The new year is a great time to reflect on what is going well and what you want to improve in your life, but it can be overwhelming to make goals that lead to real changes. Follow these tips to create a simple plan to keep you calm and motivated! I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas. Ours was quiet this year, which was nice. We got 6 inches of fresh snow on Christmas morning, and had a slow day of opening presents, going to church, and relaxing at home.
Now that Christmas is over, though, my thoughts are turning to the new year. I love making new year’s resolutions, and starting fresh with energy and optimism about the new year. However, I’ve learned over time that it’s important to be intentional and moderate about my resolutions. I used to make long lists of resolutions, broken down by category and each one with several bullet-pointed action items underneath it. It was great, while it lasted, but that’s not realistic for me right now.
A few years ago, I swung to the other extreme. Instead of a long list of “to-do” goals, I simply chose a one word mantra to focus on for the entire year. I tried to remind myself every day (especially when I was feeling stressed or unbalanced) of my overarching goal. The first year, it was SIMPLIFY. The next year, I technically made it two words: BE PRESENT.
I liked that simplistic approach, but I am in the mood this year to set some more tangible goals again. Still, I want to be careful to not overwhelm myself with all the things I’d like to do. There simply isn’t time for everything. So, I’m expanding my goal making this year, but I’m trying to be reasonable about my expectations for myself.
Anybody else in the same boat of wanting to make changes, but feeling a little overwhelmed by it all?
If so, read on for my method of creating intentional goals that will help you create the life you want using manageable baby steps. Happy New Year!
How to write goals without getting overwhelmed
1. Take some time to consider your core values
What do you REALLY want out of life? Do you want to get more involved in you community? Do you want to be healthier? Do you want to spend more time developing yourself personally? Do you want more quality family time? Whatever aspect of your life you aren’t satisfied with, write it out. Treat this part like a brain dump. Just write down all your ideas and see where it leads you. I find that as I write my thoughts, I start to see patterns and my priorities emerge.
For me, 2017 needs to be about finding more balance in life. I’ve felt a little like Stretch Armstrong this year as I’ve tried to keep up with motherhood, wifehood, blogging, maintaining a house, fulfilling church responsibilities, and everything else that just comes up. My husband will attest that I’ve had a few “I can’t do it all” crying episodes in the past several months.
Ask yourself what three to four things are most important in your life, and then structure your goals around how you want to improve your quality of life in those few categories.
2. Break it down to a few small changes you can make
It’s not effective to make a goal of “be a happier mom” (even though that’s one of the big picture goals I have). Instead, I need to break it down into smaller steps. Now, I’m not suggesting that it’s realistic to make a long list of things you should do to be a perfect mother, and then systematically work your way through them without a hitch until you’re voted mom of the year. Motherhood is a messy dance of forward, backward, and sideways steps that don’t always go exactly as planned.
Ask yourself, what does being a happier mom look like to me, and what can I do to move one step closer to that ideal? We can’t do everything at once, but we can take the first step. Write down ONE new habit that will move you toward your overarching goal.
For each of your core value categories, pick one or two goals. More than that will be overwhelming. You’ll spread these out over the course of the year (don’t try to start everything at once…see #4).
Keep in mind that your goals don’t all have to be huge or life-altering. It could be something you just want to learn how to do. A friend of mine has a goal this year to learn how to put on fake eyelashes. Great! One of my goals is to learn how to use the Instant Pot I bought on Black Friday. Goals may be habit you want to develop or they may be skills or knowledge you want to gain. They may be deep problems you want to solve, or just fun stuff to do to develop YOU.
3. Pick things that you really want to do
Sometimes, I’m tempted to make goals about things that I feel like I should do, but I don’t really want to do. Bad plan. If you don’t really want it, you’re not going to be motivated to make it happen. Plus, making decisions based on what you “should” do is never a good idea.
Remember, there is a time and a season for everything. Just because you want to accomplish something in life doesn’t mean you have to do it right now. I want to learn how to play the piano again (I quit lessons when I was 14), but this is not the season for that goal. I want it, but I don’t want it bad enough yet.
4. Focus on ONE goal at a time.
Alright, now you should have a handful of goals you want to accomplish. Pick ONE that is most important to you (or that sounds the most fun) and start there first. Don’t try to start all of your goals on January first. If you pick more than one goal at a time, it’s going to take longer to accomplish them, and you are more likely to lose motivation.
One of my favorite sayings I found this year is, “Let’s not try to figure everything out at once.” Oh, how I need to remember that. I have a tendency to think 20 steps ahead (or twenty million) and exhaust myself worrying about all the what-ifs. That’s why it’s so important to focus on just step #1.
If you finish your goal early and you want to make more, GREAT! But starting with only one goal at a time will set you up for success by keeping you focused and feeling powerful. It’s just ONE thing. You can do that much. Worry about steps 2 through 246 later.
5. Make a plan of action.
Don’t worry about planning out the details of all of your goals right now. Take the ONE goal you picked in #4, and consider the five “W” questions:
- Who can help you accomplish your goal or keep you accountable?If you’re going to achieve your goal, you need to make it a part of your daily living. That’s so much easier to do if you have someone doing it with you. A couple of years ago I decided I wanted to make exercise more of a priority, and so my husband and I started running together. Because we were there to kick each other out of bed in the morning, we were much more successful at creating the habit. Within a few months we accomplished our goal of running a 5K together. Success!
- What baby steps will get you there? Hopefully at this point, your goals are already small and specific, but you still need to plan the logistics of how you’re going to make it happen. If you want to learn to cook better, what steps to do you need to take to achieve that? Do you need to buy a cookbook? Take a class? Ask a foodie friend who her fave food bloggers are and start following them? How often will you try cooking a new dish? How much are you willing to invest in your goal? Break it down into the baby steps you need to take (anyone remember What About Bob?).
- When are you going to work on your goal?If you’re going to accomplish your goal, you have to set aside time to work on it. If you want to learn to play the piano, how much time are you going to dedicate to it per day? More importantly, when each day are you going to work on it? One of the best ways to make a new habit stick is to attach it to something that’s already an established part of your routine.
- Where will you work on your goal? Is this a goal you can do at home? Do you need to create a work space? These aren’t difficult questions, but it’s good to make sure you have thought everything through.
- Why are you choosing this goal?I’ve already talked about this, but make sure you identify why you want to make this goal and what you hope to get out of doing it. Write it down. Put it somewhere you can read it when you need a little motivation.
Okay, now that you know what to do, print this FREE GOAL PLANNING WORKSHEET and get started! Here’s a peek at the first page:
You did it! If you followed the tips above, you have your priorities set, and you have ONE specific goal planned and ready to go for the new year. Congratulations!
What are your goals for the new year? I’d love to hear yours, and I’ll be sharing mine soon!
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