Usually around this time of year, I do a lot of soul-searching. In 2015 for numerous reasons, I have found myself off track, run-down, and needing to get back on course. I need a plan to do it.
Everybody has their strengths and one of mine is to identify what went wrong and come up with a plan to fix it. In fact, I’m very good at the planning part, perhaps not so great at the execution.
Starting in December, I typically take stock of the previous year and start jotting down notes for what I want to do differently. I set goals for the next year, trying to keep in mind that a person can really only focus on 1-3 goals at one time. I am a single-focused person, therefore I can only handle 1 goal at a time. This translates to me attempting to strive for perfection in creating that one goal. Rather than taking an specific goal of say, going to bed and getting up at a regular time (which I know would really set me up to accomplish great things), I try to come up with a goal that is all-encompassing.
This concept of defining one major goal in itself is not bad, in fact it’s a strong business principal. However, in implementing it personally I can get overwhelmed, especially if I am not disciplined and don’t continually revisit and adjust the goal. In a work environment, this would never work. A person or organization could adopt just one main goal (which I advise my clients to do) but plans and mini-goals and timelines and accountability need to be built underneath, creating the structure necessary to sustain this main goal. Building the scaffolding is where I am susceptible to fail in my personal life.
But this year I’m going to do it differently. I am going to treat my personal well-being like I would a project at work: build everything around one main goal and create plans, tasks, mini-goals, and timelines to support it. But, I must also have accountability. At work, I have a client, a boss, the contract, colleagues, my conscience, my pride, etc. to keep me accountable and on track. In my personal life, however, who do I have but myself or my husband if I include him in my plans? And while my conscience continues to guide me there, I usually make decisions that put others first and myself last. My decisions have emptied “my cup,” leaving me feeling negative and drained. Guilt and sense of duty often drive me to do things I don’t want to but feel obligated to do, at my or my family’s expense. This is not how I want to live. And it’s time to get back on track.
But, where to start? I am going to build a plan centered around one goal. My process looks something like this:
Step 1: Identify one main goal… Check. In light of all the tweaks and changes I want to make in my life, I have identified my major, all-encompassing goal as: To be more disciplined
Step 2: Define goal… Check. To me, being more disciplined means 3 main things:
1) Create a flexible plan & continually revisit that plan
2) Take better care of myself
3) Manage our money more effectively
Step 3: Build plans around goal… Working on It. This involves putting specific tasks, timelines, measures, and accountability around the 3 smaller pieces of “Being more disciplined.” So, if I take #2 above (Take better care of myself), and build a plan around it, it may look like this:
1) Set reasonable limits on requests for my time. I will not drop everything for an “emergency” with the PTA. Rather, I will respond and make an appointment to deal with the problem. I will also let others know when I’m available to discuss PTA matters or work on volunteer items. For accountability, although this will be a personal challenge to me, I will talk to the other PTA board members and communicate that I am needing more control and peace in my schedule and, as such, I’ll be available Tues or Thur mornings to meet or plan, etc. Otherwise, I will be checking email 3 times per day (morning, lunchtime, early evening) and if needed urgently, they will need to text me.
2) Build into my plan a consistent exercise schedule, which would mean 3-4 times per week on specific days. For accountability, I will sign up for 2 exercise classes and put 1-2 family exercise activities on our family calendar each week. I’m involving my family as accountability partners by putting on the family calendar.
3) Go to sleep by 10:30 and wake up at 6 am on a regular basis. I am going to ask for my husband’s help in making this happen. I will also ask him to help me get the lights off before 10:30 and to support me in having 30 min of quiet in the morning before the kids are up for a devotion or reading or writing. I’m scheduling things I like in the morning, to motivate me and give me a sense of purpose in the morning.
Step 4: Put this goal into action… Comes next. I realize this plan looks fairly detailed, and I’m not done with it. But I’m learning one thing, if I don’t treat myself and my priorities with the same dedication as I do work or others’ needs, I will not realize the changes I want to make. I need to be disciplined in my own life, as I would for a client, if I expect any real transformation or growth.
That said, getting back to the plan, once I finish adding the details, I need to decide how I will implement this. I could try to do this all at once, but I will fail. It’s too much to do and a person cannot sustain that much change all at once. Although I haven’t hit this point yet, I’m thinking that I will establish some natural steps. For example, much of what I want to get accomplished can happen by building a weekly routine.(Note: I don’t say schedule, because that is too regimented for me and two weeks are never quite the same).
So, I will start with building a routine (or tweeking the one from this fall). I’m going to map out my typical week, being sure to add all the important activities in first. When finished, I will assess whether I can achieve all that I am striving for, or whether I need to remove or revise some items. Once I have a strong draft of a routine, I’m going to tackle implementing the most important changes first (1 or 2 of them). For me, the two biggest and most impactful changes in my life will be: 1) Establishing consistent sleep and wake times and 2) Setting reasonable limits for requests on my time. Once I feel I’ve mastered these, I’m going to adopt 1-2 more changes (probably after a month or two). And so on… After all, Rome wasn’t built in a day.
Step 5: Check in and reassess (don’t forget accountability)… Down the road. This may be the most important piece. Once I’ve set my goal, defined it, built my plan, and put it into action, I will need to revisit to make sure I’m on track. I haven’t yet decided the most effective frequency for this activity but I think I will schedule an hour on Sunday nights for planning and changing my weekly routine. I’m also thinking that I will involve my husband monthly to get feedback on how he thinks I’m doing.
And that’s my plan. As I expect this to be a new journey full of lots of lessons learned for me, I plan to journal my progress and share it with you. Stay tuned to hear about how this is going, what I’ve learned, and what I would do differently.
In the meantime, I’d love to hear suggestions on what works for others. Happy New Year and good luck!
Clipart courtesy of https://openclipart.org/user-detail/Firkin