March 14, 2013

Design Your Life (and Business)

Agustin Soler

Head of Product at MURAL. A lifelong learner, passionate about strategy, productivity and simplicity.

I don’t believe in New Year’s resolutions.

But it is the perfect time to reflect on your life and your career or business.

A few days before Christmas, I headed to Quebec city to spend quality time with my family and to rest.

Good ideas and perspective usually comes during breaks, vacation, or while doing other activities. I reflected back on 2012, but I needed a way to flush out my conclusions and ideas for 2013.


Visual thinking is a great way to think, brainstorm, and plan your year.

I started by laying out a few main categories in MURAL, which I had discovered a couple of weeks before that. My initial “big rocks” were Fluent Brain (my business), piano, and health / fitness.

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After doing this initial version, many more ideas and details came to my mind. I needed a place to jot them down. So during the next week, I expanded on my business, and added a lot more to it, as well as actions . The gray text underneath a picture is details for that idea.

I added arrows to indicate that some elements are linked together, such as the “New habit” item, with the list of habits that I want to install.

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At this point, having so many ideas with no structure was confusing to look at. I decided to group some elements and change the layout a bit. I realized that many things were related, such as what you can see below in the black square. In that square I put everything relating to the content and information products that I wish to develop.

It reduced the complexity, improved clarity and gave more structure to the mural.

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The business section still felt like it was just a disconnected list of ideas. It was somewhat chaotic, which reflected my lack of clarity. That made me realize that I needed to specify how everything is connected.

So I added flow, which is represented by red arrows. I also moved things around and kept adding ideas and details, for example about CEO Space.

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I kept having more and more ideas about my business, so I decided to dedicate an entire mural to it. I needed to focus my thoughts on one topic per mural. That way, when I would open my business mural, all I would see is business ideas – nothing on the personal side.

I put my business logo in the middle, and positioned ideas around it, so as to keep my focus.

Once my business mural was somewhat complete, I moved on to my personal life. I clustered images for each main category, and linked them together with lines. The lines express connections between ideas.

For example, in order to weigh 190 pounds with 7-9% of body fat, I need to keep paying attention to my diet. Hence, these two elements are linked together.

Below, I illustrate how I divided my mural in two – one for my business, and one for my personal life.

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Visualize your Goals Regularly

The final two murals that you see here were the result of about 3 weeks of iterations. 80% of each mural was created in a few longer sessions of thirty to sixty minutes. Subsequently, whenever I had another idea, I opened MURAL and added it quickly (that took only a few seconds or a few minutes to do).

A plan never resists its application. You need to go back to it regularly and revise it with your new experience, increased knowledge and improved perspective.

MURAL is extremely flexible, easy to use and fluiding, making it simple and fast to iterate your murals.

Here are some of my favorite features:

  • Drag n’ drop: Quickly insert virtually any media in your mural – images, videos, web pages,…
  • Image search within MURAL: You don’t need to open another browser tab or window and do a Google search there. You can do it within MURAL.
  • Easy rotating: You can rotate any element that you include in your mural. That makes your work more enjoyable and fun to look at and work on.

I personally set aside time to think about my business:

  • 5 hours every Sunday
  • A full Sunday every month
  • 4 days at the end of every 3 months
  • 2 weeks at the end of the year

On the personal side, I take a full day off on Saturday to relax, rejuvenate, go to the gym, read and have fun. I realized during the holidays how important that day off is for me to stay focused and productive during the week.

You can take advantage of your time off (completely off, don’t stay in the “gray zone” between work and rest) to think about your life.

MURAL is a fun and effective tool to clarify your vision and plan your year. If you haven’t done your yearly planning yet, go ahead and do it now with MURAL


- Matt Tanguay
Chief Visual Facilitator @ Fluentbrain.com