Goals and Stuff

I feel like one of those crazy squirrels running through my backyard trying to escape the dogs. So many things are swirling around in my head it’s hard to focus on any one thing. I’m working on setting goals but there’s so much. I have a new plan for my personal life, thoughts about my professional life, dreams for my family, to-do lists for my home, and actively avoided requirements for my health and well-being. And each goal has so many parts it is exhausting.

The old me would have given up by now. I would have given it over to the squirrels and ultimately stayed put and maintained the status quo. It was easier that way.

But the old me is actually getting older now and I feel in my heart it’s time to make some of the changes that have been haunting me for years. Easy to say. I am still overwhelmed.

In an effort to find perspective and purpose, I turned to online shopping. And, as always, it worked. I found a nifty calendar/planner that is providing a road map to help me organize my thoughts and remind me how to go about goal-setting and goal achieving.

Start Big

First, I was reminded to be clear and ask,“What is my biggest goal? What is the one thing I would like to see for myself?” Then put a name or label on exactly what it is you want to do and write it down. And then, if you have several goals in mind, move on to the next one and do it again.

Most goal setting professionals will tell you to make your goals tangible, something you can track. And, yes, you do want to do that, but for this first step, just get something down. For example, one of my goals is to get healthier. That is super vague, but I know what I mean by it and when I get to the following steps, I’ll break it into manageable and trackable chunks.

I also want to finish getting the house ready to sell. Again, vague, but I have sticky notes all over the place of things to do and fix and work on. I’ll bring it all together in the next steps.

To-Do Lists

Ask yourself, “What do I need to do to get this goal completed?” And then write it all down.

For example, my health and wellness goal has several items:

  1. Exercise
  2. Eat healthier
  3. Deal with stress effectively
  4. Follow through on a doctor’s appointment that I am avoiding (colonoscopy – yep, I know)

For the house, I need to:

  1. Paint
  2. Replace flooring
  3. Repair and repaint trim
  4. Counters
  5. Cabinets

Just brainstorm this. Don’t put a whole lot of fretting into it. Get some ideas on paper. And know that they can (and probably will) change. This is not set in stone. This is how you get started. The first step is whatever it is and the second step is a direction to take, but it’s not like you can’t turn the car around and take a different road. All roads lead to success.

The Hard Part

Now you need to think about the actual physical steps to reach the goals. What are you going to do? How are you going to do it? How will you know when it is completed?

Regarding my fitness goals. I would say exercise is super important. I would write down that I will exercise at least 5 days a week.

My thinking is that I’ll leave myself two days to play with because this is a difficult goal for me and I want to build in some success. If I can do more than five, great. If not, no worries, I’m still hitting the goal. I’m also leaving flexibility in how I define exercise. It might be walking on the treadmill, yoga or even lifting weights and stretching. I know all of these things need to eventually make their way into my regular exercise routine, but for now, being flexible and building success are important to me. When we see success, we get excited, encouraged and motivated to keep going.

I’ll put on my calendar to re-evaluate this goal in three months. At that time I’ll consider if I want to increase the exercise quantity. Do I want to specify the exercises I’ll be doing? Or do I want to leave it as it is because it’s working and I’m happy with it? Any of those options are viable.

The important thing about this step is to take the time to revisit and evaluate. If it’s not working then it needs to change. If it is working, I need to celebrate. If it’s working but not quite the way I’d like, then I need to tweak it.

But either way, I’m not going to think about it until it pops up on the calendar in a few months and I’ve intentionally scheduled time to review this specific area.

Same with eating healthier. I do great for breakfast and lunch. I make healthy, nutrient dense  choices. Then for dinner, most nights, I really want nachos.

So a step in that goal might be, continue breakfast and lunch as it is. Plan a menu for dinner that is flexible giving myself several choices of meals each night (including a healthier version of nachos). Keep all choices healthy (or at least unlikely to kill me as quickly). Then I’ll allow two or three nights of not so healthy dining. Over time, this too will change. But for now I’m reasonably certain I can eat low calorie, plenty of vegetable, low fat food for five nights of the week. And I can save the lazy but yummy dinners for when I want comfort food and/or the weekend when we go out.

