Setting Goals is something that most of us at least WANT to do, but don’t really follow through on.
Either we set to it with great gusto which results in a full and meaningful list of goals… that then just sits there. Judging me. I mean us. It’s not just me right?
Or, we don’t even know where to start.
For example, “My Goal is to have a better relationship with my family”. That’s great and all, but what does it actually mean?
How do you measure it? What does it look like when it’s achieved? How does it improve your life?
Ok, there’s a LOT on S.M.A.R.T. Goals elseweb. If you’re not familiar, google that shit. You’ll be there all day, if you want.
But very briefly, here’s what the letters stand for:
Basically, setting goals like the above – a better relationship with family – becomes something like:
I will make a phone call to a family member once per week (for at least a half hour chat), and send a daily WhatsApp message to the family group (updating on my life and enquiring about theirs), so that by the Holiday Season our relationships will have improved enough to ensure no arguments or unnecessary tensions.
Like, it might not work out perfectly in that particular scenario. Families are weird.
But it’s good to have goals, and be doing what you can to make things better.
Visualising your goals is important too though. When we mentally ‘walk through’ a scenario before it happens, we are far more likely to a) do it, and b) do it well.
One way to do this is to think of the goals you’ve set as memories, but of the future not the past.
So, if you’re setting goals that are SMART, you can also take the time each day to build them into a memory of the future.
If I ask you what you did yesterday, and you tell me – I sent a WhatsApp message to my family group, that’s grand. I mean, we might not be that good of friends, that you’d share the details. B
But if we are close friends, and you’re telling me about what happened, you’re likely to be adding detail; what you said, who responded, how you felt before, during and after sending the message, and maybe even what reminded you to send it in the first place, or what you did directly afterwards.
See what I mean? I’m much more likely to remember, be invested in, and believe the second scenario, with all the details. Right?
The same goes for your brain, when visualising your goals.
So set up a page in your Bullet Journal for ‘Setting Goals’, and get started for this month, or this quarter.
Be SMART about setting goals, and build those future memories by touching base with them every day.
“I would not have a god come in
To shield me suddenly from sin,
And set my house of life to rights;
Nor angels with bright burning wings
Ordering my earthly thoughts and things;
Rather my own frail guttering lights
Wind blown and nearly beaten out;
Rather the terror of the nights
And long, sick groping after doubt;
Rather be lost than let my soul
Slip vaguely from my own control —
Of my own spirit let me be
In sole though feeble mastery.”
― Sara Teasdale
I like that poem. It highlights, for me, my own struggle to gain mastery of my life.
That starts – always – with me coming back to centre, and continuing my work to gain mastery of my self.
The definition we’re going for is more ‘comprehensive knowledge or skill in a particular subject or activity’, than ‘control or superiority over someone or something’. Although both can fit, depending on what mastery is needed in your life.
For example, I would like to gain mastery in the area of my professional expertise – Irish heritage – that is a ‘comprehensive knowledge or skill’. I already have authority, both professional and personal experience, and a certain amount of expertise. But I’m not yet at ‘mastery’, to my mind.
Now, this does beg the question of when is enough, enough?
Some folk will tell you that to gain mastery, you need to practice a thing for 10,000 hours and you’ve got it down, but that’s debatable. You can read some of that debate here.
For the second definition, I personally apply that to myself only. I mean, I’ve no interest in control or superiority over someone else. That’s a LOT of hard work right there, even besides the obvious ethical considerations.
And it usually pertains to controlling my ‘negative’ aspects; post-trauma and mental health problems, and all the associated issues that come with that.
So mastery can mean ‘becoming a master’ at something, or ‘mastering’ your personal issues in a positive way. For either of these, doing a little every single day is the right way to get started.
For the first challenge, to become a master in a particular field, requires practice. That seems obvious, but it’s a little more complicated than that.
Practice for mastery requires not just Naive Practice (repeating what you already over and over), or Purposeful Practice (with well defined goals, focus, and regularly pushing past your comfort zone).
To truly gain mastery, you’ll need Deliberate Practice; which is purposeful practice, but with the element of coaching or teaching added to it, through a clear training program with a professional in the established field.
