The Freedom Compass and the Journey of Continuous Development

November 22, 2022

The Freedom Compass and the Journey of Continuous Development

“The important thing is that we must be constantly moving forward—yes, the progressive realization of a predetermined goal. And our growth should never end.” — Og Mandino

Productivity and continuous development are crucial aspects of leadership. We want to get more things done with the least amount of time and resources possible, without sacrificing the quality of work. And we also want to keep on improving ourselves and the people we lead. Passion and proficiency play a huge role in both productivity and growth, and Michael Hyatt introduced the concept of the Freedom Compass in his book Free to Focus.

What’s the Freedom Compass?

The Freedom Compass has five zones where work falls under, and it is divided between things we are passionate about and proficient in.

The Desire Zone is where maximum productivity happens—these are tasks that we are both competent at and enjoy doing. 

The Distraction Zone is where work we are passionate about, but not very great at doing, falls under. It is hard to let go of some of these tasks because we enjoy doing them, but it is ultimately more efficient to have someone more competent at the task do it for us.

The Disinterest Zone, on the other hand, is where things that we are good at but don’t particularly enjoy doing fall in. The lack of passion causes us to be easily distracted when we do things in this zone. We might be good at it, but it just feels either boring or a hassle to do.

The Drudgery Zone is the category that holds tasks that we are neither good at nor do we particularly find joy in doing. It is a hard grind, and it is more efficient to delegate these tasks, especially when we are pressed for time to get results.

The last zone is the Development Zone. It is where you move tasks or skills that you want to move to your Desire Zone (things you are good at and enjoy doing).

The gist of the Freedom Compass is to identify what tasks fall under these categories and to identify which tasks would be more effective to delegate and which ones you should move to the Development Zone and work on leveling up your proficiency.

Hyatt simplifies it for us: The goal is to achieve that freedom to focus and get things done. We are most productive when we do things that we love and are good at. We are able to focus more on those tasks, and we are able to achieve more by doing less if we put the most important tasks in our Desire Zone. That means improving your proficiency in those tasks that matter. 

How does it help us be more productive?

The first thing is to set a goal: what does freedom to focus look like? What does the ideal life you envision look like? What are the things that are important to you right now? In other words: What is your "why?"

Once you have identified your purpose, it is time to reflect on where you are right now and what you should be doing next. What are the valuable “tasks” you need to do, and which ones are just keeping you busy but are not really serving you or your purpose?

Remember that time is a limited resource. When it comes to productivity, time is a zero-sum game. Your “Yes” should be expensive, because for every opportunity you say “Yes” to, you say "no" to another opportunity. Ask yourself, “What should I give up so I can say ‘Yes’ to this opportunity?” In life, you need to cut away the things that are wasting your time so that you can make space for those things that really matter.

Automation is also an effective way to be more time- and energy-efficient. I am talking about leveraging technology effectively, but also building habits and routines that help you get things done without spending too much mental energy thinking about them.

Another way to be more efficient and productive is by delegating tasks effectively. Things in your Drudgery and Disinterest Zones can be delegated, often without second thoughts—these are, after all, things that you don’t enjoy doing. 

However, a lot of us find it hard to let go of tasks that fall under our Distraction Zone. Since we are passionate about these things, even if we are not particularly good at them, we tend to be bullheaded about delegating these tasks. But from a business perspective, it is more profitable in the long run to just entrust these tasks to people who are more capable and effective in doing them.

Time-blocking or “MegaBatching” tasks and projects of similar nature can also help us streamline our energy and focus. When we know that we are supposed to do similar, specific tasks during this time period, we can minimize the distraction of task switching.

Knowing how to prioritize ahead of time which tasks should be done now and which ones can be done later also saves us time and mental energy in deciding what to do.

Lastly, take charge of your day. Engage your to-do list and focus on doing and getting things done. Set boundaries and limitations so you can better focus on the tasks at hand. This includes setting aside time to rest and rejuvenate ourselves. You need sleep, play, and restoration to have enough energy to devote to all the things that need your attention.

The Development Zone

A common misconception people have is that the skills that fall into the different zones of the Freedom Compass are something permanent. It is not. Our passions and proficiencies change. Most of the time, we are stuck feeling like we don’t want to do a certain task because we are not competent at it yet.

Sometimes the easiest way to become passionate about a task is by becoming more proficient in it.

That is the importance of the Development Zone. It sits in the middle of the four quadrants occupied by the Desire, Distraction, Disinterest, and Drudgery Zones. The goal is to move skills and tasks from the latter three into the Desire Zone. We do that by continuously working on our skill sets and learning new things.

Growth is something progressive, and learning is a lifelong process. We are never too late to learn something new or master an old skill that we are able to do.

In fact, as leaders, we must lead by example by constantly sharpening our leadership tools and focusing on improving our skill set. That is how we inspire the people we lead to continue growing and moving toward greater heights.

We can’t sustain or scale our success without continuous development. And that hunger for learning and curiosity for new knowledge has to start with us.

Thank you for reading A Brilliant Tribe.