You at 10,000 feet: How to pick the right ‘hotspots’ to invest your time and energy into

Takeaway: Every day you invest your time and energy into different hotspots (like your mind, body, emotions, career, finances, relationships, and fun). Creating a scannable list of your hotspots and then setting maximums/minimums for how much time you’ll spend in each will let you step back from your life, see it from 10,000 feet, and prioritize what’s really important to you.

Estimated Reading Time: 5 minutes, 25s.

Understanding your hotspots

Every week, probably without giving it much thought, you invest your time and energy across a number of hotspots, like the ones below:

Mind, body, emotions, career, finances, relationships, fun.

One of the books I’m reading right now for AYOP is Getting Results the Agile Way, by J. D. Meier. The book is a system for managing your time and energy, and it also talks a lot about the different hotspots in your life, namely the ones above. (There are naturally more hotspots than the ones above—like spiritual and social, for example—but I think Meier’s model captures most of what you invest your time and energy into.)

Your hotspots, when added up, make up who you are, and on a very basic level they are a way of classifying how you direct your time and energy. Since reading about the idea, I can’t stop thinking about how to use the hotspot theory to become more productive.

It feels great to be productive in the short-run, but I think it’s more important to be productive in the long-term. That means picking the right hotspots to invest your time and energy into.

How to pick the right hotspots to invest your time and energy into

Not all hotspots will be important to you all of the time. To pick which hotspots to invest your time and energy into in the first place, Meier recommends that you:

  1. Think of your hotspots as a portfolio. “When you think of your results as a portfolio, it helps you manage risk. You might be over-investing in some areas, while ignoring or under investing in others.” “Your portfolio will have its ups and downs, and Hot Spots allow you to identify areas that need the most attention” and “carve out time for what’s important”.
  2. Dig deeper, and name the outcomes you want from each hotspot. It is one thing to say that something is important to you, but nothing can inspire you to act more than creating a list of outcomes you want from each hotspot.
  3. Identify which hotspots are the most important to you. When you pick which hotspots are the most important, you can direct your resources (time, energy, attention, etc) accordingly.

Another thing to keep in mind is that hotspots support and cross-pollinate with one another (like your career and finances, or your emotions and having fun). It feels great to create (and then follow through with) outcomes that kill two birds with one stone.

The practical part: How to actually invest your time and energy in your hotspots

Hopefully I’ve now at least partially sold you on the high-level ‘hotspot’ way of looking at your life. Now that you’ve divided and prioritized your actions into different ‘hotspots’, what’s next?

Here are a few ways to integrate the idea of hotspots deeper into your life.

Create a list your hotspots that’s scannable

What should your list of hotspots actually look like? According to Meier, it should be simple and easily scannable, because a scannable list of your hotspots allows you to see if you’re on track at a quick glance.

If you create a massive list for what’s under each hotspot, you’ll never look at your list. Creating a short list of scannable items lets you see your hotspots at a quick glance, and will jolt your memory if any areas need attention. Here’s an example of a scannable, expanded list of everything you might have under your “body” hotspot:

bottomchart.003

Integrate looking over your hotspots into your schedule

Making a list of your hotspots is pointless if you don’t review the list often. Schedule a weekly (or bi-weekly) time where you look through your hotspots, and choose what to put on your radar for the next week or two. Make sure you have your to-do list and calendar with you in your review; you’re bound to write down a ton of ideas, things you have to do, and people you have to contact.

Identify threats and opportunities in each hotspot

During your review, also consider the threats and opportunities in each hotspot. Meier has a great definition of what threats and opportunities look like. “At a high level, your primary threats are things that negatively impact your mind, body, emotions, career, financial, relationships, and fun. Your opportunities are things that will add value or improve your life in these areas.“

‘Timebox’ your hotspots

How’s that for a jargon-y subtitle? Once you’ve prioritized how important your hotspots are to you, actually act on how important they are to you by setting limits (minimums and maximums) on how much time you’ll devote to each activity. Here’s an example of some ‘timeboxes’, taken straight from Getting Results the Agile Way:

bottomchart.002

To make sure you effectively timebox each hotspot, actually schedule every minimum and maximum in your calendar (especially ones where you have a lower limit of how much time you want to spend). According to Meier, the “key is to use boundaries and limits to keep yourself balanced and improve your results. Schedule time in your calendar to reinforce these boundaries.”

Minimums force you to not neglect some hotspots when you invest your time in others, and maximums force you to use your time better, because it pushes you to use the time you have more wisely.

It’s all about results, results, results

It’s pointless to make a list of your hotspots and then not do anything with it.

