Yearly Focus

Yearly Focus – v1.5 Release Notes

Each year I focus my attention on a few named goals as a way to be more intentional about the pursuits I direct my energy towards. The way in which I do this has evolved over time and these release notes serve to document the changes & most current process.

Review Of v1.4

v1.3 contained 4 items that in practice went in different directions and resulted in overcommitment. For v1.4 I emphasized focus on a single topic, which the challenge, habit & exemplar would all relate to. The full details of v1.4 are located here.

I found that structure to be very successful in 2017. The three items played off of each other well to point in the direction of the overall theme. Rather than feeling that each hour was contributing to only one goal and a whole other hour would be needed to contribute to the next one, there was a clear synergy.

The time I spent outdoors as part of the habit helped me to live out the sabbath year I had designed as part of the challenge. The reading I did about this year’s exemplar, Eric Liddell, helped me to process some of the difficulties I was running into as I tackled the challenge of launching a sabbath year.

The one thing I felt needed a bit of tweaking in 2017 was the way the habit is setup. I’ve learned from past years that trying to do X of something by the end of the year often means rushing to cram things in over the last months of the year. That doesn’t feel conducive to creating lasting habits so this year I broke things down so that each week had its own pass or fail. That generally worked, except this year’s goal was greatly affected by the seasons and so I think the benchmark I was shooting for should have as well. In order to help ensure future years are as beneficial as possible I am going to break the year down into four quarters, each of which will have a benchmark designated for the habit. As I set my focus for the year I will have to put in extra effort to design it so that it becomes progressively difficult, and I will use discretion to adjust along the way based on how successful I am.

Changes with v1.5

  1. Introduction of Sabbath Cycle Vision item
  2. Specify difficulty progression by quarter for the habit
  3. Add details to the description about each item


Sabbath Cycle Vision – A guiding vision for the the six years between sabbath years. This broader theme will help guide many aspects of life during this period, including big life decisions, the selection of themes for individual years and prioritization decisions when taking on new projects.

Example Sabbath Cycle Vision: ‘expand your horizons & do new things’ or ‘settle down and establish roots’ or ‘fight the destruction of the planet’.

Due to the longer period, this item can be much larger in scope. This will help in thinking about priorities that are larger than what can be accomplished in a single year. Due to the longer period, there will also be less certainty about specifics, and so it needs to be appropriately broad.

Theme – A central topic for the year that I have designated as important enough to focus a large amount of energy on. It is something that I want to spend time thinking about and take a few concrete efforts towards. Because this exercise is in large part designed to help me grow as a person, the theme will likely be something from my peripheral, rather than one of my core focuses, strengths or responsibilities.

Example Theme: ‘living within community’ or ‘defending freedom’

Challenge – An undertaking that I have never accomplished before that is related to the theme that I will attempt to accomplish for the first time.

Example Challenge: ‘run a marathon’ or ‘play an original song at an open mic night’

These challenges will often help achieve something that I think is important, but the act of doing new things is important in itself. Attempting new things forces us to learn, which keeps our brains sharp, and it forces us to stretch our comfort zones, which gives us a larger comfort zone and also helps us become more comfortable with the idea of being out of our comfort zone.

The challenge is setup so that accomplishing it is binary, but there are stretch goals that I may aim for after I achieve the initial success. I also pre-negotiate artificial limiters, such as budget or time commitment, to ensure that I don’t strain other priorities to accomplish this.

Habit – A behavior that I want to improve or adjust that is related to the theme. Usually something I have done before but that I want to focus on in order to do it more frequently or with better results.

These habits are things I want to build into my life long term. I have found that by intentionally focusing on them for a year and overcoming the challenges that pop up during that period, I will have made lifestyle adjustments that last even after I stop keeping track of the habit.

The habit should be measurable and regular with a benchmark that is difficult but achievable.

Example Habit: ‘exercise X times per week’ or ‘decrease sugar consumption to <X grams per day’.

As I design the habit, I will break the year down into four quarters and set goals for each one, increasing the difficulty as the year progresses. Because I want the changes in my lifestyle to stick, I will reserve the right to adjust the target during quarterly reviews as I view results in order to ensure the habit is always difficult but achievable.

Exemplar – A person that exemplifies the values or principles of the theme or who is notable for their relation to it. As I think through the theme, this will be someone I might spend time reading the writings of or if available, spend time learning from directly.

I will model habits from them, dissect their thinking and generally become inspired by their focus in the area. After spending time I will put a few of their ideas into practice. If, for example, my theme were leadership, I might select a successful leader like George Washington or Martin Luther King Jr – I would then look for ways to implement a few of their successful behaviors.