Get it on Paper

So there are some ideas and thoughts for myself. Even just writing this post is helping me clear my mind. Getting it on paper into some sort of plan, getting it organized, takes away the mental and emotional energy that is wasted on trying to remember everything.

I often tell Benton, when I write something that isn’t emotional or especially close to my heart, it is easy. It’s like being at work and sitting down to write an IEP or other teacher paperwork. I just do it. But when it’s emotional, it’s harder. I have to be “in that place.”

With goals, you don’t want to give yourself too much time to think about it or even give yourself the option not to do it. With these goals, if I wait until I’m “in that place,” I will never get there. I can talk myself out of just about anything in a surprisingly short amount of time. Like split second time. So if it’s written and I’m following a schedule and I don’t have to think about it too much, I’m much more likely to get it done and less likely to talk myself out of it.

Speaking of Paper…

The calendar is your friend. Yes, the calendar. However you ‘calendar’ is not my business. If you are full tech with the tablet/smartphone/laptop – go for it. I don’t judge (much). If you are a paper and pen person, then you are doing it correctly and yay you!

No, seriously, whatever works for you is what you should do. I tried to go digital. And I have – to an extent. My calendar and appointments and a few reminders are digital. It is nice to set a reminder to schedule the dogs’ yearly vet appointment and then put it on repeat, forever. Same with changing air filters in the house. And doctor appointments (except colonoscopies) that must be remembered yearly.

That being said, when it comes to actual planning and setting personal goals that mean something to me, I must write them out on paper. And I’m weird in that I need a spiral bound notebook. And it must be large because I write big. And it must have quality paper that doesn’t allow ink to bleed through. Also, it doesn’t hurt if the cover is hard and has something cute on it. Like an elephant. I love elephants. They make me happy. I love that my planner has an elephant on it. It just feels right.

Explore Options

And here is where I must give a nod to Benton’s favorite organizational tool – the Kanban Board. There are multiple versions out there and I strongly encourage everyone to at least take a look. It is a wonderful organization tool that, in a nutshell, divides tasks into what needs to be done, what is currently being done and what is completed. You move tasks through the categories as you do them, keeping no more than three things in the “doing” category because really, we can only do so many things at one time. It’s a great project management tool that he swears by. Check it out here if you are interested. And this small blurb in no way gives it the credit it deserves. It has proven life-changing for the ADHD husband and adult daughter.

So, however you roll, sit down and take those steps you wrote out for each goal and put a date on them. For house repairs, I might say that I’ll have someone come give a quote for the floors by the 31st.Then I’ll have the repair scheduled within the next two months. When I get it scheduled, on the calendar it goes. I might plan to have the upstairs rooms painted within the next month – one room per week. On the calendar it goes, with the deadline for completion marked.

Remember to account for other activities too. For instance, I’m not going to schedule painting the house when I’m at the beach. And I’m not going to work on the countertops the day of the colonoscopy. I just feel like that would be a horrible idea.

Life happens, work around it.

Remember to Review

While you are scheduling activities and goals, remember to schedule evaluations too. Set specific times to intentionally look at where you are and how far you’ve come. Say you are rocking a particular goal and you want to step it up. This is the time to do so. Make your changes, put them on the calendar and go for it! If you aren’t seeing the success you want to see, again, go for it! Shake it up. Make some changes. Make it work for you. Schedule these reviews whenever you feel it’s the right time. I read most habits take between six weeks and three months to solidify. And it takes even longer to break a bad habit. Give yourself reasonable timelines that are doable.

The Bottom Line

But the bottom line is this – you know you are going to mess up. Seriously, no matter how driven, dedicated, focused and motivated you are, just know – you will screw it up somehow.

But here’s the thing. So what? Make the mistake, the slip, the screw up, and then get back to it. Right away. Don’t dwell on it. I’ll let you know a secret….it’s going to happen again! And most likely…you will mess up again! And, probably…again!!!

It’s not the screw ups that you need to count. It’s the successful days in between that you count. If you have more days moving towards your goal than you have days laying on the couch binge-watching Breaking Bad again, you are being successful!

Knowing you will slip is freeing. Having a plan for when you slip is smart. Acknowledging the slip and moving forward regardless is brave. And doing that over and over is how you achieve a goal.

Good luck and let me know what goals you are working towards right now! How’s it going? Any advice for the rest of us?

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