Focus on results first. That means to:

  • Religiously work within the maximums and minimums you set for yourself.
  • Scan your hotspots to see if you’re neglecting anything every time you create a new to-do list.
  • Review your hotspot list every week so you can diligently pick what to put on your radar, and identify any threats or opportunities on the horizon.
  • Know the long-term benefits you want to achieve from each hotspot (hotspots are, after all, a very high-level way of looking at your life).

Summing up

‘Hotspots’ are an incredibly powerful way to see your life from 10,000 feet and determine what’s important to you. The key is to use what you learn about your priorities from that elevated perspective and bring them down to earth to make meaningful changes to your work on a daily basis. That means creating a list of your hotspots, setting up minimums and maximums for how much time you’ll spend in each, integrating your hotspots into your schedule, and identifying threats and opportunities in each.

  • Nice take on the book! I guess the method’s interesting part is you can make a quick look at it (being ‘scanable’) and not end up in an analysis paralysis kind of thing. I’ve learned to do this scanning after many years of checking my goals and whether I am track or not. This is also a good reminder to throw away unimportant matters like – ehem – social media :)

    • Haha, very true, speaking as someone who’s addicted to social media ;) I also think the scannability of the list is the huge; without it you’ll never actually routinize looking at the thing!

  • Nice take on the book! I guess the method’s interesting part is you can make a quick look at it (being ‘scanable’) and not end up in an analysis paralysis kind of thing. I’ve learned to do this scanning after many years of checking my goals and whether I am track or not. This is also a good reminder to throw away unimportant matters like – ehem – social media :)

    • Haha, very true, speaking as someone who’s addicted to social media ;) I also think the scannability of the list is the huge; without it you’ll never actually routinize looking at the thing!

  • Interesting take on balance. Coincidentally I was talking to a friend about balance today. I definitely see the merit to this, but I don’t like to look at the different areas of my life as boxes I have to check off.

    I’ve always resonated with the idea of sacrifice more than balance. What I mean by sacrifice is to do one thing really good you have to let other areas of your life suffer. I’m aware that it’s not the most healthy thing in the world, but it does seem to be extremely effective when it comes to skill building.

    Regardless this is still super interesting and something I’ll have to try before I can make a legitimate decision one way or the other.

    • Hi buddy – I agree with you in a lot of ways, and disagree with you in others!

      I think some folks get caught up in achieving as much as possible in some hotspots in the short-term, which I think is necessary in a lot of cases (like when you’re starting out in your career), but of course that comes at a cost: letting other hotspots wither when they are the ones that will provide you with the most long-term happiness. That’s why I love minimums/maximums so much–they keep me in line, and force me to become better at managing my energy because I have less time to dedicate to what I want to accomplish.

      On the other hand, though, I think as long as you take that step back and see how you’re investing your energy and time across your hotspots, you’re so far ahead of the game it’s crazy. Most of the folks I know (and that you likely know, too) stay at ‘ground level’, and never see how they’re investing their time and energy from elevated perspective. It’s when someone doesn’t take that step back and see the compromises they’re making from a higher level that they don’t live up to what they’re capable of.

  • Interesting take on balance. Coincidentally I was talking to a friend about balance today. I definitely see the merit to this, but I don’t like to look at the different areas of my life as boxes I have to check off.

    I’ve always resonated with the idea of sacrifice more than balance. What I mean by sacrifice is to do one thing really good you have to let other areas of your life suffer. I’m aware that it’s not the most healthy thing in the world, but it does seem to be extremely effective when it comes to skill building.

    Regardless this is still super interesting and something I’ll have to try before I can make a legitimate decision one way or the other.

    • Hi buddy – I agree with you in a lot of ways, and disagree with you in others!

      I think some folks get caught up in achieving as much as possible in some hotspots in the short-term, which I think is necessary in a lot of cases (like when you’re starting out in your career), but of course that comes at a cost: letting other hotspots wither when they are the ones that will provide you with the most long-term happiness. That’s why I love minimums/maximums so much–they keep me in line, and force me to become better at managing my energy because I have less time to dedicate to what I want to accomplish.

      On the other hand, though, I think as long as you take that step back and see how you’re investing your energy and time across your hotspots, you’re so far ahead of the game it’s crazy. Most of the folks I know (and that you likely know, too) stay at ‘ground level’, and never see how they’re investing their time and energy from elevated perspective. It’s when someone doesn’t take that step back and see the compromises they’re making from a higher level that they don’t live up to what they’re capable of.

  • Ed Essey

    The list that you shared for Body is great. Would you mind sharing the lists for your other hotspots? They could make a great point of departure.

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