’s time to formulate (and document) your monthly goals for the coming year. While this may sound easy or even uninspiring, it’s actually quite the opposite.  It’s hard and it will take more time than you think.  But that time is well spent, both in terms of the outcome (a set of clear goals to work against) as well as the inspiration it can immediately provide.

Remember, goals help form the building blocks for positive emotions and subjective happiness with life.  So while there’s obvious benefit in having goals soley as virtual signposts for achievement, there’s also a residual sort of “under the covers” benefit of enhanced well-being – a deep well-being that can be long-lasting.  If you’re setting, working towards, and achieving goals you’re more likely to find flow regularly.

Now, it can be pretty difficult to sit and write up your twelve goals in twelve minutes and be finished.  You should be prepared to take your time, ensuring that the goals you’re creating are the “right” goals for this time in your life given all your circumstances.  I generally take a phased approach and assume my goals are going to be in flux for a couple months before I lock on my annual plan. 

Here’s one way you can do this:

  • A few months in advance of your new year, start keeping a running list of potential goals in a notebook.  Have some targeted brainstorm sessions where you generate your “300% list” – or all the things you could accomplish in the next year if you have to the time.  If you haven’t been doing this already for the next year, you can certainly catch-up with a little extra legwork provided you’re focused on it.
  • A few weeks in advance of your new year (for 2010, this is now), you’re going to want to “get real” with this list, validating your current goal list with your vision and their feasibility.  This means getting your total goal count down to twelve, one for each month of the year.
  • If there’s a particular goal or two that you’re anxious about, it can be useful to “try before you buy” for a few weeks.  In other words, give the goal a shot prior to committing to it for next year.  This is particularly useful for goals that involve a fundamental change in your schedule (i.e. a 5pm biking class a few miles from your office) since they can be the first ones to go.

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Written by Mike Torres

December 21st, 2009 at 3:20 pm

12 Goals: Create Your Vision (Step 1)

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Before starting with Step 1, you might first want to read the introduction.

Twelve Goals (or 12 Goals) is a goal-setting program for beginners.  If you’ve never set goals before – or if you’ve tried and failed – Twelve Goals can help get you unstuck and on path to achievement.  There’s nothing magical or mystical about this process at all.  In fact, it’s downright boring and overly practical; you aren’t going to find any talk about magnetism, psychic powers, or the law of attraction.  What you’ll find is a systematic way to look at your personal goals over the course of a year, along with some step-by-step advice and accompanying tools to help you achieve them.

Twelve Goals is still very much a work in progress.  My hope is that the program will adapt and evolve over the course of 2010 based on feedback from you!  If you ever forget how to find these posts, they will be available at www.12goals.com (or www.twelvegoals.com).

Beginning at the End

“Writing or reviewing a mission statement changes you because it forces you to think through your priorities deeply, carefully, and to align your behavior with your beliefs” – Stephen Covey, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

Click for photo One of the underlying principles of 12 Goals is to “begin with the end in mind”, similar to what Stephen Covey proposes in his books.  This is a key tenet of any planning process, and is absolutely essential to do as a first step on the path to achieving your goals.  When you think about anything you’ve ever accomplished in your life – from remodeling your kitchen to getting a new job – you probably had some level of vision about what you wanted the outcome of your process to be.  It may have taken a little while to get a handle on what that vision really was, but somewhere deep down you knew it was there.  You probably didn’t just wake up one day, make a phone call, and land a job that afternoon.  You likely spent time and energy defining your end result.  Beginning at the end is about figuring out what the ideal end result is, writing it down, and then working backwards from there.

Think about creating your vision (or personal mission statement as some call it) as being explicit about what you want your life to be about, and through the process, learning more about what you want your year to be about. Your next year should be a very deliberate step in the right direction – and it’s awfully hard to do that unless you know where you’re going.

An example of vision creation “beginning at the end” that I like to give relates to software development at a large company.  In certain divisions of Microsoft, a thoughtful planning process takes place prior to the start of any major release.  It’s during this time that the team works to formulate the game plan by looking at market research, doing deep competitive analyses, brainstorming about potential breakthrough ideas, and so on. 

One of the outputs of this process is a mock press release or blog entry, post-dated around the time the team expects the software to be released to the world, describing in detail (in present tense, of course) what the “story” for the release is going to be.  Frequently the team will also go into depth about what they expect the press, bloggers, and enthusiastic users to say about the release as well as a means to better describe the vision.

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Written by Mike Torres

December 6th, 2009 at 3:25 pm

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