A Model To Prioritize and Measure Life

Where and how much time you allocate to activities in your life is in essence the reality of what you think is important. Many people live life each day unconscious to internalizing what is important let alone measuring if they are on track.   I share a simple, strategic “What’s Important” model I have used over the last six years that in many ways has guided my life choices and how best to allocate my precious time to drive happiness.  The initial catalyst in early 2006 was to improve my career plan but I quickly broadened the approach to my life.

career strategy framework

I first started with a simple definition of my life purpose and this identified the multiple roles I play in life.  I then started to identify the critical success factors that I must work on to achieve my life purpose, realize fulfillment and happiness.  As I sketched out a simple picture the model started to take shape with the life purpose in the center and the critical success factors that surround it.  I then gave more thought of how the critical success factors should be ordered in a clockwise fashion.  I set “Stay Healthy” as the first given that my physical, emotional and spiritual health is the most important foundation for any successful life.  My role as a father and husband gave way to “Build a Happy Family” as the second critical success factor.  With these two foundations in place I could be my best at the workplace and execute strategies within “Manage Career” to drive career fulfillment and success.  If I worked hard on these three critical success factors I would then use “Grow Net Worth” to fuel many of my life and family goals.  I would also be in a position to help others who are less fortunate by donating time and treasure as part of the “Enrich the Community” success factor.

Each day is filled with numerous decisions including how to allocate my time.  My biggest challenge has always been balancing my time between work and family.   It is in that moment where I think about the “What’s Important” picture and how I am doing on each of these critical success factors.  Over the years I have become more at ease living by this model and realizing when one of these critical success factors is improving or degrading.  For example, you will find me running and training each day before I start my day at Microsoft because I know this is job #1.  I made a job change to Microsoft in 2006 for many reasons including getting off of the worldwide travel circuit that helped me improve “Stay Healthy”,  “Build a Happy Family” and realize my career goals within “Manage Career”.  I am better at planning “Build a Happy Family” activities into my Outlook calendar and delivering on those promises.  I even use color coded Outlook “categories” for each critical success factor to view how I am allocating time across my weekly calendar.  I think about the different choices I would have made earlier in my life if I had this wisdom but better late than never.

During a typical demanding work day you generally do not reflect on what is important and whether you are investing your time, talent and treasure to ensure those are realized.  It is not uncommon for the short-term demands of work to capitalize my mind share but the memories of my childhood living in a divorced family and years that went by not speaking to family members quickly puts life in perspective.  I don’t wish that on anybody and luckily years ago I improved how I approach managing the demands of work with the other aspects of my life.  I will be the first to admit that I still have room for improvement but I am more conscious to the daily choices I make and the cascading impact on my life purpose and critical success factors.

The picture provides a helpful visual to model what is important but a set of goals, strategies, objectives, measures and accountability stakeholders are required to help you make it real each day.

  • Critical Success Factors – key issues that drive the ability to achieve your life purpose
  • Goals – WHAT I want to achieve broadly
  • Strategy – HOW I plan to accomplish my broad goals
  • Objective – WHAT must be done by when
  • Measures – MEASURES used to track progress
  • Accountability Stakeholder – the person who will hold you accountable for your goals

career strategy framework

Let’s return to my personal example to see how you can now build a “Personal Strategic Scorecard” to measure your “What’s Important” model and help you determine if you are dedicating the proper focus and time to realize those outcomes.  I will use the “Stay Healthy” critical success factor for the example.

  • Critical Success Factor – Stay Healthy
  • Goal (I WANT) – Physical Health: to live a long life
  • Strategies (I WILL) – Exercise at least 30 mins/day for cardiovascular health and to manage cholesterol
  • Objective (I WILL take the following steps) –  Run and weight train at the Pro Club each day before work
  • Measure – Cardio (# of minutes/day)

Building out the information above for each critical success factor will define a strategic approach to achieving your goals and the necessary measurement system to evaluate your progress.   Below you will find measures I have identified for each of my critical success factors.  I often experiment to determine if I have the proper measures and make adjustments as needed.

personal strategic scorecard

I manage my Personal Strategic Scorecard in Excel and update the measures on different frequencies.

