Knowing what's important, is important
A great way to get inspiration and new ideas is by looking at how others have solved the same thing. About 6 months ago I took a course on being a Scrum Master. Scrum is an "iterative and incremental agile software development framework for managing product development" (wikipedia), basically a way to ensure you are getting the best value out of a team of software developers. The key element I wanted to try was having a "product backlog" for my own goals - this is basically a list of everything your product owner wants to be developed sorted by how important it is.
Here is what I did. First signup to workflowy (affiliate link), next add an item called goals (or backlog if you want to stick with scrum terminology), then add everything that you think you want to get done. Every goal from "email a friend", to "travel the world". I use this as a dumping ground for new ideas. When you have a list of all the things that are important to you, start sorting them, put the things that are most important to you at the top.
When I first did this I used post-it notes spread across an entire wall, it's a nice visual way of getting started. The important point is that you know how important each of your goals/tasks are relative to each other.
Every day I empty my emails, my facebook inbox, and my text messages, as well as copying my tasks across from my notepad. These all get added to my goals section (or I deal with them straight away if I can do it quickly). Next I look at the most important couple of goals and write down a really small step that can get me started. It might simply be writing down what info I need to gather before I can fill out a tax return.
- Whenever I have a spare 15 mins in my day (e.g waiting for a friend to get ready before we go out) I have a clearly defined, easy task that is very important to me.
- When I have a longer period to work on my goals I have an easy method of starting. Often starting is the hardest part, when that is done the rest is easier.
- It makes it a lot easier to compare how important different goals are if they are explicitly written out. They do change priority quite often but having it written out really helps. (e.g. the goal "socialise more" might be top one week and right down the bottom the next depending on how I feel)
I did find that looking through such a long list every day become a little overwhelming so I have recently been playing with having a new list called my "weekly horizon" it is a much shorter list containing only the things I want to focus on this week.
A few months after I started this approach I found that one of the big names in Scrum had posted an article about someone else doing a similar thing, http://www.mountaingoatsoftware.com/blog/the-agile-household-how-scrum-made-us-a-better-family
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