Integrating Long Term Goals into Daily Planning

Today’s post is a guest post by Declan Wilson of Millennial Type. I’ve been following Declan for over a year, and I am excited to share a bit of his work with you. Be sure to check out his blog and give him a follow if you’re the self-improvement type!


We tend to over-estimate what we can accomplish in a day, but underestimate how much we can accomplish in a year.

In a year you can take a significant step closer toward your dream. A year ago I was a nobody on the internet. Today, I have a book set to release June 22nd, I’ve grown my blog and Twitter following significantly, and I was offered a side job at a startup. Did I mention I did all of this with a newborn?

On any given day I drop my son off at daycare, go to work, cook dinner, run errands, get my son to bed, and relax with my wife. In the small margins of my day I utilize my time to write, create, and connect. Sometimes this means sacrificing sleep.

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Some days I feel like super dad/husband/creative. Other days I can hardly get anything done. When people ask how I seem to have more time now than before the baby, I give them the same answer Emily does:

“I don’t have any more hours in the day now than I did three years ago. None of us do.”

I don’t have less time now that I’m a dad, I just have to be more intentional with the time available. Especially when it comes to the daunting task of chasing my dream of self-employment.

So even with a solid practice of daily planning, how does one map out her longer term BIG goals?

Easy, follow the 5x5x5 rule: set a baseline goal this year and scale it by a factor of 5 for the next three years.

When I set my goals at the beginning of last year, I aimed too low. I wanted to hit 100 subscribers on my blog (I started with 17) thinking my potential to attract new readers was low. I hit my goal a few short months later.

We are often afraid of big goals because they seem insurmountable. The same applies to chasing our dream. We neglect them or give up because they seem so far out of reach.

That’s what makes the 5x5x5 rule an attractive option – the ability to take small steps, develop habits, then scale after a year.

Using my blog subscribers goal as an example, I gained (drum roll please) 165 subscribers in 2015. That’s why for 2016 I set a goal to earn another 825. Currently I’m well behind my goal-pace, but it’s okay, I’m learning and reiterating as I go along this year. I’d rather fall short of reaching 825 than setting my goal too low and attaining it too easily.

I chunked the 825 into a monthly goal of 68 new subscribers and to a daily goal of 2 to 3 (much more manageable). I then set up daily and weekly processes and habits to help me reach these goals.

When 2017 rolls around, I’ll increase my goal by another factor of 5. I’ll do the same in 2018. After 3 years of this process, I’ll be close to reaching my dream of 5,000 subscribers (which will help me launch my own self-employment gig).

When I think about trying to hit 5,000 subscribers, the quiet doubts in the back of my head begin to raise their voices. But I drown them out by taking it one day at a time.

No matter how insurmountable your goal may appear, no matter how much “lack of time” you seem to have, being intentional with your daily actions will lead to a larger return in the long run.

To review, you can integrate long term goals into your daily planning practice by:

1. Writing out a handful of BIG goals for the year
2. Chunking them into smaller monthly and weekly goals
3. Creating a daily habit to accomplish small chunks
4. Reviewing progress and adjusting accordingly
5. Scaling by a factor of 5 and repeating for another year

Keep Stepping Forward!


Declan Wilson is a writer and blogger with a full-time job on the side. He writes at millennialtype.com where he helps Millennials live the life they desire, create the things that matter, persevere over the impossible, and dream of a better future.

His first book, The Millennial Way, is set to launch June 22, 2016. Snag a copy today.

When You Can’t Do It All

Here’s my new mantra:

If you can’t do it all, do a little.

It’s the most simple remedy for overwhelm I’ve discovered yet. I’m a person who falls into the cycle of want big things -> make big plans -> start -> no immediate results -> discouragement -> burnout.

It’s a damaging cycle that I see a lot of peers experiencing. And each time you start on a new big idea, it’s with a little less enthusiasm than the one before.

That’s why I’ve adopted this mantra.

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Photograph 059 by Ashley Schweitzer found on minimography.com

What is “doing it all”?

“Doing it all” is completing a project. It’s reaching a certain goal or life milestone, or mastering a new hobby. It’s completing every task on your to-do list.

In short, it’s reaching any point of completion.

