Why I Separate Areas of Focus from Routines
One of the most common questions I am asked is what’s the difference between an area of focus (including a recurring area of focus) and a routine.
The simple answer is routines do not improve your life or take your projects and goals forward. They are just things you have to do. Take the garbage out, wash the car, dog, cat etc. Do your expenses, check your bank accounts or update your time card. It would not be the end of the world if you missed doing a routine for a few days. They are just life’s less important necessities that we all have to do.
Areas of focus are the opposite of routines. Areas of focus do contribute to your goals and projects and do help to improve your life. Areas of focus contribute to the quality of your life — your wellbeing, your relationships and your health.
Doing your exercise, writing your journal, spending time talking with your partner, your kids and your friends. All these could be part of your areas of focus. Any activity you do that moves a project or goal forward would be classed as an area of focus.
Why separate these?
One of the difficulties many of us have is we confuse activity with progress. We do a lot of tasks and feel like we have been busy, but when we stop to analyse what we have done, we have not moved any project or goal forward. We have been like the proverbial hamster running around on a hamster wheel. We are moving, but we are going nowhere.
This was a problem I identified in myself a long time ago. I felt busy all the time, I was doing a lot of stuff, running around and feeling stressed, but my projects and goals were hardly moving anywhere. It was when I stopped and analysed what I was doing each day did I discover that 80% of what I was doing was not essential.
A lot of what I was doing did need doing, but it was trivial. It was work that really would not matter if I skipped, delegated or forgot to do.
The problem was this is where I was spending 80% of my time. It was no wonder I was not making much progress on my projects or goals.
Once I was able to list out these routines, and separate them from my daily to-do list was I able to see what was important — the 20% of my work that drove 80% of my progress. This made it much easier to make sure I was spending the majority of my time focused on the work that mattered and be able to make judgment calls about when to spend time dealing with routines — after all routines still needed to be done.
Recurring areas of focus
Your recurring areas of focus are those tasks that step by step move you towards accomplishing your goals and projects. Being fit and healthy requires you to exercise and eat the right foods every day. If you do not have exercise on your recurring areas of focus list, it would be easy to skip this important task and instead spend an hour checking your email, looking at your bank accounts or collecting your receipts together. Sure these things do need doing, but which is more important?
If the goal is to be fit and healthy, yet instead of exercise, you sit at a table doing trivial things, you are not moving your goal forward. You are doing minor things.
The worst thing that can happen is you start to justify doing the trivial over the important. Then you begin developing false beliefs. That’s never a good thing. Believing that unimportant things are essential or you are too busy to do something you would love doing — these beliefs fuel excuses and procrastination.
Recurring areas of focus allow you to develop the right habits and do the right tasks, so your longer-term goals and projects are being worked on consistently.
Success at anything is built on taking the right action consistency. If you consistently write 500 words a day, after 120 days you have a book. That’s just four months!
If your goal is to run a full course marathon at the end of the year, consistent training is the only way you will achieve that goal. Ignoring the need to go out running and instead washing your cat, while making your cat smell nice, it will do nothing towards helping you achieve your goal. This is why doing exercise will be in your recurring areas of focus and washing your cat will be in your routines. Your cat can wait a day or two. Your training cannot.
Supporting my students and helping people become better organised and more productive is my top goal. It is the reason I wake up each day, and it energises me when I hear of a student who has been able to turn around a busy, stressful life into a more meaningful, intentional one. A life where they wake up with energy, have a purpose for the day and stay focused on the things they have identified as being important to them.
To do that, I identified I need to write these blog posts, prepare and record my weekly podcast and YouTube videos. On top of that, I write two weekly newsletters that go out to over 7,000 people each week. In all, I produce seven pieces of new content each week. That takes a lot of time to create, and the only way I can do that consistently is to have the tasks that produce that work in my recurring areas of focus. Every day, I need to set aside time to prepare that content. Every day my to-do list tells me what is important (my recurring areas of focus) and I can make sure I spend 80% of my time in that place rather doing trivial tasks from my routines list.
If I did not separate these important tasks from my less important tasks, it would be very easy to spend a disproportionate amount of time doing the trivial. The trivial tasks are often the easiest. That’s why we find ourself feeling busy and stressed out and have very little to show for it at the end of the day.
When you identify your important tasks and separate them from your trivial tasks, you become much more focused and more aware of where you spend your time and can adjust much easier to stay on course towards achieving the things you want to achieve.
If you want to learn more about how my Time Sector System can help you regain control of your time and keep you focused on your areas of focus, then take a look at my Time Sector Course.
The Time Sector System is a revolutionary new time management system designed for the twenty-first century. It was built for the way we work today and will help you to identify which tasks are important and drive you towards completing your projects and goals and which tasks are routines and need doing when you have time.
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My purpose is to help 1 million people by 2020 to live the lives they desire. To help people find happiness and become better organised and more productive so they can do more of the important things in life.
If you would like to learn more about the work I do, and how I can help you to become better organised and more productive, you can visit my website or you can say hello on Twitter, YouTube or Facebook and subscribe to my weekly newsletter right here.