David Allen defines a six-level model for work in his book Getting Things Done.
- 50K+ feet: Life
- 40K feet: Three- to five-year vision
- 30K feet: One- to two-year goals
- 10K feet: Current projects
- Runway: Current actions
This model is not only useful for categorizing our work but for all kinds of resource allocation.
We can extend the model with further levels.
- 10 years
- 5 years
- 1 year
Legacy is your answer to the question “what do you want to leave behind when you’re dead?” For all the other levels, ask yourself the following questions.
- What do I want to accomplish in this timeframe?
- What do I want to experience in this timeframe?
You can divide each timeframe into different areas, such as family, work, recreation, and so on.
All timeframes and life areas are optional. Pick the ones that work for you and work with them. For example, legacy might not be something that is important to you.
You might want to follow Gary Vaynerchuk’s advice and focus on “the clouds and dirt,” in other words, legacy and now. You might even want to follow Eckhart Tolle’s advice, focus only on the now, and let go of everything else.
You can combine different life areas with different timeframes. For example, you might not be interested in starting a family now, but that might be the first item on your 5 years list.
When you’re drafting your plan, take into account the wants and needs of all the subpersonalities that are operating in your psyche. If you ignore one of your subpersonalities, they might get triggered unexpectedly and sabotage your progress, leaving you puzzled.
When you’re doing this exercise, I recommend a reverse engineering approach. That is to start from the end and come back to today and now.
You do that by taking a goal from a longer term and ask what you need to accomplish in a shorter term to achieve the long-term goal. For example, “what do I need to accomplish in 5 years to achieve this 10-year goal?”
Don’t Forget the Rewards
And of course, don’t forget to add rewards here and there in your daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly plans. Otherwise, you’ll be risking an extinction burst, and your whole plan will collapse.
As I mentioned before, this plan isn’t only about time management. Resource allocation goes further than that. It includes allocating your finances and energy.
All of this might sound like a lot of work, and it is. You need to balance different timeframes and the wants and needs of different subpersonalities. Some of those requirements will be conflicting with each other, and you’ll need to make some decisions.
The benefit is that you’ll make conscious choices. The alternative to that is to burn yourself out, or one of your subpersonalities taking you over, and making you do the things that you regret later.
The main benefit of this practice is the peace of mind that comes with knowing that you’re making progress toward consciously chosen goals.
We have numerous wants and needs in different timeframes that pull us in various directions all the time. As a result, we don’t make as much progress as we could.
The solution to that challenge is to draft a life plan that takes into account different timeframes and the wants and needs of our various subpersonalities.
Software developer with a Ph.D. and 15 years of experience. I write daily on personal development and life lessons. Sign up to my email newsletter to receive a weekly roundup of my latest posts.