Planning: try a change of place

by Margaret Lukens, New Leaf + Company LLC

While you’re working on your plans for 2009, make use of the creative juice available by putting yourself in a new space. Here’s an exercise to accomplish it:

On a fresh sheet of paper, make a list of everything you’d like to be, do and have during 2009. Include the huge (receive a Grammy nomination) as well as the trivial (buy a new red briefcase). Write fast without over-thinking. Don’t stop until you have at least 30 things; go for 50.

Do this exercise three times — once in your office, once in a public place with hubbub such as a coffee shop or hotel lobby, and a third time in a place of nature such as a hiking trail or beach.

Gates of the Valley at sunset (Yosemite National Park, California).

Gates of the Valley at sunset (Yosemite National Park, California).

Then combine your lists. Notice what turns up every time, and what came up only in a particular place.

Divide your be-do-have list into three roughly equal parts of “non-negotiables”, “really wants”, and “nice to haves”. The non-negotiables are those things that will make the coming year as worthwhile as possible.

Be careful not to over-commit. Some of your level 2 and 3 priorities will come to you anyway; being aware of them will help you achieve some of them with relatively little effort, so save your committed effort for the level 1 non-negotiables in your life.

In her book Focus: the Catalyst for Creativity (available for free if you subscribe to the author’s newsletter, here), Betsy Burroughs describes a practice she calls the “Focus Tour”. A few of her favorite alternative locations include shopping malls, museums, and public transit. My favorite among Betsy’s ideas is a one-day train trip from San Francisco to Yosemite. Work on the train, enjoy a three-hour walk in Yosemite, and arrive home in time for dinner. This one is on my be-do-have list for 2009.

What places put you in a new frame of mind? Where do you focus best? Please leave a comment here.


2 comments so far

  1. Madeline Lukens on

    Interesting exercise.Thanks for the guidance.

  2. cinzia on

    Mmmmmhhhh, this sounds extremely interesting. I will try to do this exercise. There is a lot going on, a lot stimulus, a lot of good connections in my professional life in this period, but how to understand where to invest? What you really want to do? How to know what is a true possibility for future development and what is a waste of time? … I know it sounds like I don’t have a plan… probably I really don’t, which takes us to the last question… How to build a plan for yourself and stick to it not taking inputs that can distract you from your goal? A big hug, hope to meet you sometimes soon…

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