There are some children who find incredible joy from repetitively poking people -- there are some ideas that do the same. I read the following quotation recently that has changed my routine and my attitude drastically so I thought it was worth sharing.
"A goal without a plan is just a wish."
I believe that words, people, inspiration-- they all come into our lives with a purpose. Whatever sticks is meant to change something. So, needless to say, when this simple sentence stopped my wandering eyes among all the other reading material I scour each day, I was intrigued.
For the first month after moving to a new town, I was so frustrated by my lack of consistency- a scattered routine, piles of random tasks and to-do lists, etc. I had goals, I had plans, and I had wishes, but at the end of the week, I would look back and think, "what did I accomplish this whole week!?" Not knowing for sure whether I was any closer to those goals despite my plans and wishes, was disheartening.
With determination to see my progress, (I'm a visual person, which makes sense given my chosen career path) I started taking a different approach to my week. Instead of looking back with frustration, I decided to find a way to look ahead with intention. Every Sunday I've started setting aside a little time in the evening to reflect and set intentions for the coming week. The outline is not my own- I got it from career coach/blogger Scott Dismore's Weekly Planning Workbook, which you can download by subscribing to his mailing list, which is actually an arsenal of really amazing tips and tools. I work through the list of steps which gives me some structure (that's the teacher in me) and it has really helped frame the events of my day-to-day activities in a positive way.
This is the flow:
1. Review your short term and long term goals to make them fresh in your mind.
It's amazing that simply enforcing those ideas can empower your whole mindset...
2. Celebrate last week by writing down at least 10 things you're proud of or more.
This was hard for me at first, I admit, until I forced myself to recognize that I can be proud of little things, too. I started noting anything that took time in my day and made me feel good as "something to be proud of." "Woke up every day with my alarm to make it to the gym" is an accomplishment! "Made a new business connection at a meeting and followed up by email" is a positive step forward!
When I reminded myself that one of the goals I set was to be present and loving to my husband, family, and friends, spending 10 minutes to write and send a card to someone or going on a longer walk with my husband and puppy after dinner became "worthy" of the "something to be proud of" list. This step made me feel better about things that were consuming my time, even if they didn't seem "productive" at first glance.
3. Write down major lessons.
I started to notice patterns with this one after a few weeks, which made it easier for those lessons to become mantras. Most commonly, I find myself repeating lessons about going outside my comfort zone. My husband just laughs at me now when I groan about not wanting to keep XX-plans because he knows that afterwords I'll come home raving about how fun it was and the great people I met.
4. Analyze what didn't happen and what you can do now.
This is tough, too, because it makes you hone in on your shortcomings from the week. Still, it doesn't feel defeating because the next steps call you to redirect those left-over tasks or goals and roll them over to the next week with further incentive to get them done early.
5. Decide on outcomes for the next week.
These are the main checklist items that will bring you closer to achieving your goals. Again, once I realized that not all my goals were business related, but life and happiness related as well, this list became much more manageable and realistic approach for my week. Ironically, I've found that including the social, spiritual, and physical on my "outcomes" list has in-turn affected the productivity of my business goals as well. Huh, funny.
This is where I make the actual checklists of tasks - and put them on the calendar. I break it up into categories, too, to make sure I'm balancing my priorities and not giving myself unrealistic expectations in certain areas. I may have 10 things I want to do asap to grow my business, but those things are just not all going to happen in one week when I look at the time investment for each task. As I schedule, I resolve to do fewer tasks well instead of trying to cram everything half-way to "check it off the list." I refer to my outcomes from step 5 to align my schedule with what I want to achieve that week--whether it's designing marketing materials for an upcoming event (look out for those coming soon!), meeting with a local business owner for coffee, or meeting a new friend for happy hour-- I put all of it on the calendar.
7. Fill in the Extras
The extras: you know, those things that keep life ticking- make the appointment to get the dog groomed, go to the grocery store, fix the broken whatever is broken this week, clean and sort the laundry mountain (I still wonder how it's possible for 2 people to produce 4 loads of laundry in one week, seriously, it scientifically can not be legitimate...) Those things take time and there's no use to be resentful of them. It's much easier to accept these little time-suckers and manage them productively when you have them built into your week.
Of course circumstances have their way of throwing curveballs, but overall, this system is pretty effective. And yes it takes time to plan your time, but I've found it is well worth it and ultimately saves me time throughout the week. If you're struggling with how to be happy with your time, I really do suggest trying out this method. I've see such a difference in my personal happiness and professional productivity since taking the time to be proactive about my schedule.
Instead of wondering and wishing, take a step towards your goals and start doing.
I'd love to hear from you about what you do to manage your time or what you think of my new little strategy! Also, feel free to share or tweet if you found this post helpful or think it might be just what a friend needs who's experiencing his or her own time-management woes.