I love a good plan. Few things excite me as much as the thrill of setting a goal, then laying out the steps to achieve it. I have a stack of paper planners, spreadsheets, and calendar and phone reminders at the ready, all for different categories. Plans make me feel good… like I’ve accomplished something just by planning to accomplish something. I suppose it’s the same logic as making a list to feel less overwhelmed. But setting a goal, and planning how to achieve it, are only the first steps. Once you make that list, do the work to cross the items off… otherwise, what’s the point?
I’m admittedly bad at follow-through, in some areas more than others. For example, if I have a plan for the kids’ schoolwork or a publishing schedule, I rock it. But ask me to set up a housecleaning or workout plan and… well… I’ll make the plan. I’ll even put it in my calendar. When that alarm sounds, however, I’ve already talked myself out of it.
So my goal for that past few years has been to figure out how to do, not just plan. I read two outstanding books that helped. The first is The Holy Sh!t Moment by James Fell. It’s a funny, useful, and insightful book about how minor changes can lead to major epiphanies. And how to use those epiphanies to follow a plan. The second is Finish by Jon Acuff. This book blew my mind with no-nonsense tips for putting plans into action. Take some time this year and read them – you won’t regret it.
In the meantime, here are my top three tips for meeting goals (or resolutions, if you will) and setting plans.
It Starts With the Goal
There’s a really great acronym used a lot in the ‘health and fitness’ world for setting a weight-loss or health goal. It actually first came to use in the business world, way back in the early eighties (side bar – that was only twenty years ago, despite 2020 feeling like a decade). You’ve probably heard it. You will not meet unachievable goals, no matter how hard you try. So, let your goals be SMART:
- Specific (is not made up of vague words or ideas)
- Measurable (can be quantified)
- Achievable (can fit into your current schedule or life situation)
- Realistic (is something you truly want)
- Time Bound (has a set date or end period)
Here’s an example of a goal: I want a more organized home
Here’s an example of a SMART goal: I will declutter and organize three bedroom closets before school lets out on May 26th by scheduling four hours, consecutive or non-consecutive, of dedicated declutter time every two weeks.
No matter how many times I claim I’m going to start waking up early, it’s just not in my DNA. I’ve followed “become a morning person” plans until I my eyes turned to sand. I’m not going to sleep earlier and I’m not going to wake up before the sun. So making a plan that involves me crawling out of my comfy bed at 4:30 and following a six-step process to improve my day is just not going to work. No matter how cool the plan is.
Know yourself, your own limitations, and your strengths. If you have asthma, don’t make a plan to run in the park every day. Your plan should work for you… not against you. Bonus tip: when you pair an action with an already developed habit, you are more likely to do it. For example, if you want to ensure you take your vitamins daily, put them by your toothbrush.
Discover What Motivates You… and What Doesn’t
I think vision boards are straight up cool. The idea of gathering images and quotes and keeping them visible to remind yourself what you are working toward is a sound one. Having a support group, or a friend you can rely on, is another great tip.
For some people.
You know what doesn’t work for me? Yet another Facebook group where I have to check-in each day and discuss my progress and pitfalls. Hanging post-it notes everywhere I turn reminding me of my “why.” Before and after pictures.
If they work for you, that’s awesome! Use them! But if they don’t, it’s ok to let that idea go and settle on something that will keep you motivated to stick to your plan and meet whatever goal you’ve set. Especially when it’s time to put that plan into action and you are tired, busy, stressed, or distracted.
I’ve learned through trial and error what works when I make a plan. I’ve also learned that, while making a plan is an important part of the process, it’s not the part that matters most. The part that matters most is the doing. As you head into 2021, even with all the great unknowns around us, it’s important to continue to set realistic goals and make reasonable plans to achieve them. It’s in our nature to look to the future, even when it’s filled with question marks. I hope that, no matter what your goals are, you develop the perfect plan. And I hope that you achieve your goals. Now… get to doing!