I don’t know about you, but as we move further away from summer and a sort of lax attitude about what happens when, the more planning/scheduling/driving around and remembering my obligations there seems to be. It is so easy to have the things that are important to me personally and professionally get short shrift as the pace picks up and the requests start rolling in. There are many good ways to protect our own personal projects and goals; many of these methods involve working on our thoughts about what we hope to do. Even if we’re clear about our goal and have eliminated our obstacles, however, there is one more BIG step to making that goal a reality: getting down to the nitty gritty and planning to achieve that goal.
I have to admit that planning the nitty gritty of my goals has never been a strong suit of mine. I have, in the past, bought and failed to use planners. I have written on and subsequently ignored calendars. I have let projects and goals go to the wayside because I was too busy with “everything else” that I was using my increasingly full memory to schedule. I have relied on intelligence and charm to carry me through. I have given up on major life goals and projects by passively letting them slip away. No More. My current goals are too big and too important, and having done the internal work I needed to do to give them adequate priority, I realized I needed to learn how to make these things happen. What do I do to reach a goal? To finish a project?
Well, I’ll tell you. And let me just start by saying I don’t have a planner to sell you. No calendars. No special journal. You will need some paper (or a computer if that’s how you’re most comfortable writing) and eventually you will want something to schedule your time in. I don’t care what you use to make note of your obligations to yourself, but I do STRONGLY suggest that you actually mark them down somewhere. My recent education in planning to achieve a goal comes from the fabulous Brooke Castillo thanks to her Life Coach School Podcast. I’ve added a little to her steps to include my own experience and thought process. These steps are not necessarily EASY, but they aren’t that hard either, and they’re far easier than just kind of winging it and hoping it works out.
- Write Down Your Goal – And don’t downsize it/ downplay it/ minimize it or do any other thing you might be tempted to do to make it seem like a smaller deal than it is. If you have competing goals, write them all down. After you finish, spend a quiet moment with each goal and see how it makes you feel, in your belly, in your chest. Which one is the one for NOW. Choose it. You are allowed. Set a timeframe. Not sure how long to give yourself? Try 90 days on and see if that makes any sense at all.
- Write Down Every Action – Be still for a few minutes. Breathe deeply. Quiet your mind in any way that works for you. Listen to your breath. Imagine each thought is a leaf floating down a river. Find some peace. When you feel quiet, ask what you need to do to achieve your goal. Sit in that quiet space for a few more minutes. Don’t ask again. Don’t worry if there’s no answer. Don’t worry if there are many answers. Just breathe. When you are ready, take out a piece of paper and write down every possible action that will help to guarantee that you achieve your goal. Brooke Castillo recommends that you overshoot on your effort here. If you want to find a romantic partner, set a goal of 200 dates. If you want to find a job, go on 200 interviews. I think you get the gist. If you want to ensure that something happens, you should plan on significant, persistent, and targeted massive action.
- Analyze Your Action List – See if there are multiple actions on your list that are really describing the same task or purpose. Also look to see if one action actually covers three or four you have written down. Cross of anything that is redundant or will be taken care of by itself once you take some other action on the list.
- Sort Your List – If your action list is particularly long, sort it into categories of related activities. For example if several actions involve errands or purchases, put those together. If there are several actions that involve e-mailing folks, put those together. Try to note tasks that need to happen before other tasks so you can be sure to schedule those first.
- Schedule That Stuff – Sit down with whatever calendar/scheduling device you are using and put that stuff on the calendar. Schedule at least two weeks of actions. It is best to continue to schedule your activities right up until the deadline for your goal, but at the very least, schedule two weeks worth right up front. Sometimes the nature of the tasks becomes more clear once we start to take action. If you only schedule two weeks of action, be absolutely sure to schedule an appointment with yourself to schedule more actions at the end of that period.
- Honor Yourself – More on this below. Short version: do the tasks you’ve scheduled.
- Re-evaluate Schedule – It is important to include several indirectly related items in your schedule of actions and tasks. Among these I would include the following: realistic amounts of time for travel, eating, chores like laundry (or whatever), exercise, social events with people you love, fun time, time spent at other obligations (like work if your goal is not part of your job) and time to actually re-work your schedule. My biggest failing using this system so far is that I got SO excited about my goals that I scheduled up every minute of every day with actions designed to get me there and then I got really tired. It’s important, even when we’re working towards something we really want and enjoy, to remember to include downtime and to go to the bathroom. 😉
So there it is. Sounds simple, right? Right! Sure! I’m all over it you say. But hey, what about that honoring yourself business?
Yeah. This is the real key. This is what will make that goal reachable or extend it into the future so far that you can’t see it anymore. Once you go through all this, once you’ve thought of everything you can do to make your goal inevitable, you have to actually honor your own goals and desires enough to take action. You need to love yourself enough to follow your own directions EVEN when you don’t feel like it. Do I mean you should have meetings when you have the flu? No, but I do mean that on those days that you’re not really feeling the love for that schedule, you just do it anyway because you know that you made a great list of actions that will lead you to your heart’s desire, or at least to a completed project. Honor that desire. Honor the instructions of your heart. Honor yourself. Get ‘er done.
If you really love the sound of taking on this process but aren’t sure what your goal is OR you know what your goal is and you’re sure you could never do it OR you have 300 goals and you can’t possibly choose between them, drop me a line (firstname.lastname@example.org). I’d love to have a coaching conversation with you and help you sort that out.