For years, Mary Byers served as our editor on our digital magazine effort called FullFill. She brings sharp focus to everyday needs. Read on as she challenges us all to find some "Focus Pocus" time to make the most of the lives we're living.
By Mary Byers
Imagine this: a morning of solitude. No interruptions. Time to think, reassess, plan, ponder, pray and prepare.
Despite the busyness of life, I've set aside a morning each December for the past decade to look back - and ahead - and to prepare a one-page strategic plan. The practice has transformed my life. I've often wondered why. This year, I figured it out. It's the power of the pause: a luxury we may crave but feel we can't afford in the chaos of modern life. The benefits for me are clarity and what I call "focus pocus" the magic that happens when you know who you are, what's important to you and what you stand for.
It baffles me that four hours of introspection and brainstorming carries me through an entire year. But it does. I suppose it's because my planning session gives me the chance to reflect on who I am and who I want to be. More importantly, it gives me the chance to check in with myself, have a quiet conversation with God, and lift my eyes to the horizon to see what's ahead.
Here's how you can adopt this powerful process:
Make an appointment with yourself. I block out a morning on my calendar well before I'm ready to sit down. I know from experience that if it isn't on my calendar, it doesn't get done.
Make it special. I stay in my pajamas for my planning session. (It feels deliciously rebellious and reminds me of Saturday mornings from my childhood when we watched cartoons and didn't get dressed until after lunch.) I sit by the Christmas tree, light a candle, and play soothing music. This has become part of my ritual and creates an environment conducive to thinking.
Prime the pump by reading. Sometimes I page through my journal. Other times I read a Bible passage or a meditation from a devotional book.
Write it down. I start with a question such as, "What is the one thing that would make the biggest difference for me over the next year if I were to do it?" After asking the question, I pick up my pen and start writing. I refuse to censor my thoughts. I capture every thought. Sometimes, I'm surprised by what shows up on the page. Often, I am not.
Decide. Once all my thoughts are on paper, I look for those that resonate the most with me. Of all the thoughts and ideas I've written, I select 3-5 to form the foundation of my plan.
Expand. Once I've identified my objectives for the year, I jot down action steps for each. A plan emerges. I type it up and post it on my wall above my computer.
Refer. I check my plan often throughout the year. It helps me make decisions, schedule my time, and learn to say no - one of the biggest benefits for me.
Each year one-page planning moves me from pre-occupied and overwhelmed to focused and content - all because I was willing to pick up a pen.
Now it's your turn.
Mary Byers is co-author of Extraordinary Women: Discovering the Dream God Created for You. She lives in Illinois with her husband, two children, a goldfish, a lizard and a 25-year-old bird.