The Focus Dartboard

I’ve recently started a new job, yesterday was my birthday and in a few weeks baby number 2 will arrive. These kind of events or milestones often make people take a step back and think about their present direction. This morning I was out running, and I got thinking about work and life (read: personal time) and I wondered why I approach them so differently.

With work, or any business, I would never start without a plan, without a way to measure results, without distinct goals. With life, I, and many others I would propose, tend to either go through the motions, or deal with things in a more reactionary way. There’s no obvious focus or overarching direction at any one time. Why do we put so much effort into planning work, but perhaps not so much into planning “life”?

I’m a contradictory sort: I hate the phrase life-hack and I tend to balk at the concept of the quantified self and all kinds of measuring time (the use of timesheets in work, though useful from a business perspective, can be a little toxic to culture with self-starters), but at the same time I track things like exercise to the second. Nevertheless a seed was planted, I should experiment with this idea of focusing on specific objectives across my entire life, as I do with work.

A Plan

I don’t like hard and fast rules, things that are black and white. So I wanted to do something a little whimsical lest it become a chore. As with any plan you must first research, so I noted down some ideas for things I could focus on improving.

  • Finish something – I’d like to think of myself as a completionist, but the reality is I absolutely love starting things and too easily find something new to distract me. I currently have 6 Audible books all two-thirds through, and when it comes to games my Steam account or phone will testify to this point. It may also explain the big sack of unused clay in the garage.
  • Be more present* – In the 70’s Alvin Toffler popularised the term Information Overload. I’m sure today (at 87) things are a lot worse than he ever thought possible. The cognitive inbox fills up faster than you can clear it. Constant notifications, meandering through social networks. For me this can lead to me never quite being “in the moment” and is something I actively try to combat.
  • Family – A simple one, spend more time with the wife, kid(s) and other close or even distant family. Make a couple of journeys even if it’s only a “flying visit”.
  • Health and Wellbeing – Since my early 20’s I’ve tried to keep physically fit with running and the gym, sometimes even eating healthy, but now I’m in my early 30’s you start to notice you have to pay it back that little bit more, and if you ignore your own physical and mental health you can quickly find yourself swimming against the tide.
  • Go with the flow – The free card. Take a break from the process, let things just happen.
  • Socialise – It’s too easy to stay busy. Make time for someone.
  • Early to bed* – I am 100% guilty of staying up too late, almost every night. This habit never used to be a problem, before children.
The Focus Dartboard
The Focus Dartboard

The idea is simple. I write these on post it notes, put them on a dartboard and throw a dart once a week. The aim is to try something different each week, so there’s an element of skill, but ultimately it really doesn’t matter which I hit. The other thing to note is that these would not be my exclusive focus each week, but to be mindful especially of this one big thing each day for that week.

With the post-its done I got a cheap dartboard and threw a dart, this week I will “Finish Something”.

Some other ideas for the board may include:

  • Healthy eating
  • Workout more
  • Meditation
  • Disconnect

Why a Dartboard?

There’s really no reason; you could roll a dice or simply pick of your own accord, but turning something into habit or better yet a bit of fun in my experience is a much better way to get someone to stick to something. A nice side-effect of using this technique is that you’re always going to improve at something, if it’s not the objective you intended, at least you’ll be getting better at darts. 🙂

I’ll see how it goes and maybe look more at the macro scale later on. If you have any similar techniques or thoughts about this topic of concerted focus I’d love to hear them.

*You may have noticed the asterisk on a couple of these. These sorts of tasks are more related to mental attitude and as such I found a bit of a helper, an app called Calm. This app provides free and guided mediation, well of course meditation is “free” but here I mean “free form” with the app simply providing various audio and/or visual backdrops. The real win though is the paid guided meditations which are plentiful and cover a range of subjects to focus on over a series of days. I’m a total newcomer to meditation, in my mind it was always associated with Bhuddism and mystical Gurus, so much so I had no idea of the simplicity or broad range of techniques and applications for the modern world. This is one of the only apps I’ve been happy to drop $30 IAP on (paying for a year up front) primarily to support the ongoing high quality development, I highly recommend it.