Find Your Focus for the Year

Like most people, come New Years I would compile a list of 20 things I wanted to see some progress on in the coming year. The results were often mixed. Some things would stand still, some had a tiny bit of progress and a few gained a bit of ground. It’s hard to tackle 20 areas at once and see significant growth. This year I have 1 thing.

Finding your One Thing, purpose

This is part of our 3 steps before we set our goals for the coming year(s). We start by cutting, pausing or streamlining a number of things in 2017 to create space. We create our “Best of” list to review all the great from the year. Then we pick our focus for the year.

What is your focus for this year?

Here are the 3 steps we take.

1. Find your Focus

What is the one area you want to see the most growth? Come the end of the year, what is the one thing you would be most satisfied and excited about if you saw major progress? What would be a theme word for the year?

It might be an activity or type of activity. An outcome. A state of being. It’s finding the one theme that you want to build some momentum around.

Last year was “get caught up.” We had taken the year off after 4 really hard years. And we were behind on everything. Rest, sleep, adventure, visiting family, hobbies/passions, projects around the house, decluttering, reading books, conversations with friends: you name it. We spent the year giving time back to the things we had stolen time from.

2. Recognize your non-negotiables

There are a few activities that might not play into your Focus but need to be maintained. We choose quality family time and set up Friday nights as our Family Fun Night. So from 4-7 pm, that time is just for family activities. And one weekend adventure for a couple hours.  Those two things are non-negotiable for our kids and family to thrive.

The other area is our health. Mr. Mt wakes up at 5am 5 days a week to spend 90 minutes in the gym. That isn’t something that will be compromised to funnel more time or resources into our Focus. (I have my own much less impressive routine.)

It’s important to set a few non-negotiables, so that everything else can be negotiable. Know what can and can’t flex to help make progress towards your focus.

3. Let all your other activities funnel into your Focus area

From the books I read this year, friendships I make time for, hobbies I enjoy, free time, all will be prioritized based on my focus for the year.

The amount of free time I have to devote to friendships, relationships, hobbies, volunteering, mentoring, etc. is very finite.

I have friends who are rocking it in the “build-create” zone. I want to make more time for those phone calls, coffee dates, or day trips. Books focusing on the build-create theme will make it to the top of my pile. Hobbies that help spur the “build-create” flow will find more of my time. When I volunteer my time, it will be with “build-create” organizations, lead by inspiring “build-create” folks. If I spend time connecting on Twitter or Facebook, more of those interactions will be with people who are killing it in “build-create” areas of their own lives and work.

When you find your focus, and let every area of your life add a supporting layer to your focus.

Each area of your life can create a tiny bit of motivation, direction, or inspiration. It’s like a snowball that picks up a tiny bit more snow with each roll. If you were trying to roll a huge snowball, it would be too much work to go around the yard gathering up all that snow and trying to pack it together. But if you roll your snowball along where the snow is just right, you pick up a little bit everywhere you go.

This isn’t inch deep, mile wide living.

Instead of pouring a few tablespoons into a dozen different cups, we find a little liquid from every source and pour it into one cup. Till that cup starts to overflow!

In this coming year, I don’t want to spread my focus too thin. Instead I will let all the areas of my life pour into this one focus.

It’s not a matter of doing only one task.

Instead, let everything we do help move the needle just a tiny bit towards our most important theme.

It’s a bit like cross training. I use to play basketball. But you can’t just practice basketball 8 hours a day, 365 days a year. So you find other ways to help improve your game.  I weight trained. I played other sports. But there are only so many hours you can spend on purely athletic activities, while functioning in the rest of your life. So I was friends with other basketball players. I was friends with other athletes. I was friends with other high performers and achievers in other areas. Because all those people made me a better basketball player. I also pushed myself in other areas or activities. Memorizing lines and dealing with stage fright in school plays made me a better basketball player. Staying up late studying AP chemistry strengthened the same work ethic that helped me on the court.


What is the one area that you want significant growth? The more areas in our lives we can tailor to our area of focus, the more conversations, free time and hobbies: the more momentum we will gain.

