This might come as a surprise to those of you know know me in real life, but I have not always been someone who set goals.
I didn’t set short-term goals, long-term goals, personal goals, or professional goals. In the mayhem of raising up two children into fine young adults, I was lucky if I could focus on the next day, forget the next week, or month, or five years out.
In fact, it never even occurred to me that I should be setting goals.
The way I saw it, goals were for people who had their lives together, and knew what they wanted and where they were going. I was certainly not one of those people. That isn’t to say that I didn’t want to be one, but it wasn’t a part of my current reality; nor did it look hopeful for future me.
All of this changed the day my oldest son told me he was creating a five-year plan for his life. He was eighteen years old, and had just graduated from high school. He came to me, all excited about this new plan he was working on and said, “You do know what a five-year plan is, right?” I turned in my chair, and lied, “Of course I do.”
A quick Google search and an hour later, I felt more defeated than ever.
I read this great post by Tsh Oxenreider, that felt promising at the start, with it’s simple headline: “I Wrote a Five Year Plan and You Can Too.” Tsh is a fabulous writer, whose thoughts and opinions I value, but I couldn’t relate to her goals. Save for retirement and family vacations. Buy a new house. Go on a book tour. Live abroad. These were the goals of someone far more accomplished than I was.
My goals looked more like: make sure everyone has clean clothes to wear, keep the leftovers in the fridge from sitting too long, and don’t let the dust bunnies on the floors get as big as the cats.
What I failed to see at the time was that Tsh and I were at different stages in our lives. Anyone can set goals, you just need to have the right perspective about them. This year, I finally sat down and created some goals for my life. It took me two full months to get them down on paper.
First, I believe that five years is too long to be planning ahead into the future. Lisa Jacob’s wrote, in her Your Best Year: 2016 book, that she plans in groups of three; three years, three months, three weeks, and right now.
I prefer to work with the natural rhythm of the year and work in groups of four instead; 1 year, four months, four weeks, and right now. I still don’t plan ahead much further than three years, however.
I started out with big, long term goals first. I thought about anything that would either be done in three years, or might happen in three years, and wrote them down on a sheet of paper. Then I narrowed my focus down to one year. Then I took all the goals I had for the upcoming year, and assigned them to a quarter of the year.
As each quarter arrises, I work one month at a time. I know which goals I plan to meet during that four month block of time. I decide which goals I want to work on during the first moth, and then I break them down into action steps. So for that first month, I know what tasks I have to accomplish to meet those goals, and that is what I work on during the four weeks of the month. I do this for each consecutive month of the quarter.
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