Hot Spots – Map Out What’s Important (Day 5 of 30 Days of Getting Results)


Day 5 - Hot Spots

“One reason so few of us achieves what we truly want is that we never direct our focus; we never concentrate our power.”—Tony Robbins

Your Outcome: Learn how to use Hot Spots to create a simple map of what’s going on in your life.  Use your Hot Spots map as a way to invest your time and energy where it really counts, and to know that you’re on your path.

Welcome to day 5 of 30 Days of Getting Results.  In day 4, we look at letting things go with skill.  Today, we look at mapping out what’s important.  I call this practice Hot Spots and it’s from my book, Getting Results the Agile Way.

Hot Spots are a way to see the forest from the trees.  The simplest metaphor is to think of your life as a heat map.  Take a moment to actually imagine a heat map.  On this heat map, if I were to ask you, what’s going on at work, what would you see?   If I were to ask you, what’s going at home, what would you see?  If I were to ask you to step back and look across your life, what would you see?

I used those three levels for a reason: work, home, and life.  Your ability to quickly see what’s going on in each area of your life, will help you make better trade-offs across the board.

Mental Model for Hot Spots
Here is a simple mental model for thinking about your Hot Spot map:


There are three things to notice here:

  1. There are three separate lists: Life Frame, Work, and Personal.  These are three simple lists that help you figure out what’s going on in your life.
  2. Notice the “Backlog” category under Work and Personal.  This is a way to put everything that’s not active, off your plate.  You can acknowledge that you have a lot of projects at work or personal projects, but if they aren’t active in your life, then they are part of your “backlog.”   Don’t mix them up with what’s really on your plate right now.
  3. The Life Frame is a durable set of categories that is relatively stable over time: Mind, Body, Emotions, Career, Financial, Relationships, and Fun.  If you invest in these areas, they support each other.  If you don’t invest in these areas, they work against you.  For example, try being your best when you let your body go, or try doing well at work, if you don’t build your relationships, or try having fun if you let your emotions run your life.

3 Steps to Map Out Your Hot Spots
For the purpose of this exercise, just think of your Hot Spots as simple lists.  We’ll create three simple lists to answer the question, “What’s on your radar?”.  Here are the steps to follow:

  • Step 1. Map out your Work Hot Spots.  Write down a list of your key roles, your activities, and your projects.  Keep it at the macro level.  This isn’t a dump of all your tasks.  It’s the buckets, not all the items inside the buckets.  For example, for work, I would list my main projects: “Common Catalog,” “Simple IA,” “Azure Security Notes,” “Customer Connected Engineering,”, etc.  I turn themes of work into projects, and I give them a name.  Making them projects gives them a start and finish, and helps me identify outcomes for the project, and measure the impact.
  • Step 2. Map out your Personal Hot Spots.  Write down a list of your key roles, your activities, and your projects at home.  For example, for persona, I would list some of my main projects: “Getting Results,” “RV,” “Backyard,” .etc.  Don’t worry about getting the order right – just dump what’s on your mind.
  • Step 3. Map out your Life Hot Spots.  Write down the key areas or “big rocks” in your life that are important.  Make this a quick exercise and simply list out your top list of areas that are important in your life.  For example, I tend to list: mind, body, emotions, career, financial, relationships, and fun (I refer to this list as my Life Frame, because it acts like a lens to helps me frame out or look at the big areas in my life in a simple way.  Feel free to use my list as a starting point.  It’s easy to swap things out or add, such as adding a “Spirit” category or a “Community” bucket.  I lump “Community” under my relationships bucket, but what’s important is that the categories make sense for you.

Congratulations – you just created more clarity in your life than many businesses or people do in a life time!

3 Keys to Great Hot Spot Maps

  1. Don’t try to put your lists in any clever order.  It actually breaks it.  What’s important is that each list actually resonates with you when you look at it.  The order things are listed should simply be the order you would rattle them off the top of your mind.  Don’t try to alphabetize them or put them in any logical order.  They should simply reflect your mind.  I can’t emphasize that enough.
  2. Stick the things you aren’t really spending any time or energy on under your backlog.  You might find that you have really long lists.  That’s OK.  It’s a process.  What’s important is now you have a map of what’s going on in your life, from three views — work, personal, and life.   If things on your list, really aren’t active, then move them down your list under a heading you call “Backlog.”

Using Your Hot Spots to Invest Your Time and Energy
You can now look easily scan across what’s on your radar and instead of trying to remember what you were trying to do, you can step back and say, what’s worth doing or where do I need to spend more time or energy?  In other words, now with your life portfolio in your hands, you can choose where to invest and where to de-invest at a glance.

By asking yourself some very simple questions, you can test your investments.  For example, are you spending enough time or energy in relationships?  Are you giving your body enough rest and relaxation?  Are you challenging your body enough?  Are you making time for fun or for play?, etc.

