It’s that time of year.
We’re all looking backward and forward, thinking over what has passed and getting geared up for what’s to come. And, yes, while the transition to a new year is really just another twenty-four hours, shifting past us overnight, there’s something in the air that makes us simultaneously reflective and hopeful.
The urge to make resolutions and turn over new leaves presses in.
We may sense a promise of something better, and yet many of our goals feel like one more thing on a to-do list that never budges and always nags and tugs at us like a child in the cereal aisle.
But, this year doesn’t have to be like those gone by. Learning to personalize your approach to goal setting and planning can make all the difference.
Sometimes we get so purposeful we cultivate a striving spirit that is anything but peaceful. Other times we may experience peace, but end up sidelining our sense of purpose, so in the end, we haven’t accomplished anything we had hoped to.
We can have both: purpose and peace.
Let’s talk about the five things we can do to make this coming year one that actually results in more purpose and peace.
- Personalize Goals
- Carefully Screen Support
- Build A Plan
- Take Action
- Obtain Results and Include Rest
Without thinking about it, we often end up taking on goals that don’t fit us. As cliche as it sounds, we scroll social media or look around at our friends and determine what our home should look like, what we should be doing within our families, and what should fill our time and lives.
We decide we need to lose ten pounds or decorate our surroundings to look like a whitewashed farmhouse and enroll our children in ballet and soccer even if they aren’t interested in sports and have two left feet. While there’s nothing wrong with farmhouse decor (I love it as much as the rest of you) or getting in shape, or signing our kids up for some activities they may enjoy, we need to look at the root of our decisions and be sure they FIT us and our family.
This past week I had a consultation with a friend who is a professional organizer. The first question she asked me is what I wanted.
What do I want?
It’s easy to pass that question up. But, when we pause to reflect on what really matters to us, then we hit gold. Then we can build forward.
Imagine your wardrobe. It may consist of yoga pants and T-shirts, or you may have coordinated boho tops and fashion-forward footwear. If you want yoga pants and someone throws a frilly skirt your way, you’d feel forced into something that’s not you. Goals are like that. You need to figure out what it is you want.
What do you value most?
Is your goal something you want because it resonates with your heart and life, or is it something you’ve inherited or taken on because of outside influence and pressure?
When you determine your real goals, (the ones that personally matter to you) you can start to plan your year (YOUR year) in a way that fits you best.
I encourage you to take some time this week to sit and ask yourself what you really want in these areas:
- Relationships (Romantic, Friendship, Family, Community)
- Personal Care (Health, Sleep, Diet, Skin Care, Exercise/Movement)
- Work and Hobbies
- Home and Surroundings
- Use of Your Time
Once you’ve imagined what you might want in each of these areas, you are ready to break each goal down into more manageable and achievable micro-goals.
Using the 90-Day Approach
I use a 90-day approach, splitting the year into four quarters like this:
- Dec-Feb (Winter)
- Mar-May (Spring)
- Jun-Aug (Summer)
- Sep-Nov (Fall)
You will notice I don’t start in January. That’s because the four quarters tend to flow with seasonal changes and life-structure changes. We are out of school Jun-Aug, so I include that in one quarter. Fall is usually filled with certain types of activities or sports. Winter another. So, the breakdown I use feels right for me.
It’s right for me. It may not feel right for YOU. If what I do doesn’t fit you, make your own system or approach.
The key here is to personalize the way you set goals, seek support, and make plans. Everything you do in this area needs to fit you. You need to customize your goal setting and planning until it feels more like your favorite yoga pants than a frilly skirt someone tossed you. Making this process one that fits you perfectly will make all the difference in your motivation and follow through.
After I split my year into quarters, I build each 90 day segment by looking at my overarching goals for the year, then I see which ones fit the current three months. I only tackle those, putting them into my planner and breaking them down into actions I can take. Any goals that won’t fit into the coming three months are tabled for future 90-day periods of time. Figuring out what realistically fits in the coming 90-days means I don’t overwhelm myself with unrealistic plans, and I’m more. likely to actually implement what I plan.
Here’s a quick example: Let’s say I want to include daily movement into my life. Instead of making that goal so broad, I’ll look at how movement fits into the season at hand. In this winter quarter, it’s darker and colder out, so my movement depends on getting to Zumba classes, using my hula hoop inside our home, and building in time to do yoga with a YouTube gal I like. In spring I’ll change the way I incorporate movement to be more outdoors.
Once we have a feel for our goals, it’s important to think about who will support us and what resources we will use on a regular basis.
Carefully Choosing Support
Let’s talk about support.
We all need an extended network of people and resources to help us achieve the goals we set.
The challenge in this day and age is that we tend to overfill on certain input and sometimes that results in us being over-informed and under-active. We can become so flooded with ideas and information that we freeze up instead of taking action.
