I hopped into the car and turned to my friend in the driver’s seat. “You know, you don’t need to drive me. My car’s just right over there.”
My friend giggled and just stated, “I take care of my friends, ma’am.”
I smiled back at her and went home thinking about how kind and funny my friend could be. A couple of months later, she received the news that she had terminal cancer, which was a huge shock to all of us. For months, I couldn’t shake this feeling that it could just as well be me.
Life isn’t a promise. It’s something that can slip away from any of us at any point in time.
And yet Teresa remained one happy, focused, and determined lady. She continued to take great care of her friends, even when she was in the midst of her life’s biggest battle. But the thing I admired the most about her was that she dared to check off every to-do box that she could. Her determination made her good at things like Crossfit, and it made me look up to her.
I believe that for most, checking off your life’s goals on your bucket list becomes a primary obsession when you know you only have years or months to live. But when the days stretch out ahead of us, we often lose sight of our goals or say that they can wait for another day.
And here we are with another new month upon us.
Most of us believe we have all the time in the world to get things done.
But time is a sneaky thing, isn’t it? Each month passes so quickly. It’s like you blink and then another month is done.
That means that it’s a perfect time *right now* to reflect on the month that just passed, as well as think about the month that’s about to happen.
And before you know it, another year will be gone.
This year, I refuse to give up on the goals I’ve set. I want to be more like my friend and to check off every box I can, while I still have today.
I hope you feel the same. Life is just way too short to say, “it can wait until next year.”
With the holidays coming up (so soon!) you may find yourself shrugging and giving up on goals that have been in your planner or the back of your mind for some time now. You might be tempted to save it for the New Year.
Don’t give up on your goals, friend! Goals happen in the right time if you let them.
Focus on how you can prepare and plan for the month ahead in a realistic way. And just take the smallest baby steps toward your goals.
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But don’t be short-sighted. Don’t feel like that just because you weren’t able to achieve everything this month that your time was a waste.
I am not an expert at achieving all my goals in what many people would call “on time,” so please know that I’m very much a work-in-progress when it comes to planning and organizing the things in my life. But I do know that time is precious and that I have BIG dreams for myself.
Below are the steps that I take each month to get things done in my business and my life. I do get a lot done, even if I only take baby steps toward my goals. And I hope to be more like my friend, Teresa, and to face life with all I have.
The first step that I take is to make planning and goal setting fun. I HAVE to make it fun, or I actually wouldn’t get anything done.
Here are a few things to prep before you start planning: Find fun supplies. It’s basically like Hobby Lobby or Michael’s up in my office, so I always have artsy supplies on hand. I like to use pens, markers, Mermaid pens, stickers, washi tape, color pencils, and more.
And I use my Japanese Hobonichi to plan out my month, weeks, and days. I chose this particular planner because it allows me to keep things organized, but it is also an excellent way to have a lot of fun. The paper is perfect for me to test out my different art supplies.
For your monthly planning, break out the fun art supplies that you don’t get a chance to use on a daily basis. And have a good time with it.
As you’re having fun, realize that the more you reflect on your goals, the more you’ll remember what they are.
Step #2 – Focus on your goals.
I like to start with my primary goals and then break those goals down into smaller, actionable tasks. Goals can be pretty broad, to begin with, so you’ll want to break them down.
You might want to lose weight or go on a dream trip “across the pond,” but you’ll need to reverse engineer those goals to accomplish them. To reverse engineer your goals, you’ll want to go backward, step-by-step, to figure out what each little step is along the way until you eventually get to your end goal.
Step #3 – Look at your quarterly goals and take stock on whether or not you’ve made progress towards those goals.
I start with my quarterly goals because if I plan too far in advance, I get overly ambitious. Quarterly goals seem like just the right amount of time to achieve the things that I want to do.
I’ll look back on those quarterly goals and then see where I lost focus. Then I can put those goals back into center view and move forward with things again.
Step #4 – Look at the quarterly goals that are incomplete and write out your new monthly targets. Jot both in the column of your planner or in a spare notebook.
I like to jot out all my goals and ideas first before I commit anything to paper. If I gather everything in the same place and reflect on what is most important and what’s not, then I can discard the things that really shouldn’t be on my list in the first place.
Step #5 – Next, add in all of the important occasions.
My next step is to add all of the important events on my monthly calendar (inside my planner). I add things like client meetings, birthdays, and other activities that take place outside of my home. This allows me to remember everything and not double book myself. I also put these important dates and meetings on my phone calendar.
This lets me know that I also can’t work towards my goals at that point in time because that time is unavailable. So I can add my monthly goals to days that I have completely open.
Step #6 – Add your quarterly and monthly goals on the calendar.
I think about what I can do each week realistically. I know myself the best. And I know what I can do each week, but I need to trust myself. If I get a feeling like “that will be waaaaaay too much,” I give myself a buffer. This is something that I usually need to do when it comes to client meetings. As an introvert, I know myself. I can’t have meetings with clients every single day and be okay energy-wise.
Think about what you can do within a week and then plan accordingly. You can always choose other items from your ongoing to-do list if you have the time.
When you take on too much, though, the guilt-monster will eat you up! And when you’re feeling guilty, you won’t make much progress toward your goals.
I’m on a conquest to keep my life guilt-free. It’s a hard task, especially when it comes to getting things done. But if you focus on the essentials first, then add in more things once you’ve checked a few to-dos off your list, you’ll be pleased with yourself.
Step #7 – Take a look at open loops and add those items to your monthly calendar wherever you have free time.
Open loops are things that are lingering in the back of your mind. It’s great to do a massive brainstorm of all the things you want to do, probably in a journal, and then think about how you can move a few of these items onto your monthly list.
These don’t need to be huge goals or anything. Open loops are just the things that you know that you *need* to do, but that you haven’t found the time to do them yet.
By adding a few of these items onto your monthly to-do list, you’ll start eliminating them over time.
Step #8 – Transfer your monthly to-dos into a weekly format.
At the beginning of the month, I plan out all the monthly to-dos, then each week I put more specific to-dos in the weekly section of my planner. I know the big picture because I already planned my month out.
Then the weekly step of planning feels easy. I know what events will happen, I have all my ducks in a row, and I can usually add a few items that I thought of over the weekend.
I try to plan out my weekly to-dos every Sunday.
Step #9 – Transfer your weekly to-dos into your daily format.
Personally, I like to move my daily to-dos into the daily spot in my Hobonichi planner each morning. You may find that this is easier to do the night before. I like to have things fresh on my mind so that I can make sure that I’m doing the right things and not the wrong things, so that’s why the mornings work for me.
Refer back to your list often. I like to check off each box as I do the thing, and I even color in the box, so it’s straightforward to see.
If I don’t finish something, I leave the box blank. The next day, I don’t write anything in my planner until I finish the items that were unfinished the day before unless I have something that must be done that day.
Step #10 – Refer back to your goals and the monthly calendar often to make sure that you’re staying on track.
The only way that you can make progress toward your goals is by knowing what they are.
If you don’t know your goals, then you’ll be lost each day as to what to do. I typically have three primary monthly goals that I’m focused on. I look at those goals each week to make sure that I am making progress toward achieving them. My monthly goals are always a reflection of my quarterly goals.
Each person is unique, and you may have a better way to conquer your own goals. I’m a big fan of trusting yourself and going with the way that things work best for you.
My only hope is that you’re able to move forward with the things that matter and stop regretting the things left undone.
Let me know in the comments below one way that you make progress toward your goals.