Other Reading:

Take the Stairs: I read this book last month and especially loved the focus on finding how you can maintain certain areas of your life while giving the rest of the focus to one area of growth. Plus Rory’s story really resonates with me.

Deep Work: I watched an hour long interview with the author Cal Newport. The concept of the book deals more with how to maintain focus on our most critical, producing work. Eliminating distractions and learning how to focus seems very relevant and helpful.

The Retirement Manifesto: Fritz’s challenge of swimming in crazy cold water is living proof of the power of a focus.

Say Yes to Your Priorities: Over at Choose Better Life, I love her approach to knowing when to say yes, so you can say no.

Frugal Cottage: Picks her “theme” word for the year, spoiler alter: it’s Self Care!

Let’s Chat:

Do you tend to spread things thin or go deep?

If you had a theme or focus for 2017, what would it be?

Who are your favorite people to follow online that contribute to your focus?

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26 thoughts on “Find Your Focus for the Year

  1. My focus this year is…short-term goals and focus. I’m trying to reset each week so that I recommit often to activities that will help me reach overarching goals, like live healthier or give more. So I’m setting more concrete to-dos, and then if I miss something I’m going to try to reset the next week and either try again or adjust.

    • I spend a few minutes each morning looking over my weekly/monthly goals to figure out what I need to do that day. It might be the best and most useful 5 minutes of my day! I am totally with you that I need those short term goals/habits to chip away at my bigger goals.

  2. Yay Ms. Montana – you included my “2016 Focus” of achieving a major “Cold Water Swim” event! From experience, I can say that a year of focus is a year well spent. Find your focus, and succeed!

    Great post, as always! Thanks for the honor of being included!

  3. Our focus this year is actually twofold. Argh! we fail already!
    But if it’s a good year, we’ll save enough to be FI, and everything we make after that we will earmark for gifts to family kids’ college funds and hopefully an international trip with each kid when they graduate from high school.
    Our other area of focus is taking advantage of our Southwest companion pass. Kansas, NYC, Chicago, St. Louis, and Florida’s National Parks are pencilled in so far.

    • I love the idea of how to spend the income after you hit FI! Instead of constantly wanting more, finding a new purpose for that money is great. And those trips sound awesome. Maybe in 2018 you’ll have to add Montana to the list. 😉

  4. Since I couldn’t pinpoint my focus as I was reading through the post, I would say I have things spread too thin. Thank you for helping me see that more clearly. I actually know some good first steps I can take, but I’ve been letting the busy work distract me.

    Actually, Ms. Montana, you are one of my favorite people to follow online – because of this post and others that make me think about my life and goals. Others that contribute to my focus include,,, and – just to name a few (there are soooo many others!).

    • I’m so glad that you are part of this community! I’m excited to hear what you will narrow your focus down to! These 3 steps (make space, best of list, and find a focus) have drastically changed my goal setting process. And as a result the amount of growth I see each year. =) Shoot me an email and keep me updated. =)

  5. Let’s see. My focus this year is paying off debt. I’m trying to be more mindful of how my daily actions influence this yearlong goal. For example, I recognize that driving costs money and detracts from my goal, but packing my lunch instead of buying it builds my goal. It’s all about realizing what I do and don’t want to give up in the pursuit of a goal.

    • Getting out of debt is a GREAT focus! And there are so many areas you can funnel towards that. Finding fun free things to do (we try to do one free fun thing every weekend). Or enjoying hobbies that also save/earn money. Hanging out with other frugal people or ones who are super encouraging of your goals. Reading really inspiring stuff (there is SO much out there!) Learning new affordable meals. So many options that can help you make progress on your focus! Let me know how it goes!

  6. This is a great post for me to read as I’m finalizing our goals for 2017. I realize that we’re definitely spread too thin, but we’re working on narrowing our focus. It isn’t something that we’re going to be able to accomplish in a short amount of time. We’re paying down debt, adding to the family, fixing up a rental property, working, doing side hustles . . . it is a lot. But with continued progress, we’ve been able to reduce the stress of too many responsibilities and focus on better priorities. Thanks for your insight, and the idea to strive for more focused goals in the years to come.

