In March, I wrote about creating a life plan using Hyatt’s and Harkavy’s Living Forward. Creating my own life plan helped clarify many things. By writing down and assessing each “Life Account” (e.g., Spiritual, Intellectual, Physical, Social, Vocational, etc.), I built a dynamic map of my life. However, I found that “activity creep” continued to be a problem because I focused on some accounts more often than others. (E.g., I tend to pack in more and more concrete activities each day, which means the “Spiritual” account was relatively neglected.) I also didn’t refer to my life plan very often, because, simple as it is, it is still too unwieldy. Time management strategies are often ineffective.
Recently, I realized that I need a concise, effective “life compass.” Instead of slogging through some burdensome time management system, a simple life compass could guide me on an intuitive level. So, I sat down and created one. I already feel much better for it; simpler is pretty much always better as far as time management is concerned. This is how I built my compass:
- Identify and list in rank-order the activities that make you feel most alive. E.g., playing board games with family members ≥ hanging out with close friends > practicing medicine > hiking = birding > drawing = painting, etc.
- Group similar activities into categories, then rank-order the categories. These categories are your values. E.g., spending time with loved ones > helping others > spending time in nature > being creative, etc.
- Try to spend more time doing activities in categories you care more about and less time doing activities in categories you care less about.
- Massively increase the quality of your day with “slow time”:
- Get enough sleep.
- Meditate daily, preferably in the morning.
- Consider practicing some basic yoga in the evening.
- Allow yourself a slow morning before work.
- Allow yourself a slow winding-down period before sleep.
Note that the quality of one’s life compass depends on the breadth of one’s prior life experiences: a broader set of experiences will yield a higher-quality life compass. One’s life compass should also be “recalibrated” every once in a while.
What do you think of this simple life compass? Do you have a similar strategy to keep yourself aligned with what matters most to you?
Update 11/26/2017: Although a life compass is an excellent high-level guide to fulfillment, it’s not a strategy. To get things done, you need a specific goal, a careful, well-thought-out plan to achieve that goal, and concrete next steps to implement immediately. Tactics are secondary.