So when you can’t do it all, that means you’re left with a feeling of incompleteness – perhaps of failure. This is where my self-kindness crusade begins.

Because I know that when I can’t “do it all” I often revert to doing nothing at all.

What is “doing a little”?

I’m so excited about this perspective: take one step to get closer to your goal. Or even a half-step.

Can’t clean the whole apartment? Just put the clean towels away. Just vacuum the hay that the rabbits have managed to spread out over most of your rug.

This approach has actually helped me become more productive. I’ll piece things together in moments between other activities, and soon I find myself riding the momentum into the evening: clean apartment, rabbits fed, tea made, lunch packed.

A little kindness goes a long way

I’ve raved about the importance of self-kindness and awareness before, but I simply can’t stress it enough. I’ve spent too many years expecting too much from myself, so I’m making up for it now with self compassion whenever I can.

By telling yourself in the most overwhelming hours that it’s okay to do just a little instead of doing it all, you’re giving yourself permission to be kind to yourself.

And by focusing on progress instead of completion, we’ll feel more accomplished along the way instead of just at the end of the hectic journey.

Where to start

My challenge to you: take a moment to think about what you want right now. I actually sat down and wrote out a long list of things (physical, mental, emotional) I wanted right now.

If you want to be a blogger but find the idea so overwhelming that you still haven’t started, just do this: grab any piece of paper, any writing utensil, and jot down three posts you’d like to write. Do the same thing if you want to read more – list three books you’d like to read.

There. You are one step closer to your goal.

I know it sounds simplistic, but this practice has really helped me make some progress on projects or hobbies that have felt stagnant.

I’ve written blog post titles instead of full posts, ran 1/3 of a mile instead of 2, put just one cup in the dishwasher instead of all the dishes in the sink. And eventually, by taking little, kind steps, all of my tasks were complete.

What is the one thing you can do today to make progress on the goals that are overwhelming you?

Simple Daily Planning

In my last post, I discussed how living a simple life can get complicated and that planning was essential to keep it all organized.

So today I want to give you a peek into my daily planning process!

I’ve tried planners, phone calendars, white boards, you name it. My favorite planning tool so far? A notebook and colorful pens (colors are optional – it just makes it more fun for me).

Tools aren’t for everyone

Before I dive in, it’s important to note that tools are definitely good for some people, and they are definitely bad for others. For example, I can’t get into tools that are online or on mobile devices because there are infinite ways to get distracted.

I’ve also been working on getting into daily planners (my current one breaks each day down hour by hour and has space to prioritize goals). I start the day neatly, but I end up just writing all over them without actually putting anything where it’s supposed to be.

So don’t feel compelled to use a certain tool if you’re just not into it – work with yourself, not against yourself.

Make it a pleasant habit

Don’t force planning if you’re not feeling it. Allow yourself time to get into a good headspace before you start breaking down your day, or else you’ll over- or under-whelm yourself with to-dos.

I like to wait until I’ve had some breakfast and have a fresh cup of coffee poured before I even consider planning.

I broke down and bought an unnecessary package of colorful pens for that same reason – I wanted to make this a fun process, not a frustrating one. I take my time and practice my cursive (am I the only one who still loves handwriting?)

PlanningNotebook

Keep it organized and don’t overdo it

I start by listing the date (mostly just for fun), then I break my to-do list down into sections. I’m focusing on creating a balance for myself this year, so I break it down into home, work, and personal categories.

Planning

As much as possible, I keep it to about three items per section. Work, of course, is my work goals for the day. Personal is where I put blogging, self-care, exercise, etc. Home is for housework – usually something to do with cleaning the rabbit’s cage, cooking meals, or soaking beans.

The goal for your goals is to be able to complete them all in a days time. So don’t set a full day’s worth of goals for home while also setting a full day’s worth of goals for work.

I’m starting to get into the practice of trimming the list down after I’ve made it, just so that I can be sure to complete everything. There’s nothing worse than seeing a list with only one thing crossed off of it at the end of the day.

First things first

Once you’re done with your planning, check if there’s anything you can do in a few minutes. Clearing clutter or tossing dishes into the dishwasher is usually an easy first step.

If I’ve made “read twenty pages” a goal for the day and I haven’t yet finished my coffee, I’ll pull my book out and get to work. Basically, if there’s anything easy or that fits your current situation on your list, do that first.