And the second challenge is truly an ongoing thing (for me at least), and a constant process of improving little by little, going off track a bit, and just continually bringing myself back to the process again.
For this, I keep coming back to my daily routines – particularly the Morning Routine.
I can’t emphasise strongly enough how vital a routine is for me, in my quest for mastery of my personal issues in a positive way.
What works for you?
We could all use a few time management tips. Like, I know I could use some time management tips. So here’s 7 of the feckers.
Definition of ‘get organized’: to arrange one’s things or one’s affairs so they can be dealt with effectively. eg. He never knows what he has scheduled or where anything is. He needs to get organized. (Merriam Webster)
Start with your Productivity Baseline… so you can see where you’ve improved. Then get going on more effective time management, with the following 7 steps.
Write it all down. In whatever system you use, take a note of EVERYTHING that you need to spend time on.
You can create this task list for the day ahead, for the week, or for the month. A year is pushing it a bit far – too many variables.
Whatever time frame you choose though, take a few minutes at the start of it (or the night before) and load all your tasks into a brain dump page.
Now, decide your categories. What are the groupings that make sense for you. For example: Family Stuff, Work Stuff, Personal Stuff. Or to sub-divide a work list, for me the tasks fall into the categories of Courses, Clients, or Content Marketing.
There might be some cross over between categories, so in my bullet journal I allocate a colour per category and just mark them out. (see pic)
You have to complete most important task first. Especially if it’s something that’s part of a bigger project or goal that’s important, but not urgent. We all have a tendency to push those out, and the guilt/shame/fear/overwhelm of having that looming can really eat away at ya.
Doing the Hardest/Most Important thing first is the golden rule of time management.
For each day, identify the two or three tasks that are the most crucial to get to, and do them first. My advice would be to go for:
If you get those done each day, you’re already winning like, no matter how much the rest of the day might get away from you, as it often does.
And for the rest of the tasks, just list them by number, in order of importance.
Now you have your priorities straight, you have to make time for them to get done. How does your daily schedule look?
If you don’t have one, that’s ok. You can do it day by day, or set one for the week, and adjst as you go.
On a page (in your Bullet Journal, ideally, and if you don’t have one – get started here) – write out a list of all the hours in the day. I prefer vertical, it gives more space, but whatever suits you is grand.
Block out anything essential, like sleep 😉, commuting or the school run, meetings/appointments, eating, that sort of thing. Stuff that has to be done and can’t move around, time wise.
Mark in some down time, ideally not on the phone or computer – it’s important to do this first, especially if your task list is busy or overwhelming… because you NEED the relaxation time to make sure you’re being effective with the rest of your time.
Then block out your time that’s left (1 or 2 hour time blocks work well for most things), and slot your tasks in.
If they don’t all fit – well, you only have that many hours in your day, and you’re doing the work that HAS to get done at least. It’s an important lesson to enable you to see what you need to let go, or delegate.
What is it that distracts you? If you don’t know off hand, it might be that it’s a habit you’re unconsciously losing time to every single day. Even if it’s only a small thing. All those minutes, fifteen minutes, half hours really add up over the course of a week or a minute.
When you have work to do, you need to focus, and that means identifying and eliminating your distractions.
So, turn off the phone, or put it out of the room. Disconnect the doorbell. Hang a do not disturb sign. Put on noise cancelling headphones and some strong beats or classical music with no lyrics.
Get to work and stay working.
Pick your first priority and get to it. Set a timer, and resolve to work on that one thing for that amount of time, without distraction or switching focus.
How long is on that timer depends entirely on any number of factors such as how much you are dreading doing it, the type of task, your experience with deep work, and many others. For example, I find that getting started is the hardest part of any work, and I know I’m not alone in that.
If I really don’t want to do something, I will set a timer for say, 5 or 10 minutes, and agree with myself that I’ll do it for that long, and then see how I feel. Mostly, I’m ok by then and just keep going. Occasionally, it’s just not the day to be doing that thing, and I know I have at least tried. I move on, and try again the next day with the same technique.
