Galvin and Associates

A Simple Framework for Planning



Do you struggle with setting and achieving goals in life? Is life balance elusive for you?

In his book titled Making it All Work, David Allen sets forth a simple model he calls the Six Horizons of Focus. I have found this useful for my own planning and for teaching others planning skills. All of us have heard people talk about stepping back and “taking the 25,000 view” before. David Allen builds on this common phrase in a helpful way. He goes from the 50,000 foot level all the way down to the runway.

Runway: Next Actions
Next Actions are the tasks and steps you need to take complete open projects and fulfill all of your commitments. They include calendar items, phone calls to return, and daily task lists. Next Actions are the tasks or steps that you can do on a particular day without having to wait on other people. I find that knocking off a long list of Next Actions in a small block of time feels empowering.

10,000 foot level: Current Projects
This is simply a list of all the projects you are responsible for. He defines a project as anything you want to accomplish that requires more than one Next Action. This was a helpful definition for me. I currently have 16 open projects on my list. I keep home and family projects on the same list as work projects. You might choose to keep personal and work projects separate. The 10K level prevents big things from slipping through the cracks.

20,000 foot level: Areas of Focus
This level includes all aspects of your life where you have made commitments to yourself or others. Each of us needs to figure out our own categories at our current stage in life. My categories include self-leadership, home, family, business development, business operations, church, community, finances, and author. You might include a hobby that deserves its own category. Everybody needs to figure out their customized mix of categories that capture their whole life. I find that paying attention to the 20K level is the secret to maintaining balance in life.

30,000 foot level: Goals and Objectives
Everybody who is good at setting goals can simply plug them at the 30K level. For the rest of us, we need to take some time to figure out what big problems we want to solve each year or what goals we want to achieve. This level is reserved for quarterly and annual goals. I find that this level is the key to planning for about 15% of people and a useful exercise for about half the rest of us. Some of us just do better with a shorter, more immediate time frame. We are more problem solvers than goal setters. Yet some planning at this level a couple times a year can be helpful.

40,000 foot level: Vision
If you were wildly successful at accomplishing everything that you would like in the next 3-5 years, what would that look like? I like to suggest that individuals look towards their next life stage to anticipate upcoming transitions, such as no kids to two kids and working to retired. I’m shocked at how many leaders I’ve talked to who have no vision—zero—for what they will be doing after they leave their current ministry leadership position. They need to do some work at the 40K level.

50,000 foot level: Purpose
This is level the level for reflecting on life purpose and core values. We all have some understanding about how God has wired us and why he has put us here on this earth. You explore your multiple callings in life at the 50K level. A personal mission statement would fit here. What has God called you to do?

Bottom Line
Here is why I find this model so helpful. If I ever lack clarity about what I’m doing or why, then I need to set aside some planning time and move up one level. If I’m not sure what Next Actions are most important, I need to look at the project list. If I don’t have a hot clue as to what to write down for goals for the year, then I need to move up to the Vision level. If I don’t have a rough vision for my future, then I need to spend some time at the 50K level.

Weekly Review, Quarterly Planning, and Annual Retreat
I spend about two hours each week conducting a weekly review. Weekly reviews allow you to study the 20K and 10K levels to generate Next Actions. Every few months you may feel a need to take a look ahead further than the next week. This quarterly or semi-annual planning allows you to think about your goals and objectives. This planning time is useful for defining new projects that populate your 10K list. I do longer range planning between Christmas and New Year’s each year. This is a time to set goals for the year that will be more than mere New Year’s resolutions.

What would be your ideal planning cycle? Give this simple framework a test-drive and see if it works for you.

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