I’ve also started to shift the order of my planning & processing of the day’s to-dos. Instead of getting work and home stuff out of the way first, I focus on the personal category. Why?

Because that’s always the category that doesn’t get crossed off. So be kind to yourself and try to do what you can for yourself before everything else, and you’ll feel a lot more positive energy to do the rest of it.

So there’s a look at how I plan my day! Do you have a planning habit?

Standing on the Ledge

I’ve been standing on the ledge of a pool for the past year.

It’s a lively pool party – people are laughing and having fun together and everything points to one thing: the water’s fine. I’ve even dipped my toes in a few times and it feels perfect.

So why can’t I just jump in?

It's just a matter of jumping in to the life you want to live.

The pool

The pool I want to dive into is the simple living, minimalist blogging group that I’ve become familiar with over the past two years.

The pool includes a daily writing habit, a weekly posting schedule and intentionally consuming information. It includes larger project ideas like eBooks and real books and the opportunity to someday, somehow get paid for what I love doing most.

To me, it sounds lovely.

The ledge

The ledge is where I’ve been at a standstill for the past several months. I’ve kept an erratic blogging schedule, lost my way on nearly every mindfulness practice I’ve set out for myself and honestly, failed every “good writer” habit I’ve tried to develop.

I’ve been beating myself up about not always holding up the “practice what you preach” principle.

But today I realized that holding on to those missteps and failures is a stupid idea.

An almost comically stupid idea.

Can you relate?

The jump

So here it is! It’s time to decide whether to leave the pool party or jump in. And there are a lot of cool people at this pool party, so how would I look and feel if I just left now?

I’ve decided to take the jump into prioritizing my blog and my interaction with the community, both online and off.

I’m going to jump into personal and professional development and start doing what I love.

Heck, I may even cut down on my “real life” work commitments so that I can add more non-monetary value to my life, and hopefully to yours.

No worries though, my blog will always remain ad-free and sponsored post-free.

The bigger picture

One thing I promised myself when I started this blog was that I wouldn’t make it all about me. I wanted to be able to reach out to readers and random internet strangers about how this stuff affects them too.

So in writing this post, I realized we all have pools that we’re just dying to jump into.

You may have been standing at your ledge for 30 minutes or 30 years, but what matters most is how soon you take that next step. Will it be another 30 minutes? Or another 30 years?

I didn’t realize how much I was holding myself back until just today when I, quite randomly, decided to free write for a few minutes. (I used 750 Words if you’d like to try it out.)

I got all my negative thoughts out and then my writing started to shape from whining and excuses to actually encouraging myself to jump in. I was channeling my inner cheerleader (which I never was in real life). It was fun and revelatory.

So here’s my challenge to you: find your ledge, but more importantly find your pool.

What have you been putting off? You can take a little time to explore the “why not” that’s been holding you back, but I recommend not dwelling too long on it. Dwelling on the “why nots” creates a breeding ground for more “why nots”.

And “why nots” are embarrassing and cumbersome to have to carry around at a pool party.

So here’s your permission: spend some time free writing, brainstorming or – here’s a novel idea – sit quietly and think about what pool you’ve been meaning to jump into. Find out what’s been hiding below the surface and realize that you’ve already been invited to the party. All you need to do now is show up and get to that ledge.

And then jump.

Gamify Your Life & Get More Done

With less possessions and fewer distractions (like Facebook), I’ve found more time to manage.

Which is great! But goals can get lost and muddled when there’s no clear path.

So my husband and I decided (at the recommendation of a good friend) to start the sticker system.

What is the sticker system?

The sticker system is nothing new – you might have used it in elementary school. It’s just modified to help us “grown-ups” to be productive (and, yes, to play with stickers).

You set goals and gain stickers when you reach them. Simple as that.

Sticker System 1

It’s been really helpful in getting us out for exercise and getting us to read and write regularly. There are a few short and simple considerations before you start if you’re interested:

What is it that you really want to do?

Start by setting some main goals. These can be something you want to do this year, this month or this decade. They can even be ongoing projects (for me, that would be this blog).

Think of all the goals you want to work towards in different aspects of your life. Mine focus on the physical and mental “categories”, but yours might just as well be socially or emotionally motivated.

