Focus Points and Modular Time Management

I am enjoying reading The Renaissance Soul: Life Design for People with Too Many Passions to Just Pick One by Margaret Lobenstine. The book is for people who have multiple interests and talents which they enjoy pursuing at the same time, or in succession, and feel constrained by the expectation that they will follow one long term life path. They may find it difficult to solve the question of how to maintain all their interests while earning a decent livelihood without “starting from scratch” with every change of direction.

I can definitely relate to the description of the personality traits of the Renaissance Soul. Having been a business process analyst working on a how to make use of a computer system for 8 years I craved a dramatic change, which led to me quitting my secure job last year. Having said that, there was a lot that I loved about that job. It was intellectually challenging and offered a fair degree of variety and autonomy. It gave my analytical mind a good workout but after 8  years I’d had enough. My analytical mind was over-stretched, while other aspects of my personality were being drowned out by all the logical left-brained complexity.

The other day when I was at a talk for professional organisers there was a demonstration of a customer relationship database. I must confess I felt deeply nostalgic for the student management database I used to work on. Seeing all those fields and tabs and thinking about all the data they could capture got me excited. At the same time I was thinking I must be nuts to be getting all fired up over a  relational database. Whats was that about?

Learning about Renaissance Souls (also known as Multi-potentialites or Scanners) has helped me to understand that I have the capacity to be very analytical, but also to be very creative and spiritual. One ability does not exclude the other, and I need to explore both. Having allowed myself to explore reading, writing, photography, and other interests for over a year I am now able to feel the excitement of working with a well designed database again.

In The Renaissance Soul Margaret Lobenstine suggests that Renaissance Souls can make a life of many choices more ordered and manageable by choosing four Focal Points to work with at any given time. This involves listing all the things that you are interested in and picking just four to be the focus of attention for the time being. How long any item remains on that list can vary, depending on how long it demands attention or sustains interest. This strategy allows progress on a few key areas without committing to them forever; and it acknowledges that other options which are on the back burner are not lost because can be prioritised at a later stage.

This method is similar to what I have been doing over the last year, although its more structured and conscious than my approach. I can see the benefit of working on something for a set period then swapping that out, and bringing something else in.  As a trial run I have identified four focus points for a two week period:

1. Working Towards the Federal Election

2. Preparing my Tax Return

3. Writing this Blog

4. Researching Renaissance Souls/Multi-Potentialites/Scanners.

I set an initial time frame of two weeks because of the date of the election. Action on that point is urgent, and it can be swapped out when the Election is over. Making it a Focus Point helps be involved now, when it counts, knowing that it is a time limited commitment. It has also allowed me to say no another potential volunteering activity which is on at the same time.

Doing my tax is also a short term project and when it is done, I might swap in a budget review project. This means I am working towards financial management projects over time without getting overwhelmed by all the things I should be doing.

I am enjoying writing the blog as it helps me to clarify my ideas and build confidence in communicating them. It caters to my creative and introspective side. When I was not blogging, I did a lot of private journaling, but I find it difficult to maintain both. I can see myself swapping between the two rather than trying to maintain maximum output in both modes of writing all the time.

Researching the concept of Renaissance Souls is a priority because I think it will help me structure my life in such a way that I can continue to pursue my own interests and also make a living without feeling like I am short-changing myself on either count. I have a few books I want to read, but when I have got a grip on the guts of the topic I will probably move on to a different learning goal.

I am starting to get a glimpse of a modular approach to time management where I can take on projects that meet different needs and use a variety of skills for blocks of time. Each module builds towards one of my goals or a future module. Although there isn’t a Focus Point called “Make Money” or “Find Work” doing my tax and learning about Renaissance Souls are both building blocks towards those longer term goals. Eventually I hope to be able to swap in some money activities that contribute to my personal interests or goals to one more of the Focus Points.

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