For longer or bigger projects that require concentration, like study or writing or design, it can help to set a 25 minute timer, take a 5 min stretch/water break, do another 25 min, and so on for the course of 2 hours, then take a longer break. This is called the pomodoro technique.
Or, if you don’t want the distraction, just set yourself a timer for 60 or 90 minute blocks (you’ll really need to stretch and give yourself a mental break after 90 minutes, please).
No really. This is maybe the most important step here.
Some people think sacrificing sleep is a smart way to get a couple of extra hours into your day. This is not smart. This is the exact opposite of smart.
You most likely need 7-8 hours of sleep for your body and mind to work effectively. Overnight, bits and pieces of information are transferred from your tentative, short-term memory to stronger, long-term memory. This is a process called consolidation, and the research is clear.
After people sleep, they retain information and perform better on memory tasks, ie, you can work more effectively.
So, rest more to do more.
Increasing your productivity is a priority for most of us, in whatever area of our lives we want to focus on.
What’s your baseline though?
Do you know where you’re at – realistically – with your productivity right now? Well, that is your first step.
There’s a couple of ways your can go about this. The easiest, for creative or work based productivity tracking, it to get a programme on your computer that does it for you.
I use Rescue Time personally, which promises to help you “find your ideal work‑life balance”. They’re right in saying though, that with so many distractions and possibilities in your digital life, it’s easy to get scattered.
So they will help you “understand your daily habits so you can focus and be more productive”. I’m there for that.
The Rescue Time programme is free (there are paid options I believe, but I don’t bother with those personally), and just sits on your computer, judging you.
Nah, just kidding. There’s no judgement here. It’s a really useful, and sometimes very stark look at your productivity, or lack thereof, each day though.
It’s been invaluable for giving a long hard look at myself, and figuring out what I’m wasting time on, how much time I’m spending on ‘busy work’ that’s not actually moving me towards where I want or need to be going, and exactly where I can improve.
Like I said, it’s essential to know your productivity baseline right now, and take an honest look at that, before you can begin to improve it.
“What gets measured, gets managed.” – Peter Drucker
If your productive work is off the computer, don’t worry, you can still get the baseline down. You have a phone right? Or some sort of digital device with a clock function on it?
Right so, this sounds way too simple. But it works.
When you get up in the morning, you just refresh the timer on your phone (or whatever), and start a new day. Then you just press start when you begin to do something productive – however you’re counting that – and pause when you’re doing things that are not productive.
At the end of the day, you check your productive time, and write it down or otherwise record it somewhere safe. Then you do it again the next day.
For this to work properly, you’ll need to:
And watch as your productivity grows, just by the actions of monitoring and managing it. Of course there’s lots more you can do to improve it, but establishing your productivity baseline is the first step.
So, start today. Tomorrow at the LATEST.
Be honest, be fair, and go easy on yourself for dogs sake. Drop any ‘perfect productivity’ expectations right now. Nobody is perfectly productive every single day.
This is an observation exercise, not a stick to beat your damn self if you don’t seem your day has been productive enough.
(Do you hear that, Lora’s Brain? That’s sound advice. We should take that advice. Right so.)
When I started this business, I knew I had a lot to learn.
Every time I got into a business planning book or other resource though, I kept hitting a snag – I didn’t have a baseline. Like, I didn’t have any idea of how I was doing, or what my current numbers were, so that I could try and improve them.
Some of this was just new business blips: I hadn’t been doing things long enough to have any data. But as time marched on, as it inevitably does, I began to realise that I have personal gaps too with regard to this stuff.
I had ‘set up an accounting system’ on my list for – I kid you not – over a full year before I even began to do anything about it. And even then, I was only tracking income and expenditure by hand in my bullet journal, for nearly another year. That is data, sure. But it’s not really useable data in the long term. It still has to be entered into an accounting programme so that I would have a set of actual accounts by the end of each year.
So ‘set up a digital accounting system’ went on my list, and to be honest, that’s where I am now. I went with Quickbooks Online, becuase it seemed the simplest, and I’m just starting the data entry and set up on all of that now.
But it’s HAAAARRRRDDDDDD.
