Updated: December 2020 | Originally Published: August 2020
Why do we plan?
We plan because as human beings we are uncomfortable with uncertainty (some more than others); but sometimes we plan only to escape the discomfort temporarily and don’t manage to make it past that. We plan because striving towards a goal gives us purpose and therefore motivation; but sometimes we plan only as a blind search for a motivation that we haven’t yet created.
True, useful planning exists to bridge the gap between our current reality, and the future we want. Intentionality is a comprehensive framework that provides the Context, Direction, and Clarity you need to reach your grandest dreams, and take on each day with the utmost confidence.
The Six Levels
- Values: why you want what you want.
- Ideal: what exactly you want for your future.
- Strategies: how you plan on getting there.
- Areas (also considered Identities or Roles): aspects of your current life with standards to be maintained through routines and also contain projects.
- Projects: specific achievements and goals with end-dates and a plan on how to get there.
- Tasks: granular, bite-sized actions that bring you steadily closer to your goals.
These six things are arranged as a pyramid to represent the relative number of items you’re likely to have, as well as the amount of time you should be spending at each level. The tasks level is a place of rapid change, but your core values will likely only change a few times throughout your life and therefore don’t require too much attention. But clearly knowing what’s at each level and how it interacts with the other levels will give you the certainty that you are moving in the right direction.
The Three Groups
- Context (V.I.S.): why are you doing what you’re doing?
- Understanding and linking your Values, Ideal Future, and Strategies will give you Context for what you do from day to day. When you start to lose motivation or feel a little lost, it’s time to reconnect with your context or purpose.
- Direction (S.A.P.): chart your path to your goals and aspirations.
- In order to get form point A to point B, it’s necessary to chart a path. That path will have the current you at point A, and your Ideal Future self at point B. The path itself is your Strategy, the stops along the way are Identities or Areas, and the segments that connect those are Projects.
- Action (A.P.T.): define what exactly needs to get done and in what order.
- Your current reality is about Action, and those actions (or Tasks) are defined by your Areas/Identities and your Projects. This is what you need to be aware of on the day-to-day. The better defined these things, the easier it is to jump into action.
These three categories have applications beyond planning out your life. Think about how important it is in Project Planning to understand the purpose of the project, create a solid plan, and understand what needs to happen next. Miss any one of these and the project grinds to a halt.
Meet in the Middle
GTD recommends starting with your current reality and expanding outward into new possibilities. It’s difficult and incredibly ineffective to think about making big changes in your life if you don’t really know what you’re doing right now. Clarifying where you currently stand is the first step to deciding where you want to go. Not to mention freeing up the mental energy to be able to look beyond the next week or month. Throughout that process you will no doubt uncover parts of your reality you had lost track of and that have transformed while you weren’t looking.
But it’s impossible to create roadmap if you don’t clearly know both your start and end point. Therefore it’s important to already understand both your highest levels and your ground level or current reality before creating a Strategy. This is why my recommendation is actually to “meet in the middle.”
- Clarify your current reality
- Consider your core values and design your ideal future
- Bridge the gap with a master roadmap
The Full Series
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