Write them down.

It’s important to have them visible and out in the open. Tell a friend or partner about them and ask for support.

And of course, don’t let your goals stagnate. Change when you feel like it’s time to change. It’s okay to change.

Break it down

Next, choose tasks that will help you reach your goals. I want to get in shape, so 25 pushups gets me a star. Running a mile gets me a star too.

Don’t go too big! If you regularly run eight miles at a time, then your star task might be more general like “go for a run”. I’m just starting to get back into running, so it’s more rewarding and encouraging to keep it small.

Don’t get too in your head either, because there’s no absolute formula for sticker-earning. I think that’s what makes it so fun. You could earn stickers for eating breakfast or for showing up to work on time or for doing a cartwheel. You are the master of your fate, you are the captain of your stickers.

Stickers

I chose these stickers because they remind my of my grandma! She always had these stickers for us grandchildren to play with.

Pick a reward

My husband and I decided that at the end of the month, we get to cash out. One sticker = one dollar. We can use this towards a purchase of our choice.

I’ve got my eye on some Saltwater sandals (they’ll replace three pairs of shoes in my closet!)

Your reward might/will look different. Maybe it’s a coffee, or maybe it’s an expensive yoga class. Maybe you’ll require at least x number of stars before you can redeem your reward, or maybe your reward is based on how many stars you end up with.

How gamification helps

I’m naturally motivated by competition, and many Millennials are, so seeing a physical manifestation of my progress is encouraging.

It’s a fun way to address issues like motivation, fitness, health and professional development without making them seem impossible. This TED Talk is an awesome inspiration to get started:

And since this post is live, I get to add another star to my sheet.

What can you gamify?

Facebook and FOFOMO

I pulled the plug on my Facebook a couple months ago, and haven’t looked back.

I’ve talked about how much of a time-waster Facebook is in the past, but my usage was getting out of control.

I wasn’t using it because I was homesick. I wasn’t using it because I had nothing better to do. I wasn’t using it to even communicate.

Instead of using it to add value to my life, I let it do the opposite: I was using it to compare myself to the Facebook-version of my friends and acquaintances.

I always felt worse after visiting Facebook.

Why did it take so long to deactivate?

The excitement of Facebook really started wearing off after college three years ago. I realized that 90% of my Facebook friends were people I had no need to keep in touch with, personally or professionally.

I started unfriending and unfollowing people left and right. But did that stop me from stalking old crushes wedding photos? Nope.

It didn’t stop me from reading aggravating statuses (on purpose) and seeking out successful acquaintances, both which always made me feel bad. I was addicted to comparing myself with people on the internet.

We’ve all heard of FOMO, right? In hindsight, what was stopping me from deactivating my Facebook was actually FOFOMO.

What is FOFOMO?

The Fear of “The Fear of Missing Out” is what I’ve been calling my hesitation to quit Facebook.

I know it’s silly, but I was more afraid of how FOMO would affect me than I actually turned out to be afraid of missing out. I was anxious about how future me would deal with the anxiety of missing out on social updates.

Our generation has now been using “FOMO” as a new form of guilt or peer pressure. If you’re not where everyone else is, you should be afraid that they’re all hanging out without you.

If you’re not on Facebook, then how will you know your friends got engaged or started new jobs? If you subscribe to FOMO and let it consume you, you should be ashamed to have to ask.

For our generation, it’s unacceptable to purposely opt-out of what’s going on. It’s not “normal”.

I was afraid of the guilt and embarrassment that would come with ignoring my FOMO.

What has changed without Facebook?

My fear of FOMO turned out to be unwarranted. It turns out that I haven’t been afraid of missing out. I haven’t even missed out on anything important.

In fact, I’ve gained so much more now that I’m Facebook-free:

  • I (literally) have added hours of valuable time to each week. This positive change happened immediately.
  • I have fewer digital people/distractions in my life now, and my time online feels a lot less complicated.
  • I feel kinder towards people in general. What ever happened to that girl who made fun of me in second grade? I can’t go to her profile anymore and see if she’s complaining or doing well for herself (both of which could frustrate me). Instead, I send a silent good wish her way and move on with my day.