We all have different definitions of success and what we want to achieve in life.  I encourage you to take some time this summer to sketch out your model and measures. My hope is that it will help you prioritize your life and gain timely insight to the adjustments that are required to ensure balance.  We all have heard about the marriages and family life that have been ruined when we live each week and month exclusively for our careers thinking that the other aspects of our life will just take care of themselves.  Sometimes we realize it but it’s too late and our life is changed forever.   Your life needs a strategy, not just your career.

This past Father’s Day weekend I had the chance to read the book How Will You Measure Your Life?.  I highly recommend this book to help you explore the meaning of your life and leveraging the strategic theories that Clayton M. Christensen applies to life and careers. I related to this book as many parts of this Career Strategy Framework are based on strategy and theories normally applied to the business world.  The theories and examples are powerful but it’s our choice to do something with this new found wisdom.

We live one life – make every day count and guide your daily decisions and precious time using the critical success factors that only you can define.  I challenge you to sketch your version of “What’s Important” and share it with those important to you.  This may be the most important picture you ever create.

Use Mojo to Shape Your Career Strategy

Over the next month I will be writing content on how to apply the “Know” step of the Career Strategy Framework.   As I have worked with colleagues over the years to apply the framework I have received feedback that the Know step is generally the most challenging. It inspires curiosity of who we are, what is important and who we want to become.  Many people struggle with the “what do you want to be when you get older” question and how that relates to your passions in life.  I find that many people have a hard time starting to define a career strategy or make a career transition because they are not deeply in touch with these basic questions in life.

One of the most important aspects of building your career strategy is to understand what brings you energy and what drains your energy.   I have used Marshall Goldsmith’s book Mojo: How to Get It, How to Keep It, How to Get It Back if You Lose It as an incredible reference that helped me build my “personal profile” that is a deliverable from the Know step.   I highly recommend the Mojo book if you are just starting out to develop a career strategy or perhaps at a career crossroads.   Applying the concepts in the Mojo book will enable you to:

  • Define what is important to your life
  • Determine what brings you happiness and meaning
  • Define or clarify you desired identity
  • Shape your reputation

I am such a fan of this book that I recommended it to a group of people who are at the early stages of building their career strategy and plan.  We will see who can find and measure their Mojo!

Career Strategy Framework

My name is James Gray and the “Career Strategy Framework” is a a synthesis of my work experiences, MBA studies and research to maximize life happiness and career impact.  This topic is an intersection of my passions including strategy, marketing, management and analytics.  I developed the framework back in 2006 as I planned for a career transition and have refined it over the years as a manager at Microsoft.  I was driven to architect a career planning process that was intentional, practical and one that took a holistic to approach to not only my career but was integrated into other aspects of my life.  There are many deep topics and theories on career planning and strategy but I never found an approach that pulled together all of the pieces to plan and execute a career.  I found myself taking personal assessments and creating development plans in disjointed manner.  The 5 strategies represent a “framework” or model that can be used as a lens and process to create and refine your personal career strategy.   Over the years I have called it a framework because it’s always under refinement and when I find new concepts from thought leaders I find a what to plug into the career strategy model.

The aspiration of this website is to share the framework and best practices to help people maximize happiness and realize a fulfilling career.  My hope is that it inspires curiousity about the life you live and optimizes fulfillment at the workplace and beyond.  The framework does not guarantee success but it will take you on journey to deeply learn about who you are, what you want in life and and how to get there.  Many of the concepts are not new but the framework integrates five strategies into simple and intentional way to approach your career lifecycle.  I share my applied examples and the best practices from other thought leaders on this topic.

You can reference the Career Strategy Framework overview and the detailed content on the Know, Target, Roadmap, Develop and Sell strategies.  My blog posts are also categorized by these same topics and provide additional examples and ideas beyond the written content.  Over the years I have learned more about myself and how to enrich the Career Strategy Framework through presentations and helping fellow colleagues apply this framework to their careers.  I hope that you will share your best practices to inpsire others to maximize happiness and career impact.

Over the last year colleagues have suggested I write a book but after I thought about it more it was clear that most of the value comes from a community where we can learn from and inspire each other.   My vision is a framework where others can contribute to, evolve and apply it in a way that I have never imagined.   I have integrated this website into the Facebook Platform to enable a sense of “community” and I hope that you will share your best practices to inspire others to maximize happiness and career impact.  You can also follow this topic on Twitter (@CareerFramework) and connect on the Career Strategy Framework Community Facebook Page.

May each day bring you the happiness you aspire for.

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