Monk meditatingRegular readers of this blog will know that I’m a big advocate for Personal Quarterly Offsites. These are half-day personal retreats designed to help me (and you, I hope) focus on the “important but not urgent” quadrant of the Eisenhower Matrix (a/k/a the Eisenhower Method).

I’ve been working on and evolving my approach to regular Personal Quarterly Offsites for about five years now.

This week, I decided to apply my Personal Quarterly Offsite methodology to some strategic planning for the Michigan State University Center for Law, Technology & Innovation. I was a bit hesitant to do this, because I have always thought of Personal Quarterly Offsites as something for personal planning.

It was a more than pleasant surprise to find that the method worked very well. And the results far exceeded my expectations.

I now have all my ideas and thoughts out of my head and captured in both a Word doc and in Notion. I have focus areas and categories. I have a framework for priorities and making yes/no decisions. And, most importantly, I have action steps with timeframes. Not a bad use of a morning.

I used one type of Personal Quarterly Offsite, which I might start referring to as the “empty mind” method (in multiple senses).

The key element here is “capture.”

It’s useful when you have a lot of ideas and notes, but they are scattered all over, and mostly still in your head.

The goal is more to “edit” than to “create.” You want to see what you have and organize and prioritize it. As a side effect, the process will help you capture some related ideas and see connections.

The value actually comes from subtraction rather than addition. It’s much easier to focus and shape actions and priorities when you see them all in one place and can start to pare them down than it is to be forced to come up with and add a bunch of new ideas.

One great technique is to pull out the list of ideas that should go into the “incubate” category. David Allen calls this the “Someday Maybe” category. You don’t lose the idea – you just move it to a place where you can revisit it at a more appropriate time. Knowing that I now have a great “incubate” list that I won’t lose is a great value and comfort in itself.

In terms of practical results, I now have 8 single-spaced pages of a typed outline addressing ten categories, with next action steps and timeframes. Most of it will, of course, be subtracted from the “do now” list.

Highly valuable and highly recommended for an important project of yours where you need to take a big swing to get started or reorganize before you start sharing with others.

More details on my Personal Quarterly Offsite approach here. And I have created an online course on Personal Quarterly Offsites at the Kennedy Idea Propulsion Laboratory Community.

[Originally posted on DennisKennedy.Blog (]

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