The Focus Course

Start Thinking about 2020

Having talked about reflection, it’s time to start thinking about what changes we’d like to make in the coming year.

Imagine yourself next year at this time. What does future you — fall 2020 you — feel like? What sort of things do you find yourself doing? Or maybe, what does future you not do?

I’ve come to realize that twelve months is not much time. Weeks come and go faster than I can keep track of. And just like that, another 8,760 hours have flown by. Of which, you’ll spend about 2,920 sleeping. And if working a regular full time job, another 2,080 hours will be spent in the office. Suddenly, there doesn’t seem like much time left for the stuff of life that really matters.

The next twelve months will come and go like the years that have preceded, and you’ll spend all 8,760 hours. The choice of how you spend your waking hours is entirely up to you.


When you think about the areas of responsibility that make up your life, how would you rate them?

  • Thriving
  • Surviving
  • On the verge of falling apart
  • On the verge of breakthrough
  • Complicated
  • Non-existent
  • Good
  • Poor

The never-ending challenge of juggling all of life’s demands and striving to keep everything afloat takes most of our focus, and when we finally make notable progress in one area of life another seems to crumble. Time itself can feel cruel. So much to care for with limited capacity in what we’re truly able to give our attention.

Think again about your various areas of life. Which has felt sustainable — like you could carry on at that pace for years?

Which area of your life has felt unsustainable, or on the verge of burnout or breaking?

You may have already identified some of these areas through reflection, but now we have to start thinking about change. Without change there are areas of life that will suffer.

It’s better for you to decide which areas you would rather let go of rather than knowingly neglect an area of life in choosing not to change.

Questions to Consider

  • Which area of life feels weak due to an unsustainable pace?
  • Of those that feel weak, which are non-negotiable from a long-term perspective (which would you have regret over if it fell apart completely)?
  • Is there an area you could let go of, or put aside for a time?
  • Is there an area of life that may feel sustainable to you, but is negatively affecting people in your life that are important?

All of this is meant to bring a pause and question what a sustainable pace of life looks like for you in these next twelve months.


One of the sections in Plan Your Year is spent listing out notable milestones for the upcoming year. The value behind this practice is to celebrate and recognize progress.

In 2020, what is worthy of recognition or celebration?

  • Birthdays (some are more noteworthy than others)
  • Wedding anniversary (Personal or Parents)
  • Graduating college
  • Kids graduating high school
  • Sobriety
  • Being cancer-free
  • Remembering a loved one that has passed
  • Recovery from sickness
  • Work anniversary
  • House anniversary

Some milestones are more significant than others. Celebrating progress is celebrating the small unnoticed decisions for good. It’s persevering and showing up again long after the novelty wears off. It’s taking a moment to remember and honor.

Take some time to think about the upcoming year and review important milestones that will take place. What would remembering and honoring look like? There may be one or two that deserve extra attention and planning, like a special dinner with close friends. It could be a simple phone call to someone that matters. Maybe a weekend trip to somewhere you love. Not all need to be extravagant, but the act of celebration should be proportional to the achievement.

How will you celebrate important milestones this next year?

Stop Instead of Start

For many, the first thing that comes to mind when thinking about the new year is what new things they will start doing. But what about a list of new years resolutions to stop doing?

And I’m not just talking about the habits in our life we’re already aware of that we need to break (which are still important). There may be some good things that either need to be scaled way back or possibly dropped completely.

What is hindering your ability to do the things that really matter?

With three boys under four, I don’t have nearly the amount of time I used to for riding my bike and running. So this last year I decided to do less of both. My physical health wasn’t going to suffer from going from 8 or 9 hours of physical activity per week, down to 3 or 4. It may be less time than I’d like, but I’d rather give those hours to things that are more important in this season of life.

Ok, so now for the obvious one.

What about the ways that you use technology? You may have some habits related to screens that you’d like to do less of, but do you have rules in place for technology use? Specifically smartphones and social feeds. If you want to look at your phone less, then there should be some rules.

Examples of Technology Rules

  • No phone use in the car outside of music, podcasts/audiobooks, occasional phone calls, and maybe maps. There is not a single reason for me to check social feeds while driving.
  • Turn off my phone for one day per week.
  • No smartphones in the bedroom.
  • Twenty minutes of reading before screens in the evening.