I don’t really know what I’m doing. And though I have a separate business bank account, I don’t have a different business credit card. And we run a home office. So, personal and business accounts are intertwined to the point where I’m just setting up one big accounting system, and I’ll have to seperate things out from there. I figure having the big picture in a useable format is at least a better place than the one we’re in right now.
So, that’s happening, at last. No doubt I’ll share my fears and frustrations over that as we go too. And maybe it’ll keep me accountable (bad pun, soz not soz) because even just admitting to how long of a mess I’ve let this get into is embarrassing. Guess I should keep working on that from here, right?
Otherwise, I like to track things in my bullet journal at the end of month so that I can refer to, and see the context for, what’s happening in the rest of the month. And next month. We’ve talked about trackers and how bad I am at keeping up with them before, so to get this in order for myself I had to set it up as a new habit, which means a clear Cue –> Habit –> Reward structure.
Another factor in the success and continuity of any new habit (or replacing an old habit with a new one, within the same cue to reward structure), is community. Now, this can be a community of 2, or of 1000, that doesn’t seem to matter.
I chose a community of 2 for this particular habit, and incorporated that into the reward. So, on the last calendar day of every month [cue], myself and my partner (in business and in life) Jon go on a mini planning [habit] ‘date’, to a cafe or restaurant [reward].
We bring our journals and some pens, and our phones to look stuff up, we order what we want, and then proceed to track last month and set ourselves up for next month.
We each look at and compare to the previous month:
Then we look back at our annual, or 6 month, or quarterly goals (we’re each at different stages in our businesses, so this looks a little different for each of us), and we figure out what our one or two primary goals should be for the coming month.
Mine, this month, are to finish the new book I’m working on for Llewellyn Publishers – that deadline is the first of next month, so this is the last leg of the manuscript journey right here – and to get my sales funnel set up for a course I’m publicly launching in 2 months time.
To get that course launch sorted, there’s a few back steps that have to be in place, so I’ll need to take care of those this month, then be ready to get going with a content marketing plan on the course topic at the end of this month. That will run throughout the second month, to prepare for opening the course programme for signups for a short window at the end of that month. If all that makes sense?!
So, this coming month I’ll be working on getting the structures in place and running right on my main author/educator page (this is my primary wordpress website, and needs to change hosting and themes, to support the plans I have for organising my content, marketing and education delivery in a clearer and more user friendly way). Then I’ll need to set up specific mailing list and landing page structure within that primary system, just for this programme. I’ll only run this particular course programme once per year on a timed basis, so I’ll need to make sure there’s a lead capture system in place for folks who don’t make it in through this window, so I can offer it to them next year.
During the end-of-month planning date today, I sketched out some rough ideas and plans for how I’m going to achieve my goals, and drafted an affirmation I can use during my morning routine, which focuses me for not just what I want to achieve – but how I’m going to do that. For example, with regard to the book project, I’ll have to write 1000 words a day, 5 days per week (at least) to finish the final 20,000 words this month. I will do this first thing when I sit at my desk each day, so that I’m fresh and don’t run out of willpower, to make sure it gets done every single day I need to make that happen. I also track this on a chart in my bullet journal, giving myself occasional little reward stickers as my daily word count climbs higher up the graph, or on days when I really didn’t want to write and I did it anyway.
What? I like stickers.
How can you incorporate some of these ideas into your monthly planning or tracking? Which ones are relevant to wherever you are in your business or life situation? Just like me and Jon – this is going to look different for different people, depending on where you’re at.
If you do nothing else, think about the habit formula.
Cue → Habit → Reward, and a community to share it with. If you don’t have anybody near you that shares a goal you both with to turn into a habit, then pop over to our New Facebook Group and introduce yourself there. I’m hoping that will turn into a supportive, useful community for folk to join in with.
All the best,
We’ve talked a lot about routine, and I know that my morning routine I’ve been sharing can seem like… a lot.
Like, it is a lot. It takes me 2 hours to go through everything at a comfortable pace. I hope that I’ve conveyed the benefits of putting that effort in, because for me it’s not only necessary to include those things in my day, and my system, in order for me to ‘survive and thrive’ – it’s also all stuff I want to do, that makes me happy and comfortable and fulfilled.
