Focusing at a Higher Level

GTD HASN’T (YET) SAVED MY LIFE, BUT IT DID SAVE MY SANITY. Without the discipline of Getting Things Done, I would in a world of hurt right now. Last year, when we decided to close down Dream Dinners, the choice was incredibly easy because I was able to look at my horizons of focus and instantly see that the business no longer fit with my 40k and 50k horizons. GTD also allowed me to keep track of all the work of closing down and moving. Without that I would have, quite literally, had a nervous breakdown.

I would not call myself a black belt with GTD by any stretch of the imagination. After almost a year, I’m just now getting to the point where I am very granular about my actions for computer projects. Where I used to have actions that were essentially “Write all the code for this project”, there are now a dozen actions in a project that are “Add this single function.” Despite that, even when I started up again last summer I had enough written down that I was able to keep track of most of what needed to be done. Especially considering how I was trying to bounce between being a business owner, a homeowner, a father, and a full-time systems engineer, if I didn’t have a single list I would have dropped the ball on everything.

I put off setting up my upper horizons for a while. Actually, until I attended one of David Allen’s excellent Making It All Work seminars. Shame is a powerful motivator, and I spent the train ride into DC doing my weekly review because I knew that I couldn’t face David if I didn’t have that done. That prepared me for setting up my horizons during and immediately after the seminar. At the time, I didn’t think about the horizons that much after I set them up.

It’s surprising to me now that when I sat down to look at the business finances that Friday night in October, how I didn’t think about the horizons directly, but just knew what fit with them. I wanted to be able to spend time with my girls, explore my hobbies, and not spend as much time thinking about work. Dream Dinners was never going to bring in enough money to allow me to quit my job, at least not alone. And the time required was making it such that I had no time for Bella. Not only that, but I was getting short with her far too often. We were pouring every dime we didn’t have into this business, and it wasn’t taking us where we wanted to be. The house was a little less clear, because I know it was a good place to raise the girls. At the same time, we needed to spend so much time on maintenance that there was hardly time for anything else. My daily drive was 90 minutes each way, which meant that when I got home all I wanted to do was go to sleep. And the finances just didn’t add up.

There’s a kind of comfort that comes with making that big a decision and knowing with absolute certainty that you are right. It doesn’t make it easy, but it does mean that there is no second-guessing. The only way to get there is to have a clear map of what is important to you. What your principles are, and a vision of where you want to be down the road in 5 years, 10 years, and beyond.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go review my horizons of focus.

Todd

I'm a dad, a small business owner, a systems engineer, a developer, and any number of other things.

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