It could be that you need to go without a smartphone for a time. Ultimately, the point is to be intentional with the technology you use. Does it serve a specific need in your life that can’t be accomplished another way?

As you think about the upcoming year, don’t only think in terms of what you need to start doing or add to your life — also think about what you could stop doing. Think of a well-balanced meal, adding more doesn’t make it better. Sometimes it’s removing something altogether, and sometimes it’s adding something completely different.

Before making a list of all the things you want to add to your daily life, think about what things, if removed, would create breathing room for the things that truly matter.

Who Matters Most

It’s hard to think about your future self without thinking about who is around you. Relationships are at the center of our daily experience, and to a large extent, relationships are our legacy.

Who are the people that matter most in your world?

In general, I think about relationships in three categories. We’ll look at each of these individually.

  1. Core Relationships
  2. Extended Circle
  3. Acquaintances

Core Relationships

These are the people that you share daily life with. You are deeply invested in their emotions, passions, and growth. Our circle of core relationships is small. In the range of 3 – 7 people. More than seven becomes difficult to maintain depth in the relationships. While we may have many friends, core relationships are the ones that we build our life around.

Core relationships impact where you live, schedule, diet, budget, and many other things. These are the people you would move heaven and earth for. They get the best of you.

For me, this is my wife and three boys.

How will you prioritize your time in the next twelve months for your core relationships?

Extended Circle

Beyond our core relationships is our extended circle. The extended circle brings enjoyment and fulfillment to our life. While these relationships play a key role, they come after our core relationships in priority.

Lunch and coffee dates, planned get-togethers, and every now and then maybe a shared vacation. Rich community is found in the presence of these friends. This circle informs and embodies our values. In this company we feel at ease, challenged, encouraged, and supported.

The community found in our extended circle is essential for personal development and social support. These are the mentors that give timely advice or objective feedback. The extended circle is made up of peers doing inspiring work. While these relationships may not be at the center of our relational world, at some level they represent things we strive to become.

  • How much time do you have to invest in your extended circle on a weekly/monthly basis?
  • What support or encouragement do you need from this group of friends, and how will you facilitate ongoing connections?
  • How can you encourage your friends in the next twelve months?

Acquaintances & Chance Encounters

Lastly is our extended network of relationships. These are good for a once-in-a-great-while get together. Chance encounters in random places. Childhood friends we haven’t seen in years. It’s unlikely that we would organize a coffee date with someone from this circle, but bumping into them unexpectedly is a pleasant surprise.

This circle does not bare much weight in the ways that we plan and spend our time, and we shouldn’t feel bad about not pursuing these relationships more. There are good people in this circle — some of which we may highly regard — but it’s ultimately impossible to carry high-touch-point relationships in all three categories of relationships.

What relationships will you prioritize in 2020?

Prioritizing a relationship does not always correlate to time spent together. There are relationships I value deeply and only get together with a couple times a year. As a rule, we all lead very busy lives and have limited capacity in both time and emotional energy.

Here are a few additional questions to help you consider the people in your life you will intentionally connect with in 2020.

  • Who are the people in your core circle? Does this include anyone outside of the home you live in?
  • Who will you prioritize sharing meals with?
  • Who will you call and catch up with during commutes from time to time?
  • Who will you send awkward Marko Polo messages to?
  • Who are you investing in?
  • Who is investing in you?
  • Who is your coach?
  • Who is your cheerleader?
  • Who is your confidant?
  • Is there anyone you would like to keep contact with that doesn’t live nearby? How will you connect?
  • Who will you show up for no matter the cost?

In Closing…

The point of all this is to get crystal clear about what is truly important. At the end of the day, ”Clear is kind. Unclear is unkind”. Naming the things that we value is kind. Getting clear on our hopes and desires is kind. The more clear we are, the greater chance we have of actually following through.

Most of us avoid clarity because we tell ourselves that we’re being kind, when what we’re actually doing is being unkind and unfair. — Brené Brown

Hero image by Lukas Blazek via Unsplash.

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