Start with the end in mind
Lately I've been trying to improve the way I think about things. I'm at a stage in life where putting effort into the right areas seems to be more important than putting in a lot of effort.
Getting this right seems to hinge on figuring out what your goals are.
Cal Newport writes about this from a career perspective. He recommends finding what is important for your career (it's probably not what you are asked to do day to day) and focusing ruthlessly on that.
There is also the idea of designing your day. What activities are you good at at different times of the day? What environments do you enjoy or make you productive? How much interaction with other people do you want, and what kind of interaction? Daily Rituals is a fun book on this topic.
From a life goals perspective, you can also try the funeral exercise. Imagine you are observing your funeral. Who is there? What are they saying? What is your legacy in terms of people and achievements?
It's also important to make sure you consider all your options. Often I find myself assuming that there is a certain way to achieve a given option, when there might be a better one to achieve the same end result.
Let's look at some specific examples of things I am thinking about.
What do I want to work on? What do I need to focus on to build the future I want? How will that fit into my life?
Sadly I think my day job is over, and it's just a matter of timing now. The real nail in the coffin was realizing that I was not going to be able to effect change or build something great at my university. The things I would need to work on to succeed there (bureaucratic skills and academic research) are things I have no interest in.
For my wife's school, should we continue what we are doing now or gamble on a radical redesign? In order to succeed here, too, I would need to work on skills that don't necessarily come easy to me (management, training).
RetireJapan seems easier. I think I know what I need to do (reach more people, learn more, share information better) and am happy to continue doing that. Unfortunately RetireJapan is nowhere near paying our bills (I'm not even sure if it's in the black yet) so some combination of work is still necessary.
I have a tendency to focus on work, even as leisure, so 'everything apart from work' is not a bad category.
Today is the Sports Day national holiday, and that is something I really struggle with. Exercising enough, eating healthily, sleeping enough. I know what I need to be doing, and actually enjoy it a lot of the time, but building good habits consistently has so far eluded me (mainly the consistently thing).
I also need to work hard at keeping up relationships. Left to my own devices, I have a tendency to withdraw into my own world. To overcome that, scheduling time with friends here in Sendai (normally lunch or coffee) and scheduling emails to friends elsewhere has helped me be more sociable than I might have been otherwise. Given the dangers of social disconnect this is probably as important as exercise and diet.
And the thread tying the whole tapestry together is what do I actually want? What do I want to do every day? Figuring that out unlocks the next step, which is how do I do that? What is the path to get there?
I'm going to go for a walk now (it's a lovely day in Sendai) and give this stuff a bit more thought.
How about you? What are you struggling with? Any insights for me?