Developing areas of focus lists
I'm finding a more systematic use of Areas of Focus has helped me recently.
In a weekly review I am writing down the areas of my life that need my attention or that are bugging me in any way and for whatever reason. I will then open a note for each one in Outlook. Then I write ideas on what I can do to get on top of the issue. From these projects and actions are generated. If I don't have time to go over all the areas of focus then going through them will become actions in themselves.
I've also recently started doing this in my daily commute.
Of course I have been doing this sort of things for months/years, as it is staple to GTD - many of you will just call this mindmapping/brainstorming about issues that are foremost in the mind. But a more systematic and conscious process using the term "Areas of Focus" seems to have helped me.
I find that I need different lists of Areas of Focus for different altitudes. For instance the Areas of Focus mentioned above may be only runway, while I find a more long term list of Areas of Focus is useful for looking through in the weekly review and for a periodic assessment of more long term goals etc.
It seems I find I benefit for Areas of Focus at different levels that correspond to the more processed levels of actions, projects, goals etc. Does this make any sense to anyone? Has anyone developed a similar sort of approach?
Yes, I use Outlook Notes for tracking Focus Areas
Great approach, Tom!
In his white paper Implementing David Allen's Workflow Processing with Microsoft Outlook, David Allen describes how to utilize Outlook Notes to "create and manage effectively a limitless number of potentially useful (and fun) lists." These lists are broken up by category, and one of the categories that he recommended is "Focus Areas". It's a perfect place to park this sort of material and it sounds like that's exactly what you're doing.
Though still a work-in-progress, I have a series of Notes under this category to remind me of my higher areas of focus. For example, the list of "Roles" that I have identified in my life go on a single note titled "20K: Roles" (the 20K indicates an altitude so that I can easily identify items by altitude). I also have a note titled "20K: Job Description" in which I pasted key information about my job description, just to make sure my boss and I are "singing off the same song sheet".
The best part about doing this is that it puts these focus areas with your "cockpit dials", which facilitates regular review of them. I have a more detailed set of support materials (paper and electronic) about goals that I've set, but the reminder of the goal itself is right where I can see it without rummaging through my support materials.
During my weekly review, I sometimes review these focus areas to see if I'm comfortable in how I'm playing out those roles, or if I'm not comfortable decide on outcomes (projects) and next actions that I need to perform to make intention match reality. Its not necessary to review them all the time; I review mine monthly for 20K, quarterly for 30K, semi-annually for 40K, and annually for 50K, but I always do it in context of a weekly review.
Free MindMapping Software
FreeMind is an excellent free open-source application for producing mind maps.