The key to investing wisely, is simply to answer the question, “Why?” … and then cross-checking by asking the question, “What do you want to accomplish?”  Your mind can find the answers when you ask the right questions.  If your mind can’t find the right answers, then pair up or find somebody you trust how can.

Today’s Assignment

  1. Review your Hot Spot maps for work, personal, and life and improve them until you feel they truly represent what’s going on in your life.  They should be simple and scannable.  They are not your outcomes, they are not your tasks, they are simply a list of the activities or projects or big rocks in your life.
  2. Explore some of the examples of Hot Spots in Chapter 4 – Hot Spots, from Getting Results the Agile Way.
  3. Pick one area that you could invest less in to invest more in another area.  Identify why you would want to make this shift.  This is your chance to deliberately improve an area of your life through a conscious investment and managing your life portfolio in a smart way by taking a look from the balcony.

My Related Posts

Photo by Manitoba Historical Maps.


  1. I see your point about hot spots J.D.

    I think seeing them can be quite a challenge sometimes, because our minds are clogged with a lot of meaningless stuff. So we need to take a step back before we can see the forest instead of the tress.

  2. Ok – today has turned into a disaster…I have not even written my 3 results and I have to leave for the airport soon…so many interruptions

    I would also say that I accomplished probably the 3 things I would have set out to do anyway…and now I have lovely lilies sitting on my dining table….do I just count this day as lost? or do I attempt to regroup at midnight when I get back from the airport? (the airport was on my list)

    while my partner is biking on Saturday I will come back a work on this item…I just want to be close to being on target…I am not a perfectionist.

  3. wow… i am investing a lot in one area which is my work in the office… to the detriment of some other important hot spots.

    maybe this is because i thought that if i get to fix the basic structure there and decentralize activities correctly i will get to free up my time to do more for the other areas i want.

    does that make sense?

    i wish for a more fluid time to earn money and attend to my other functions/activities. work gives me my steady pay (which we badly need) and i feel restructuring my projects ther would allow me to do less there and stay on top of things…guess have to establish the proper timelines…:(

  4. I really like the life frame list. Most people just think in terms of work/personal, never looking at the big picture.

  5. @ Eduard — Indeed. A quick look from the balcony is all it takes to help chart out a new course.

    @ Patricia — If it helps to give an example, I spend usually three minutes or less identifying my three outcomes when I start my day. If I’m going to spend several hours in the thick of things, it’s the small price up front to take a peek ahead.

    Of course, I adjust as my day goes along because nothing goes as planned — and I expect the unexpected. The “agile” part is responding to change. Since I have my three results in hand, I trade up or trade deliberately. Simply because I spent three minutes up front. (Don’t worry if it takes you longer than three minutes, you’ll get faster — in fact, mine is close to 30 seconds or less on average.)

    You can get on track anytime, anyplace, anywhere by simply asking — what do you want to accomplish with your remaining available time and energy.

    Never write anything off as lost — carry the lessons forward, and avoid All-or-Nothing thinking — even the little wins count … even the pieces … pieces are progress.

    @ Riza — In practice, I find you have to simply set boundaries and constraints — in time or quantity. Otherwise, if you dangle your reward of having more time out in front of you, once you get to the top of your current mountain, there will be another … so instead of make it something you attain in the future, make it happen now as you go and change how you climb the mountain. It might seem slower, but in reality, you’re making it a better journey along the way, spending more time on what you want — which gives you more energy — which amplifies your results.

    You are right — the timelines are the key.

    @ Vered — It’s truly the secret of peace of mind. When you have everyhing on your radar right in front of you, you no longer have that nagging feeling in the back of your mind that you’re missing something or that you’re supposed to be focused on something else.

  6. Hi JD .. these Hot Spots .. and map concept make so much sense .. I’ll be back when I can settle and take time out to move forward with my life – too many other things needing to be done for now ..

    I love your lists of the three Hot spots .. great – thanks Hilary

  7. I learned about hot spots a few years ago. My greatest hot spot is 1pm – 5pm. That’s only when I eat a light lunch. It’s when I do most of my writing and creating. I’ve tried to make myself into a morning hot spot person and that didn’t work at all. Live and learn.

  8. After our last session you walked me through this procedure it made very powerful effect with me.
    Consider openning limited number of requests from your readers to submit their hotspots for your review. I know it’s quite time consuming but it’d be super benficial for both readers and you.

  9. @ Hilary — Thank you. You’ll know when you’re ready. I tried to make each day a self-contained nugget so you can pick up wherever you want, whenever you want.

    @ Karl — What you’re describing sounds like what I think of as “Power Hours” and “Creative Hours.” For example, my best power hours are 8am, 10am, 2pm, and 4pm, where I can accomplish a great deal of work, faster than any other hour. My best creative hours are weeknights, especially Thu, and Saturday and Sunday in the AM. It’s where one light-bulb goes off after another, and I can quickly connect the dots on things.

