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How to do and have it all… Just not at the same time.


It' s that New Year Feeling again when the slate feels clean and I get the urge to write on it everything in the world that I might possibly want to do next year. The good thing about that is that no one will ever accuse me of not living life to the full. The bad thing is that I get frazzled from trying to cram everything in and tired from staying up 'just another half hour'. And worse, as the year goes on I get down on myself for not achieving very much because I naturally have a forward looking gaze and so focus on what I still would like to do rather than what I have already achieved.

This is a problem because it is not just in one area of life in which I have a wish list longer than Heathrow's runway. There are multiple areas in which I want to learn and excel and cram in expereinces. I have so many books/ magazine/ websites I want to read, so many tasks to do, so many places to go. It's a problem.

But, there are few time management problems that cannot be alleviated by the clever use of a Filofax. So I have made three small tweaks to my planner system this year.

Focus Topics

First, I have introduced the concept of Focus Topics.

Basically I have broken down my life into all the areas of interests I have. So, yoga/fitness training, textile art, writing, artisan baking, filofaxing ( yes, it is a verb!) technology, law, home improvements and so on.

Then I have created 'running to do lists' for each topic. These are very distinct from my daily to do lists. Basically they are non timesenstive, non urgent wish lists of things that I would like to do if only there were 54 hours in each day. They are brain dump lists to prevent distraction from the things that are actually on my daily to do lists.

Next, on my daily pages I use the small notes section at the bottom to write in my focus are for that day. You can see that this week it is Planning and Technology which covers anything from adding old CDs to Itunes, through making Filofax dividers to upgrading the WordPress operating system. The point is that my life is such that I often have a few minutes here and there to do tasks.


My previous habit was to try and do a bit of everything everyday. That means I never quite finished anything in one go and life felt too big and I was not taking advantage of it all. The plan is to have the same focus for a week at a time, or at least a run of a few days. I will roughly rotate the topics in turn with freedom to repeat one out of order if it seems appropriate. As and when I get free time I choose from the list what to do.

Already it feels that my head is clearer. I do not feel hassled today becuase there are a thousand things I could do. And nor do I feel deprived that there was no time to read the yoga magazine and blogs because I will have some dedicated days for that very soon when I can really enjoy concentrating on them and putting what I learn into practice right away.

You will see I also have a similar system for my studio time which I try to have every day. I prefer to have multiple projects on the go and so I set out which one is the main focus.

Taming blogs

Blogs are great and I love the Flipboard app but they are a time suck and its hard to keep up. One of my technology tasks this week has been to go to Google Reader and set up folders which mirror my focus words and one that has daily blogs (the ones I deem worth reading the moment they are posted). Now instead of flipping through a never ending list of ever changing topics I will, as and when I have time, just read the daily blogs plus the blogs that correspond to my Focus Topic for that day.

Achievment lists

I have a little planning session every weekend for the week ahead ( which is when the Focus words will be chosen and depnding on the time I think a day will give some of the task on the list added as planned tasks to the daily to dos with the others left for extra spare time or the next time the focus comes around.) This year I am also going to start a backwards looking list of what I achieved so that I have a more balanced outlook.

I hope one or more of these tweaks might also help you tame life a bit!


4 Comments Post a comment
  1. This is an interesting idea and I can see, especially how with blog reading, how it can focus your time. But how do you stop yourself from thinking about the other things that interest you?! If you have something that you start thinking about that is not within that week’s subject of focus, do you make a note of it (in the proper filofax) and then go back to that when it’s that focus week?

    By the way, I love seeing your own pages and seeing how you put this into practice. I would love to know how this goes and whether it’s a struggle for you to keep this level of focus.

    January 10, 2013
    • plancrea #

      Yes, thats the general plan. But when I say focus I mean its the main and first thing I will do. Its not necessarily the only thing I will do. And you know, its my rule I can break it if I want to :) In fact so far it is interesting that just having that focus written down encourages me to do something related to it even if I only have a short time.. Iike the exact six minutes I got for my lunch today! I challenge you to give it a go and see if it suits!

      January 10, 2013
  2. Alison Reeves #

    I really like this idea. I’m still working through the whole letting go of 2012 and planning 2013 as I didn’t end up with any focused time to get through it. Anyhow I figured it didn’t matter how long it took as long as things were progressing.

    January 12, 2013

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