But, you don’t have to start there.
In fact, if you don’t currently have a morning routine, it would be a bit of a stretch to expect yourself to DO ALL THE THINGS, every day, and keep it up until it all becomes habit.
Remember, this system has developed for me over time, like my bullet journal and all the other stuff. I’ve figured it out as I went along, and there have been many, many abject failures, and other times when I’ve just gone way off track before bringing it back for myself.
With any routine, you have to start small.
It’s where you make one tiny change and stick with it for a while, and then that becomes a trigger for another change, so that you end up creating a positive chain.
So pick one thing.
Is it getting up as soon as the alarm goes off each morning? Set it the night before and leave it on the other side of the room (plug your charger in over there, is what I do). Make sure you go to bed at a reasonable time to get enough sleep, but even if you have a bad night, understand you’re getting up as soon as the alarm goes off. Regardless. It’s too fucking easy to make excuses. When you hear it ring, just countdown 5-4-3-2-1 and move. That one is a Mel Robbins trick that is really useful in many situations, by the way. You can find more on that in her book The 5 Second Rule (on Amazon US here, or on Amazon UK here). Get out of bed, stay out of bed, then go and pee, brush your teeth, drink water. Whatever is the logical next step for you to get moving and stay moving.
You can use the micro habit thing for starting any habit, but if you (eventually) want to make a series of big changes, try and list them all out, then pick the logical first one. Where do you need to start? Start there.
You’ll need to find a trigger event or condition, a cue that is the same every day. You can begin something that will be on every other day, by the way, rather than 7 days per week, but honestly my best success has been with just biting the bullet and doing the thing 7 days a week. Once it’s formed, you can take an occasional down day or day off if circumstances run differently, but it’ll take the daily repetition to form a habit. If the habit you want to form is to get up at a certain time on workdays, you’re just gonna have to get used to the fact that that’s your new wake up time every day. Soz, not soz. It’s for the best.
So choose the right cue to remind you of your goal, and kick off the new behaviour. I find something that is sort of unavoidable to happen at the same time every day to be the best one. Coming home from work, if that’s a regular time for you. Letting the dog out last thing at night. Your first morning pee. And if you don’t wake up needing to pee each morning, please increase your water intake, you are dehydrated. You’re welcome. Anyway, you get the idea.
Whatever the habit you eventually want to form is, please start small. You’re making a tiny change here, eg, take a 5 minute walk around the block. One of the biggest mistakes we make is thinking we have to go from zero to hero in one fell swoop. You really don’t. Yes, you may truly want or even need to be walking 30 minutes a day every day. That’s a great goal to build up to. But if you’re starting from no walking, and can do those 5 minutes a day every day, that’s still over 30 minutes that week that you didn’t walk last week. You’re winning, keep going.
Do 5 minutes a day every day for the following week, and you’re 14 days into a habit. That’s serious progress. At that point, you could just keep going that way and really bed in your walking habit for the following 2 weeks, giving you a well established month’s worth of daily habit. That’s a huge success! Or, if you’re getting a little frustrated with only walking the 5 minutes, you could at that point (but not before!) raise the bar – only a little – and make it 10 minutes a day, every day. You see how this all works out, I’m sure. Eventually you will build up to the goal you want, without the side-effects of feeling overwhelmed or exerting any more willpower. It makes sense right?
The most important bit though, to include from the very start of your micro habit, is a little reward once you’ve done the thing each day. Something small that you enjoy, that won’t end up being real bad for you as you indulge in it every single day! A soothing cup of tea or coffee, a fancy piece of fruit, your first facebook check-in of the day, a piece of music you love, or curling up to read or watch something you love. Whatever floats your boat.
There’s a bit more to this whole habit forming (or breaking) thing, which we’ll definitely go deeper into as we move through the days. But for now, what 1 thing are you going to change from today, or tomorrow morning? What positive habit would you like to form, starting now?
Give us a shout in the comments below and tell us!
All the best
I don’t know exactly where to start with this, so I guess I’ll start here. Welcome!
It’s around my mid year review, in 2018, and I’m looking back over my quarterly goals, some of which I’ve ticked off and some I didn’t even begin. Hey ho, that’s how it goes.
