Getting "clear" on what is the single most important thing that you need to accomplish in the next three years to create breakthrough success is the single most important thing! If you're like the rest of us, short of clear, this post is for you.
The other night I was speaking to a group of talented entrepreneurs in San Francisco on Essentialism, and specifically how to design a life around a few great things rather than falling into the trap of doing a bunch of good things. Afterwards, I was approached by a handful of people who all had the same question: "How do I figure out what is the most important thing for me to accomplish over the next three years? I have no idea where to start." A wicked hard question to answer: I hear it more than any other question, even from the most accomplished individuals. If you can relate, don't feel bad, few people are armed and ready to answer this question with both clarity and confidence.
Here's the rub: If you aren't clear on what's the most important thing for you to accomplish in the next three years, both professionally and personally, then it's nearly impossible to answer the question "what's the most important thing to do right now"? Discerning the right answer to that question is the most important work of your life! Jim Rohn said, "If you don't design your own life plan, chances are you'll fall into someone else's plan. And guess what they have planned for you? Not much."
The good news is that as the CEO of your life, you decide how to allocate your personal resources: attention, creativity, willpower, and soul. If you allocate these resources to crack the code on where you're going in the next three years, it will become much easier for you to select great projects over good ones. Resulting in feeling the joy and satisfaction of living a life that really matters. Here's how to get started: create space by holding a personal quarterly offsite.
First: This is a process, not an event. Many people feel discouraged when trying to create a clear three-year destination because they can't figure it out in a single brainstorming session. Well, the truth is, I don't know anyone who can! The other day I had lunch with a friend who's an executive at SAP. He shared with me that he spends months deliberating on what he wants to accomplish in the next three years. When he feels clear enough on the direction, he goes all in to make it a reality. The key insight he shared is that it's always a work in progress, "Clarity has many levels. You can never stop working at getting clear."
Second: Habitually create space to think. It's not very often that life asks us to spend a day pondering what we want to accomplish in the next three years. All of us live with a never-ending digital queue of unanswered voicemails, texts, emails, and social media. We live in the most hyper-connected age the world has ever seen. Meaning we spend less time exploring how to build a life of significance, and more time--if any at all--reacting to what's in front of us. If you set aside one day each quarter to consider your current trajectory and destination, over time you will develop the exploration muscles required to chart a course that's meaningful to you, albeit one-quarter at a time. I interviewed an incredibly successful investor a few months ago who told me that he attributed 90% of his success to holding a personal quarterly offsite with a group a trusted advisors for the past ten years.
Third: Build a tribe of trusted advisors. Few things create accountability like a commitment to people we trust. By holding your offsite with a small group--1 to 3, the odds that you will follow through increases dramatically. Selecting the right design team is critical to your success. You need a crew that together you can speak openly, admit your blunders, and share your fears. You will know if they are good advisors when their insights add value and perspective, and they help you get to a deeper level of thinking and detail.
Fourth: Ask the right questions. Tony Robbins says, "Successful people ask better questions, and as a result, they get better answers." Asking the essential questions is a critical part to having a successful personal offsite. The right questions will stimulate creative thinking, new ideas, and insight into how you can design the next 90 days to be centered in what really matters most.
Fifth: Open your calendar and block out your offsite dates! Don't skip this step; 90% of your success will come from simply creating the appointments on your calendar. Once you have created the events, copy and paste the offsite structure below into your offsite appointment. Feel free to innovate, there is no exact science here.
How to Hold a Personal Quarterly Offsite:
Read "Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less." by Greg McKeown.
Make a thorough list of everything you have worked on in 2015. Sticky notes work well.
Schedule your Personal Quarterly Offsite and select a place away from the office/home that sparks joy in you.
At your offsite spend three hours answering the questions below and completing the following exercise: remember to consider your life as a whole: home, work and community and or religion as you answer these questions.
Part 1: What is essential?
If you were to look back at your life three years from today, what's one essential accomplishment that needs to happen in order for you to feel joy and satisfaction about your growth in both your personal and professional life?
Note. One, two, five, or ten years my work better for you. If three feels like the wrong number, experiment to see what works.
Part 2: What can you eliminate?
Where have I been: What is my most important accomplishment over the last 90 days, personal, community/religious, and professional life?
Where am I going: What is your one big thing for the next 90 days? Select one "big thing" for each of these areas; personal, community/religious, and professional life.
Further questions to look at competing priorities:
What are the inherent tradeoffs among your goals and how will you address them?
What obstacles will keep you from achieving your most important goals?
How can you eliminate these obstacles?
Part 3: How can you execute as effortless as possible?
What weekly and or daily routine would make achieving these goals easy and frictionless?
Part 4: Repeat every 90 days.
By holding your own personal quarterly offsite, you will plant your feet firmly on the path of the
Essentialist. In the words of my friend Greg McKeown, author of New York Times Bestseller Essentialism, "You will begin living by design, not by default. Instead of making choices reactively, you will systematically determine where your highest point of contribution lies, then make the execution of those things as effortless as possible."
Afterword: If you are interested in engaging more deeply in becoming an Essentialist, please join Greg and me at Essential: The Personal Quarterly Offsite for Exceptional Leaders in Menlo Park, CA on August 11th, 2015: http://www.applyessential.com. Scholarships available.