GTD Horizons of focus

GTD Horizons of Focus – A framework for success

This is part 1 in a series about GTD Horizons of Focus. Part 2 is GTD Horizons of Focus – How to get started. Part 3 is GTD Horizons of Focus – How I manage my Horizons of Focus in Todoist.

The GTD Horizons of Focus is a framework for how to align your daily actions with your visions, goals, and life-purpose. Done right, it will place you in the captain’s seat for controlling the most important aspects of your life.


What is GTD Horizons of Focus?

The short answer: The GTD Horizons of Focus is a framework for how to align your daily actions with your visions, goals, and life-purpose.

Simple, right?


To really use the potential of the GTD Horizons of Focus, you have to invest some time and energy in the beginning. You have to think a lot about what really matters to you, and why. You have to get to know yourself. Sometimes that involves asking yourself some really tough questions. What you find will not always be pleasant to deal with.

What if you find that your current path will not take you where you want to go? What if you find that you are in the wrong job, maybe even in the wrong marriage? In my opinion, it’s better to realize this early and to be able to make the changes that you want to do, than realizing the failure when it’s too late and spend your final years agonizing over what might have been.

If you do it right, the return on investment is enormous. It will put you in the captain’s seat for controlling the most important aspects of your life.


What is the meaning behind the name GTD Horizons of Focus?

[stextbox id=”custom” bgcolor=”E8E8E8″ bgcolorto=”FFFFFF” image=”null”]If you are not familiar with the Getting Things Done methodology, often referred to as GTD, please read my blog post Getting Things Done (GTD) – What is it?[/stextbox]


GTD Horizons of Focus
The runway is where all the action is. (Picture: Bigstock)

Assuming that you are familiar with GTD, let’s get started. Picture yourself sitting on a plane. At 50.000ft there is nothing but blue sky and an endless horizon. Up here there are no limits.

As you are preparing to land, you are crossing 40.000ft and 30.000ft. There is not much difference, but you might notice some shapes below on a clear day. This is the levels of your visions and goals. Most of it is abstract thoughts.

When you start to clear the clouds at 20.000ft you can start to make out details about the landscape. This is your areas of focus and responsibility. At 10.000ft you can see houses, roads, and details. This is your projects or outcomes. The runway is where you, as the captain, have to tackle all of the details.

Do you get the picture? It’s a way of dividing these otherwise daunting elements in a something that makes them manageable and that makes it possible to focus on the different levels when needed.


50.000 ft: Purpose, principles, and values

This is your “why”, the “big picture” view. Ask yourself: What gets me out of bed in the morning? Am I working in the right type of business? What is my life mission? What is the common denominator every time I feel happy or “complete”?  What do I love to do? What are my unique talents?

Here you define your core values and principles. Is honesty important? Do you want to make the world a better place?

On this level, you can also put your aspirations like “start my own company“ or “be the world’s best chess player before I retire.”

GTD Horizons of Focus
At 50.000ft the sky is the limit. The world is yours. (Picture:

40.000 ft: Vision (Next 3-5 years, and longer)

How does it look when you live your values and aspirations? Where do you want to be 3 to 5 years from now? Any long-term (+5 years) visions/outcomes? This is where to put your career goals. No detailed plans.

It can be things like “become the best sales manager” or “move out of the city”.


30.000 ft Goals and Objectives (Next 1-2 years)

What goals do you need to have to fulfill your vision? What do you need to accomplish within the next 1 to 2 years to make your vision happen? Here you need to make specific and measurable goals. This level will, through your projects, act as your guiding pin in your daily work.


20.000 ft: Areas of focus and responsibility

At this level, it becomes important to separate your professional life from your personal life. This is the concrete stuff. What’s your job description? What roles do you have? Boss? Mentor? Soccer coach? Parent? Spouse?

Most of us will have some areas of focus and areas of responsibility that are not directly tied to any of the above levels. These same items may have related projects or outcomes. “Birthday party for wife” may be a project under the “be a good spouse” responsibility.


10.000ft: Projects and Outcomes

This is the current year. This is the current projects and projects that will start within the current year. Here you also list desired outcomes/results that you want to achieve within the current year. Again, here it is important to separate your professional life from your personal life.

What you put in here should have a clear link to the 20.000 ft commitments and/or your 30.000 ft goals and Objectives. All projects must have a defined outcome. The finish line has to be clearly identified.

Getting Things Done list
Picture: Bigstock

Runway: Next actions

This is all the things you need to get done in order to move your projects forward. The separation between your professional life from your personal life is natural. Contexts are important.


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