So, as you sit with each area on your goal list, I suggest you ask yourself where your support will come from in that area of your life. Maybe you like certain podcasts or you get emails from some “guru” you really love. The key word here is to curate your content. Narrow down your list of what emails come in, what podcasts you listen to, what books you read, what webinars you sign up for …
You hear me: NARROW THE LIST. Don’t try to take in what every expert in parenting or spiritual growth or home decor has to say. Pick your favorites, and dig in regularly. Limit the sources sending information your way so you can actually digest the information and put it into place in your own life.
You will be so much more likely to implement what you hear if you hear less and do more.
So, pick one to three people you feel benefits you most in terms of fitness, or faith, or relationship wisdom, etc. And commit to learning from them and then putting into place what they offer. Don’t spread yourself so thin that you spend your whole life consuming ideas, but very little of your life actually doing any of the things you have taken in.
For example, I love Emily P Freeman. Her podcast is a breath of fresh air. She stays on my list. I decide to listen to her every other week–not even every week. And I can change the frequency when I want, binge listening at times, or skipping at others. I know she is solid and I always walk away feeling refreshed.
For organization, I have engaged my friend Sharon Hines. She is knowledgable, caring, gentle, and encouraging. She and I are working together as I purge old items my family no longer needs or uses so I can repurpose my home to fit the current season in our family life. I don’t need to fill my inbox with tons of other input about decluttering. Every so often I’ll touch base with Kathi Lipp on one of her decluttering days on Facebook, but mainly, Sharon is the person I have chosen to pour into me in this area. I have found the support that fits me. I’m using it, and it’s making a huge difference.
When we have too much input, we become overwhelmed. Carefully selecting your sources of support helps you feel less inundated, and frees you up from decision fatigue and information overload.
Making a 90-Day Plan
Once you have your goals personalized, your year broken into 90-day sections and your support curated, you can make plans. I went into this a bit when I talked about how I incorporate my goal of “daily movement” into each season.
Let’s talk about planners.
I used the Panda Planner to map out 90-day sections of life for the past few years. These planners are designed to support 90-day planning. They are great and almost perfect … almost.
While the Panda Planner is one of my favorite tools, over time I missed having a year-long overview and I also didn’t love having to write in the days/dates every quarter, so I shopped around this past fall and found Agendio. I designed my own planner and I’m already LOVING it.
I spend about $85-90 a year on my planner system. That sounds like a lot, but when you consider the role my planner plays in my life, $7.50 a month is a small price to pay.
Other tools I have liked are the Cozi.com website for family planning of events and an overall way to keep recipes, grocery lists, and events all in one place. I also like Asana.com for my work and writing tasks.
When planning, make your plan SIMPLE enough that you will follow through. It’s easy to plan something perfectly. But the true measure of a well-laid plan is whether you will actually live it out.
- Consider what has held you back in the past and kept you from following through on plans you have made.
- How can you build a plan that overcomes those pitfalls and ensures you won’t feel defeated before you start?
- Consider your stage of life. If you have small children in the home, your goals may be very different than they will be when you have teens or are an empty nester. Let your plans fit your season and your values.
- Use your goals along with the guidance of your curated support system to make a plan that fits you now.
Take Action on Your Personalized Plan
Now you are ready for ACTION!
When you have laid out personalized goals that fit you, curated support and made sure you have the list narrowed down, and then planned according to your goals and support, your action steps will be clear-cut and fit you well.
And that kind of action will lead to the results you want most.
Build In Rest — Regularly
One last note.
A healthy rhythm of life always includes REST. And rest means time when you aren’t scheduled or structured. For some of us, it means time alone, for others it may mean time connecting with people we love. Either way, it means time where your to-do list is not a factor and you aren’t trying to “produce” anything.
It’s amazing how much rest plays into productivity. When we regularly build rest into our lives (daily, weekly, and at longer intervals) we learn to work from a place of rest. Our hearts are less prone to be anxious, and we have a sense of perspective that infiltrates all our activities.
So, build in rest as a regular part of each day and week this coming year and you will see much more purpose and peace in the months to come.
Just to wrap up the process here:
- We set personalized goals by asking ourselves what matters most to us in each area of our lives.
- Then we seek support from carefully selected sources, blocking out other input so we don’t become overwhelmed.
- We make our plans considering shorter periods of time (90-day planning) so they are manageable and achievable.
- Then we take action on the steps we have planned out based on the filter of our goals and our support.
- Finally, we build in rest which gives us perspective and peace.
I hope this process helps you as you move into the new year. I’d love to hear from you as you go about planning, goal setting and gathering support.
If you want to receive regular monthly encouragement from Slow Down Mama, you can sign up for the email I send out at the end of each month. You can also follow Slow Down Mama on Instagram for around three weekly posts on that IG account to encourage your heart and help you focus on what matters most.