Like most people, come New Years I would compile a list of 20 things I wanted to see some progress on in the coming year. The results were often mixed. Some things would stand still, some had a tiny bit of progress and a few gained a bit of ground. It’s hard to tackle 20 areas at once and see significant growth. This year I have 1 thing.

This is part of our 3 steps before we set our goals for the coming year(s). We start by cutting, pausing or streamlining a number of things in 2017 to create space. We create our “Best of” list to review all the great from the year. Then we pick our focus for the year.

What is your focus for this year?

Here are the 3 steps we take.

1. Find your Focus

What is the one area you want to see the most growth? Come the end of the year, what is the one thing you would be most satisfied and excited about if you saw major progress? What would be a theme word for the year?

It might be an activity or type of activity. An outcome. A state of being. It’s finding the one theme that you want to build some momentum around.

Last year was “get caught up.” We had taken the year off after 4 really hard years. And we were behind on everything. Rest, sleep, adventure, visiting family, hobbies/passions, projects around the house, decluttering, reading books, conversations with friends: you name it. We spent the year giving time back to the things we had stolen time from.

2. Recognize your non-negotiables

There are a few activities that might not play into your Focus but need to be maintained. We choose quality family time and set up Friday nights as our Family Fun Night. So from 4-7 pm, that time is just for family activities. And one weekend adventure for a couple hours.  Those two things are non-negotiable for our kids and family to thrive.

The other area is our health. Mr. Mt wakes up at 5am 5 days a week to spend 90 minutes in the gym. That isn’t something that will be compromised to funnel more time or resources into our Focus. (I have my own much less impressive routine.)

It’s important to set a few non-negotiables, so that everything else can be negotiable. Know what can and can’t flex to help make progress towards your focus.

3. Let all your other activities funnel into your Focus area

From the books I read this year, friendships I make time for, hobbies I enjoy, free time, all will be prioritized based on my focus for the year.

The amount of free time I have to devote to friendships, relationships, hobbies, volunteering, mentoring, etc. is very finite.

I have friends who are rocking it in the “build-create” zone. I want to make more time for those phone calls, coffee dates, or day trips. Books focusing on the build-create theme will make it to the top of my pile. Hobbies that help spur the “build-create” flow will find more of my time. When I volunteer my time, it will be with “build-create” organizations, lead by inspiring “build-create” folks. If I spend time connecting on Twitter or Facebook, more of those interactions will be with people who are killing it in “build-create” areas of their own lives and work.

When you find your focus, and let every area of your life add a supporting layer to your focus.

Each area of your life can create a tiny bit of motivation, direction, or inspiration. It’s like a snowball that picks up a tiny bit more snow with each roll. If you were trying to roll a huge snowball, it would be too much work to go around the yard gathering up all that snow and trying to pack it together. But if you roll your snowball along where the snow is just right, you pick up a little bit everywhere you go.

This isn’t inch deep, mile wide living.

Instead of pouring a few tablespoons into a dozen different cups, we find a little liquid from every source and pour it into one cup. Till that cup starts to overflow!

In this coming year, I don’t want to spread my focus too thin. Instead I will let all the areas of my life pour into this one focus.

It’s not a matter of doing only one task.

Instead, let everything we do help move the needle just a tiny bit towards our most important theme.

It’s a bit like cross training. I use to play basketball. But you can’t just practice basketball 8 hours a day, 365 days a year. So you find other ways to help improve your game.  I weight trained. I played other sports. But there are only so many hours you can spend on purely athletic activities, while functioning in the rest of your life. So I was friends with other basketball players. I was friends with other athletes. I was friends with other high performers and achievers in other areas. Because all those people made me a better basketball player. I also pushed myself in other areas or activities. Memorizing lines and dealing with stage fright in school plays made me a better basketball player. Staying up late studying AP chemistry strengthened the same work ethic that helped me on the court.


What is the one area that you want significant growth? The more areas in our lives we can tailor to our area of focus, the more conversations, free time and hobbies: the more momentum we will gain.

Other Reading:

Take the Stairs: I read this book last month and especially loved the focus on finding how you can maintain certain areas of your life while giving the rest of the focus to one area of growth. Plus Rory’s story really resonates with me.

Deep Work: I watched an hour long interview with the author Cal Newport. The concept of the book deals more with how to maintain focus on our most critical, producing work. Eliminating distractions and learning how to focus seems very relevant and helpful.

The Retirement Manifesto: Fritz’s challenge of swimming in crazy cold water is living proof of the power of a focus.

Say Yes to Your Priorities: Over at Choose Better Life, I love her approach to knowing when to say yes, so you can say no.

Frugal Cottage: Picks her “theme” word for the year, spoiler alter: it’s Self Care!

Let’s Chat:

Do you tend to spread things thin or go deep?

If you had a theme or focus for 2017, what would it be?

Who are your favorite people to follow online that contribute to your focus?