    • I think the focus is there, more financial freedom (and family as the non negotiable.) It’s tough when you are in the thick of it! And with those sweet babies on the way plus your job, you, friend, are in the thick of it. We’ve been there and done that. Keep doing the right stuff and it will get easier!

  7. Awesome Series Ms M, I have picked up some good value from all 3 posts! 🙂

    I have 2 Main Focuses this year 1. Pay Off Debt/Increase Income 2. Increase Productivity/Efficiency

    A couple of changes I’m making this year to meet my goals:
    1. Scheduling everything by week – Theme my days
    2. Morning Routine – Wake up at 6, drink pint of water, meditate, workout, listen to financial or productivity audio book while workout, eat breakfast – Bed by 10pm 5x per week
    3. Improve my Resume, Schedule Training, New Certifications, Improve Public Speaking, Network
    4. New Side Hustles – Currently Decluttering and Flipping online. #2017flipchallenge
    5. Simplify/Minimalism – Less buying, More Savings, more outdoors

    My Favorite People to Follow Online:

    Gary Vaynerchuk, Paula Pant, John Lee Dumas, Nick Loper, Pat Flynn

    Financial Bloggers such as yourself, Financial Panther, My Money Wizard, Millennial Money, Fiery Millennials, and Millennial Money Man to name a few 🙂

  8. I think for 2017 my theme is “Follow Through.” I have had many great ideas over the years and have never executed on them but in 2016 I finally took the plunge and started to take ownership and do something with the ideas that I have. Now that I finally undertook these activities I need to maintain focus and follow through to see the fruits that they bear which is not always easy when you feel like you are just watering dirt 🙂

    • “Watering dirt” boy I have been there. Congrats on just getting started! I have found that finding the really small bench marks and organizing my weekly and daily to-do list around those has really helped. Good luck this year!

  9. My focus this year is figuring out what I want to do when I grow up! Seriously, I don’t have one major goal right now. Still feeling my way through this retirement thingy (and liking it very much). I do like how you recommend listing your non-negotiables. If you can determine those most everything else falls into place Right now mine are eating right and exercising.

    • Eating right and exercising is so important. Absolutely keystone habits. And I’m with you on the “what do I want do?” This year has been SO much reflection for me. What work do I find meaningful? How can I spend my time in a what that I love and adds value? How much “producing time” is the right amount? When are my best hours of the day to create things? How do I most want to help people? What impact do I want to have?
      FIRE was just the first step for me, not the finish line. I have a really fun post coming up first week of February that I think you might like. =)
      Maybe your focus for the year could be “crafting the second half so that it’s even better than the first half.” That would be an amazing focus! And there are so many cool things you could pour into that cup to gain momentum.

  10. Finding a focus for 2017 will be great. My focus is to start writing my blog and make more friends with financial bloggers. I will read more financial blogs, for example, frugal lifestyle, paying off debt, investment. Then, I am tryig to find a balanced lifestyle.

  11. I think focusing is such a great word because without it I think it’s easy to get pulled in 10,000 different directions, and spread thin. One of my favorite books on the topic is called Essentialism. I read it last year and it really changed a lot of things for me! I have a theme for this year too: Explore!

  12. I have chosen theme words for the year for a few years now. Last year it was “Simplify,” a bit ironic because we bought a 12 unit apartment building and life was crazy from September – December. But, we’re reaping the rewards of that now that my husband has quit his corporate job to manage the rentals, thus greatly simplifying our schedule and lives. I also got better at prioritizing our time commitments and saying “no” to people or things or events that were not adding value to our lives.

    This year our theme word is “Enough” and we will focus on figuring out what is enough for our family. Enough money primarily, but also enough in terms of resources we use, things we own, social commitments, etc.

    • I love both of those. Finding the “enough” is so important. If we don’t choose our line in the sand, it will always move on us! And I bet that 12 unit project was crazy. We looked at a 4 plex once but were outbid. Now with the prices of rentals, I wish we would have bid more! So much cash flow. =)

    • I’m really excited about 2017, and for that matter 2018, 2019, 2037. =) It’s fun to see things come together, build momentum and create a trajectory. We have made so much progress in the last 15 years, the next 15 should be even better!