    Hot Spots are really just the list of the key activities, projects, and roles in your life that demand your attention and time (it’s a way to quickly map out what’s on your radar.)

    @ Alik — I could tell things really sunk in. It is “the map and the path.”

    Potentially, I’ll open up slots for three people and do some short-burst mentoring, or I can also try out doing a Webinar for more people in a batch. I do know it makes a big difference when I pair up with somebody on their challenge and get specific. Some folks have been reaching out to me, and I’ve been helping them over email … and I’ve been trying to fold these lessons back out into my posts.

  10. hi jd… In classifying Hotspots, can i still write those things that am not doing under Work OR Personal (but cant do yet) and simply Mark them as B (for Backlog)? Or

    What Alik suggested re submitting hotspots for review would be very helpful… it would nail things down better if they were specific

  11. oops… had a typo there… i meant

    “In classifying Hotspots, can i still write those things that am Planning To Do but not yet doing doing under Work OR Personal….”

  12. @ Riza — Here’s what you want to achieve:
    1. a simple list of your “big rock” areas (mind, body, emotions, etc.)
    2. a list of what you’re really focused on at work
    3. a list of what you’re really focused on outside work
    4. a list of things that you plan to do at some point (your backlog)

    You want to be able to see at a glance, what you’re focused on at work, and do reality checks. Same thing with personal. When you list your backlog, the only reason to do so is so that you write it down somewhere you trust and free up your mind. There’s no point in making it extensive or letting it become a distraction.

    When you complete the vital few priorities on your plate, you can draw from your backlog as input, but remember time changes what’s important, and windows of opportunity can dramatically influence your priorities.

  13. JD,

    Thanks for posting this. I actually skipped this exercise when I first saw it. But I just did it and I’m glad I did. I have a table in which I keep all the things I need to do for my projects and I have the top item in each list dated. THen I tell the table to sort each day so that the things due today or due soonest show up on top.

    I think I’m going to change this as I take up time just re-doing date on items and sometimes putting artificially late dates just to get something to stop bubbling to the top of my table when I sort by date.

    My new table will not have dates any more. Instead I’ll sort by hot spot and I’ll make the important hot spots show up first by putting a number in front of them. If that hot spot is no longer “hot” for some reason, I’ll remove the number so it goes to the bottom of the table when I sort.

  14. @ Rodney — It’s one of the tougher exercises, but it’s also one of the most valuable.

    I basically keep a list for work, a list for personal, and a list for life. I bubble up the most important things to the top, either because of focus or priority or desire. I use this as a way to quickly scan what’s on my plate, and to help me easily figure out the most important things for the week.

  15. […] them (mind, body, emotions, career, financial, relationships, or fun), you can very deliberately map out what’s important in your life, and you can deliberately invest in your 3 area’s or others as you wish.  I found the single […]

  16. […] Day 5 – Hot Spots – Map Out What’s Important – Sources of Insight. Share this:TwitterFacebookLike this:LikeBe the first to like this. […]

    • Hey Roman,

      Good question. I can’t believe I’m missing the 3rd.

      I’ll think more on it, but for now, I would say that point #3 should be something like so:

      Make sure your Hot Spot map reflects value. It should be things that are either pains or opportunities. And it should help you easily see where to spend more time. Additionally, some of the best things to highlight are things that you want to do better, faster, cheaper, or smarter.

  17. I use MindMeister (free mind mapping software) and also spreadsheet to clarify and monitor my hot spots monthly.

    It’s awesome to notice that I can easily spot ‘the things’ I want to focus the most and also what to trade off… I take it as my personal transformation. I’ve been upgrading my boundaries and limits. It’s precisely “a warm puppy” feeling.

    Thank you for the awesome feedback for Day 4. I like the image of the snake shedding skin and breathing new life into what matters. One of my routines, along with setting 3 goals for the day, is morning meditation and manifestation exercise. Letting go and Visualization can be a strong enforcer for the 3 goals.

    • Visualization is your best friend for great results.

      When we can see something in our mind’s eye, it gives us clarity, confidence, conviction, and courage. That is a powerful recipe for significant results.

      In fact, when I think about it, Agile Results really helps me generate a simple vision for the day, the week, the month, and the year.

      Sometimes, it’s like I see a few key “scenes” that light up the goal, and make it real and inspiring. Other times, it’s a richer story playing out, and it helps me get “on path.”

      The most important thing I do each day is a get a simple vision for the day. I try to get a rough idea of what I want my morning, afternoon, and night to be about.

      When it comes to Hot Spots, it’s really about looking across your portfolio at themes of where you “invest” your time. Each Hot Spot is where the action is in terms of pain or opportunity.

      Once I learned to think in terms of Hot Spots, I got a lot better at investing and reinvesting in areas of my life that mattered, and they all support each other. (No Hot Spot is an island 😉

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