How I Plan to Live More Intentionally in 2017

First of all, Happy New Year from Bhumi and me!

Being just a couple months away from completing my master’s in Business Analytics, I figured I should try to apply a more strategic and data-driven approach to analyze what I do with my life outside of work in an effort to live more intentionally.

There’s a common adage that I’ve heard through B-school, “what gets watched gets done” (not to be confused with “a watched pot never boils” – I know it’s weird that they’re seemingly contradictory). Anyways, the point is that if you track an action and are held accountable to it, then you are more likely to do that action. In school, you earned grades by completing your homework so you did it. But in college, the homework was rarely graded so you may not have done most of the homework problems.

Quick Overview of How Strategy is Applied at Work

Goals, Objectives and Strategy are important concepts in the workplace – especially in a marketing department. Those are the reasons we are paid to come into the office and complete the tasks that we do every day. An organization is founded with a mission or goals that executives translate into objectives for a given year. Then the leadership or management teams determine the strategies they want to deploy to reach those objectives, leading to the daily tactics. Those tactics are tracked using metrics, which help determine how well the tactics and strategies are working.

Here’s a hypothetical example to make these concepts more tangible:

  • Goal / Mission: Increase Awareness of Indian Culture in the U.S.
    • Objective 1: Become a top 10 Desi Blog in the U.S. for NRIs
    • Objective 2: Increase Reach to all 50 states in 2017
  • Strategy 1: Focus on South Asian organizations to gain new readers (influencer approach)
  • Strategy 2: Provide additional benefits to engaged readers/people who leave comments (word-of-mouth approach)
    • Tactic 1: Use email marketing to contact leaders of South Asian groups
    • Tactic 2: Send t-shirts to avid readers
      • Metrics: # of website visitors, email open rate, # of new subscribers, ranking on blog review sites, etc.
    • Next Step: If the email open rate is low, adjust the email content or find new targets, if you’re not getting any website visitors from Hawaii – fly to Hawaii and do something about it, etc.)

Taking a More Strategic Approach to Life

The cool (and slightly scary) thing is that it’s getting easier to do this with our personal lives because a lot of our activities are tracked and produce measurable data. Something you probably thought of right away: your fitbit or smartwatch. Something you may not have thought of is Google Maps Timeline. Here’s mine from 2016 zoomed in on Chicago:

chicago-visits-2016This provides a quick and easy way to find all the paces you visited or navigated to when you had your location turned on mobile. Is it creepy that a company has this data? Yes. But for now, it’s useful to me so I’m keeping this feature on. Using this data along with my very manual approach of writing down everything on a wall calendar helped track activities that we did in 2016. Here’s what I was able to capture:

Obviously in our 5 years of marriage, Bhumi and I regularly discuss our goals and objectives, but we were still pleased to see that the metrics in these graphs showed that we were closely aligned to what we wanted to achieve without putting a very detailed plan on paper.

Some positives we noticed:

  • We spent a lot of time with a lot of people in 2016 (pretty good for us introverts!)
  • The [time with parents + family stuff] == [cousin & sib stuff + friends stuff]! (we definitely try for this balance)
  • We left the state of Illinois nearly every month, including the East and West coast multiple times
  • Between trying restaurants, going to shows, biking on the lake, and just visiting the sites, we did pretty well being tourists in Chicago (we want to maximize this opportunity)

Some areas for improvement:

  • We only hosted a person or meal once per month (it felt like more)
  • We weren’t quite as involved in religious activities as we were in the years prior (no more YK)
  • We only had 6 weekends in the entire year where we didn’t go see people or have a scheduled event/activity (need more down time!)

Now you must be wondering, how were we judging the data in these metrics and categorizing them as positives and negatives? Well, the detailed plan below is how we’re going to make it easier for ourselves to make these judgements moving forward. We simply have to compare the metrics to the objectives to see if we were aligned to them.

P & B’s Detailed Strategic Life Plan for 2017 & Beyond

Goal / Mission:

  • Moksha (BHAG = Big Hairy Audacious Goal…yeah, we’re lucky our beliefs give us many lifetimes for this, heh)
  • Long-Term Happiness (tangible, but always challenging enough)

Over-arching Objectives for life that will contribute to long-term happiness:

Near-term Objectives:

Using Data to Make Life Decisions and Improvements

After developing your objectives, strategies and tactics all you have to do is go back to your metrics and look at which numbers you want to increase each month (indicated in green) or decrease (red) next year. Then be sure to add an action step to clarify what you’ll do to achieve this. You’ll notice that we added new metrics (indicated in yellow) to track things that will help us better understand if we’re working towards our objectives or not. We could have really gone nuts here and created many more (did you know I spent ~60 hours of my life watching Cubs games from October to November!? It was worth it.), but after a while there’s diminishing returns on the things you track. Track what you are willing to measure and use to make decisions or behavior changes.

Final Thoughts and Considerations

Thank you for reading this far. It’s been freeing getting this all down on paper. And I feel very lucky that we have the problem of “too many” people in our lives rather than the opposite. We are truly blessed and grateful that we have that many big rocks. Hopefully reading through my process was helpful and inspires you to connect with your big rocks and be just a little more intentional this year.

Knowing what the “big rocks” are and prioritizing them makes it easier to make decisions about the other little things because you know those don’t have as much of an impact on your objectives. Also, I’m sure you’ve heard about the studies that show writing down your goals and looking at them regularly helps you stick to them. I’ll be revisiting this post regularly to keep myself in check. And you too can help us reach our goals by asking about our progress – and also by letting us host you sometime this year 😉

Here’s to a fulfilling, productive and very happy 2017… HAPPY NEW YEAR (again)!

PS: Finances come with built-in data tracking. Budgets, retirement calculators, and other tools help you make decisions with your financial numbers in the same way the above table does. Set financial goals and budgets for a given time period, evaluate how you’re doing compared to the goal, and make adjustments as needed. I could do a post on this later, but there’s plenty of smarter people than me who have written about managing your money. My cousin Rishee gave us a great book on finances this year that I would recommend if you’re looking for something on this topic: The Simple Path to Wealth. The author also has a blog: http://jlcollinsnh.com/.

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