Revisiting The Vertical Map
At the moment I’m currently focusing on the vertical map (otherwise known as the horizons of focus). Bigger picture thinking is something I’ve neglected for a long time (I discussed why in my previous post) but now I want to get back on track with it. One of the problems I feel there is with the vertical map explanation in GTD is that it is tied to this whole horizons angle (going from the runway to 50,000ft levels, for instance). To me, this gave the impression that the items at one level had to tie neatly into the items on the next level, and so on. If you’ve ever had a dozen or so next actions at the runway level and tried to draw a clear line all the way to your long term goals at the 40,000ft level you’ll know how difficult it can be.
But isn’t that the point of the vertical map? Sort of. It should allow you to look at a current project, for example, and determine whether it moves you forward to your long term vision. If not, why bother with it? However, do these connections have to be explicit? I think not. This may be why many people get stuck with the vertical map. It’s worth noting that you don’t necessarily have to use all six levels of the map for it to still be effective, either.
As I discussed on Monday, I’m currently reading through Ready For Anything, David Allen’s second book after Getting Things Done. Now I don’t know if his description of the vertical map pre-dated what he wrote in GTD, but I found it made a lot more sense, so in this post I want to take some of that and hopefully explain the six levels better. Let me know if this makes it any clearer!
- What are your current tasks?
This covers all your next actions and physical steps that you need to do to move all your commitments and responsibilities forward. These include phone calls, emails, conversations, etc. I personally have a next actions list to keep track of these. It should be something you refer to daily.
- What are your current projects?
These are the outcomes you’ve committed to do that require more than one action to do and which you are actively working on now. Some examples include arranging a birthday party for your wife, getting your kids into school or finalizing business plans for the new year.
- What are your current areas of responsibility?
In the GTD description of the vertical map this section seems out of place considering the goals/projects based focus in the other sections. However, I’ve always found clearly defining my roles and responsibilities to be invaluable. Responsibilities for your work might include staff development, customer service and asset management. Responsibilities in your life would be finances, health, career, recreation, family, etc.
- How will your work/personal affairs change?
This section covers largescale objectives or goals you intend to fulfill over the next twelve months or so. It could be something like moving house, arranging a wedding or achieving a 10% increase in sales during the current financial year. Note how these represent big, multi-faceted projects that would have to be broken into smaller projects to achieve them.
- How will your career/personal life change?
This is where you start to move from the actual to the aspirational. Here you want to start thinking about where you’d like to be ideally in your career and personal life over the next several years. Planning for a family is an obvious goal here, as is starting your own business.
- Why are you on the planet?
Now we are at the deep end. Without being too philosophical, this covers the big picture, your purpose for being, or what your “job” as a human being is. What do you want from life? If you’ve ever experienced mission statements in business you’ll have an idea of what this section involves.