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Focusing on My Horizons with MindManager & GTD

One reason I joined Mindjet in early 2007 was because MindManager evoked a great passion in its users and has the potential to improve not only the productivity but also the quality of people’s lives. I had just been introduced to MindManager and mind mapping and, at the time, didn’t realize I was going to be one of those people!

In January, I wrote about how I used David Allen’s Getting Things Done (GTD) process to gain control of my life. The benefits were and still are tangible: an empty inbox, everything in a trusted system, a clean desk and clear mind. Today, I’ll share my tumultuous journey on how I gained greater perspective and improved both my work and personal life.

For over a year, I avoided the second half of the GTD process, which involved completing a map David calls the “Horizons of Focus.” These horizons are the different perspectives of your work and personal life. Sounds easy, doesn’t it?

Let’s take a closer look at these horizons:

  • The Runway: Actions – All the actions and tasks that you engage throughout the day.
  • 10,000 feet: Projects – All your professional and personal projects & multi-step commitments – from fixing a flat tire to completing your next big work initiative.
  • 20,000 feet: Areas of Focus & Responsibility – All the important spheres of life and work that need to be maintained.
  • 30,000 feet: Goals & Objectives – All your short-term goals & objectives.
  • 40,000 feet: Vision – The outline of what you want to be. Focus is on the longer-term future and should be inspirational. Your vision provides clear decision-making criteria.
  • 50,000 feet: Purpose and Values – Your purpose and values; express why you are doing the things that you do.

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My Fear of Heights

As I started using GTD, I approached the “Horizons of Focus” with caution. I began capturing all my outstanding tasks, commitments, and projects. These are the first levels of the Horizon’s map. What troubled me greatly were the higher altitudes – 20,000 feet and above.

Intuitively, I knew some areas of my life were out of alignment with the “life of my dreams.” As a result, week after week, I put off tackling these “higher horizons” due to the fear of being face-to-face with my current reality. I also feared the choices that I might be confronted with like, “am I really doing what I want to do” or “should I move somewhere where I’ll be happier or more fulfilled?” And finally, if I really look at these questions or put down in writing my answers, would I have the courage to make these changes?


Going Beyond Fear

In the end, my desire for growth – personal, professional and spiritual – was stronger than my fear of change. I wanted to go beyond simply having control in my life to a place where I was in alignment with my highest goals and values.

One day last fall, I sat down and opened up MindManager to my “Horizons of Focus” map and initiated my journey towards alignment. I approached the exercise with the spirit of the ‘visual motor rehearsal’ technique developed by Dr. Denis Waitley in the 1980s. In other words, I didn’t just add content into a map; I visualized the success of each goal and objective. This technique produces within the brain the same pattern of impulses and instructions to your biological systems just as if you were doing the event. If it works for Olympic Athletes, I figured it could work for me too.

During my weekly reviews of tasks and projects, I started to visualize completing my goals and aspirations successfully. The reviews and visualization not only provided a compass to help guide me through my moment-by-moment decisions, it also ensured that I’m building a bridge from my tactical work to achieve my life goals. In a related blog post, GTD Coach Michael Dolan emphasized this point when he shared, “If your agreements are not aligned up to the top, you may be spending your energy on project and actions that really don’t matter according to your higher horizons of agreements.”

My Horizons of Focus map has been an invaluable tool to help prioritize nearly everything that I do. I’ve used it to set up healthier boundaries in my life that let me focus on achieving all of my goals. To my surprise and delight, I’m making significant progress towards many of my goals and new professional and personal opportunities are continuously opening up before me. Perhaps Louise Hay, best-selling inspirational author of “You Can Heal Your Life”, was right when she said “Every thought we think is creating our future.”


Get Started Living the Life of Your Dreams

Download a copy of the “Horizon of Focus” MindManager template today and start identifying your goals and creating a path to achieve them!


About the Author: Michael Deutch is Mindjet’s Chief Evangelist, content contributor for the Mindjet Blog and the Mindjet Connections newsletter. Get more from Michael on Twitter.

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