You can quit too

The most difficult part is finally deciding to just do it. There are a few steps that can help you get there!

  1. Start unfollowing and unfriending people. Ask yourself these questions to decide what to do with each friend: Does this person need to read my updates or see my pictures? If they don’t, unfriend them. Do you need to read this person’s updates or see their pictures (but you still want to keep an online relationship with them)? If you don’t, unfollow them.
  2. Download all the information and pictures from your profile. It makes it easier to shut it all down.
  3. Try deactivating your account temporarily – you can set it to auto-reactivate after a certain number of days, which might help you decide if it’s the right choice for you.
  4. Open up new avenues with new purposes. I’ve started texting and calling my friends more, and I’m inching back in to Twitter. I’m interested in meeting like-minded simple living people , so say hello!
  5. Don’t announce it. I wanted to share my email or my Twitter profile with a little “seeya” announcement, but I realized that allowing myself to engage with people before leaving Facebook was as dangerous as having just one more drink. It’s best to tell your closest friends personally and then deactivate your account without posting a word about it.

How do you use Facebook? Is it a positive or negative tool in your life?

Finding the Time

I’ve found myself “running out of time” to write a post for weeks (that have started to turn into months). But to be honest with you and with myself, I have plenty of time as a work-from-home woman without kids in a city where I have only a small handful of friends.

So, what’s the problem?

I’ve been in a major rut (or a minor depression) lately. But I haven’t been homesick or lonely. I’m not undercaffeinated. I get regular sunshine and my husband and rabbit are as handsome and awesome as ever. But still, I’m about as mentally stuck as a person can get.

Evening Coffee

Today’s post is an effort to combat that mental brick wall that I’ve built for myself and do something that, although I always push it to the bottom of my to-do list, actually makes me feel valuable and interesting: write it all down for lovely strangers on the internet. Leading me to the point:

How do you “find the time” when you’re stuck?

I know I’ve written about being stuck and the mind games that go along with it. But sometimes, you find yourself stuck and even though you know exactly what it takes to get unstuck, you’re stuck not doing those things. It’s a sticky mess.

So here I am, telling myself as much as I am telling you: if there’s something you’re trying to find the time for, you’ll never accomplish it. You have to make the time for it.

Make the Time

For me, that means forcing myself to do things I love (because when you’re stuck, these are sometimes that last things you really feel like doing) – writing, exercising, crocheting. It means writing anything for an hour. It doesn’t have to be good or correct or even halfway publishable, what matters is that I’m doing the thing I’ve been meaning to do.

Excuses and something worse than that

A lot of the delay comes from excuses that we so cleverly invent for ourselves. Mine? I woke up too late. I have to work. I haven’t had enough coffee. I’ve had too much coffee. The dishes aren’t clean. There’s always something.

What’s worse than excuses, though, are things I’ve heard many friends experience and I think it’s worth talking about. I call them, for lack of a better word, demons. The voices that tell us we’re not good enough, or that whatever we’re doing is not good work. Mine say things like: You’re not interesting. This isn’t valuable. You’re haircut is stupid. You’ll never do a handstand.

Yikes.

Making progress

So, how do you go from finding the time to making the time, and then actually bringing yourself to make progress? I believe I’m still in the “making the time” phase, but I’ve started doing some things to help myself visualize progress. Here’s what I have to share:

  1. Write out your ideal average day. Consider work, chores, meals, exercise and so on. Write it down. Acknowledge how it would make you feel. Be reasonable. Mine even includes the top three things that should be clean by the end of each day: the bed made, dishes put away, and flat surfaces free of clutter.
  2. Make gradual changes. Change or add things to your day slowly. Don’t try to have the ideal average day right now. Sustainable change comes in small increments.
  3. Be gentle on yourself. Above all, allow for mistakes. Forgive yourself quietly and peacefully and move forward. As I write this, a little something is welling up in my throat, because I am notoriously bad at being gentle on myself. These words come from Max Ehrmann’s Desiderata and I remind myself of them often.

I know far too many people, myself included, who don’t allow themselves the time for doing the things they love. So, here it is again: learn to make time for these things.

Identify your excuses and your demons and acknowledge them when they’re in your way. Then, carve out space in your schedule and in your mind/heart/soul to do what moves you the most.

I’m back 🙂