Looking back a little further to my annual goals, I think I’m doing ok with those too, and at least there’s a little more wiggle room. I still have half a year yet, right?
As we move forward here, I’ll share more specifics of stuff like that, but for now I just want to set the scene.
I am a non-binary but mostly female presenting, grey asexual panromantic who usually identifies as Bi (coz bi erasure is a thing), 40 year old white Irish mother of 3 teenagers in a wonderful and fulfilling life partnership with a straight cis storyteller guy. I’m a journalist, author, heritage professional, tour guide, educator and self-sustaining entrepreneur, legally sanctioned life rites celebrant, Pagan Reverend and Priest of a demanding Irish deity, informally diagnosed with C-PTSD and underlying general anxiety disorder.
Wow. Even writing it all out like that, it’s a lot. And I’m looking at it right now wondering what I’ve forgotten off it and who I’ll offend by leaving out references to things that relate to them.
Shush Brain. We’re good, I got instant edit capabilities, like, right here.
I have, let’s just say, a lot of balls in the air.
Some of it is because I’m currently the primary earner in the family, while my partner gets his feet under him in his new business. Some of it is because I’m really fucking creative, like, painfully so with all the ideas I have that spark off in my brain… usually around problem solving for other people or situations. That’s the other thing – I have this WORK I have to do in the world as part of my spiritual beliefs. In my way of seeing things, community leaders, priests, people in positions of power or influence in religious and/or social settings, we all have a responsibility to make the world a better place. So some of the stuff I have to get done is along those lines, and I guess that’s partly where this project is coming from too.
There’s also my mental health problems, difficulties, issues, whatever you want to call them. They go back a long way, and they run deep, and I’m in a constant process of trying to find balance between surviving in the day to day, taking care of myself adequately in order to basically function, and the desire to heal and grow, to untangle all my shit, figure it out, and get ‘better’.
Whatever that might look like.
On my Facebook and Instagram, I often post snippets of the system I use to get all of this straight and sorted in my head. I mean, I think of it as my survive and thrive system, but other folk seem to get a lot out of it too. It’s largely based around my version of a bullet journal, with a few other tools I use to supplement that, or expand on it.
I began wondering if I did a daily-ish blog describing my self care, bullet journal, trauma management/healing, business planning and execution, generally getting shit done ‘system’… would folk be interested in that? Would it be useful beyond my friends?
I asked my friends, and they seemed to think it was a good idea. I guess now I’m sort of asking you too. Time will tell!
To be honest, this isn’t an entirely altruistic idea either. I think it would help me too – keep it like a sort of journal to dump my daily brain stuff into. Plus I want to get back to daily article writing/blogging as it has a positive knock on effect for so much of the business and writing work I do. And, I actually get so excited about, and so full up of, and so obsessive around, and so much craving for understanding of, all my STUFF. Maybe this will serve as an outlet so I don’t have to keep waving my bujo (bullet journal) in the faces of my nearest and dearest. Bless their patience like.
This would have to make me a little income, at least cover costs and my time, but definitely won’t be a primary or even secondary income – I have a LOT of different income streams, which you’ll hear all about if you plan on following along – but because it’s me, I would have to make it worth my while, as I honestly can’t afford the time otherwise. So I’m going to be straight up front honest about that side of things too.
The next thing to settle was, what to call it?
I’m going to cover a lot of different topics, and I think there’s a bit of an overwhelm in the general planning communities when it comes to seeing the Insta-perfect lifestyles of the top influencers, and this will NOT be that. I’ve already used many sweary words, and frightened off most of the huge christian segment of the planning community, and probably done a million other things that knock me out of every niche in this self-development – business – planning – healing – personal growth market.
And we’re only on the first post. #oops #soznotsoz
I pulled out my bujo for a brain dump, because let’s be real here, it was half eleven of a work night and I needed to get all this outta my brain so I could try and get some sleep. And suddenly it was clear, and from there it flowed.
Do the Work.
This is my dose of reality, this is my healing journey, this is my entrepreneurial empire building, this is my personal ‘survive and try to thrive’ system.
Welcome – Fáilte!