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.

Planning.jpg

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.

My 3 Words for 2016

New Years Resolutions: I’ve made them for as long as I can remember, but I couldn’t tell you one off the top of my head. They’ve always felt important, but they’ve never been impactful.

I actually just checked back on my blog to see if I had written any of them down and found this post about an alternative way to view resolutions. It was refreshing. Thanks, past me. I don’t remember writing that, but apparently I knew what was up two years ago.

But that’s not what this post is about. I wanted to share a little look into what I’ve set up for 2016. This year, I’ve created simple new years intentions.

They’re more like guidelines anyway

I think the biggest hangup people have with resolutions is that they’re so resolute. There’s no room for error, and a simple slip up can ruin the whole project for the year.

I wanted something a little more open to interpretation. And to mistakes.

It always goes back to being kind and gentle to yourself instead of holding rigid expectations. So without further ado, here are my intentions for 2016!

Three guiding words

There is no heirarchy here. I based these on three personally important areas of my life: my relationships, my all-around health and my work. Turns out, they all ended up being relevant for all areas.

3 words

Nourishment

I chose this one specifically with my relationships in mind. I have been surrounded by some awesome support this year, and I want to make sure I keep up healthy relationships by giving more energy and commitment to them.

But beyond relationships, this hits another area of my life: my own health. I’m notorious for putting work ahead of my own well-being, and that’s something that needs to change this year.

Balance

I’m talking all sorts of balance here, folks: work-life balance, physical balance (hello, yoga) and mental/emotional balance. All of these have been out of whack lately, so I’ve been setting up gentle rules guidelines to help regain my balance.

Again, like I said, these intentions are not meant to be hard and fast rules that I’ll break and then feel bad about. Think of it like meditation – whenever you wander from these core intentions, gently bring your focus back. Self-defeat is not useful here.

Rhythm

I discovered this concept from Brooke McAlary while I was binge-listening to her Slow Home Podcast. She has a great episode about rhythm, and this blog post will help you get started creating a rhythm for your week.

I love this concept because routine is such a danger zone for people like me – if one thing goes wrong, I’m ready to scrap the whole thing until the next day when it starts over. I want to create a rhythm in my life that is kind and productive.

It also doesn’t hurt that I love the musicality of this word, and everyone can use more music in their lives, right?

Picking your own words

I started by picking three areas of my life I wanted to work on, but you don’t have to be that specific.

Chris Brogan has a clear way of explaining this concept, and really helped me get started with mine.

The most important things:

  • These are your words. You don’t have to share them or feel like you have to copy others’ words. Choose what speaks to you.
  • Leave room for change (a year is a long time!) and allow yourself some space to grow into the words. Mine are a little less specific than I wanted, but I loved that I had a little wiggle-room on how I interpreted them.
  • Don’t take it too seriously. Don’t let these words become negatively restrictive or impeding. The only way it will work is if you allow yourself some grace for unforseen circumstances.

With that, I wish you and yours the best new year! And I want to thank all of you readers for joining me on this blogging and simplifying journey – you truly made my 2015 extra special.

Now it’s your turn – what are your intentions for 2016?

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?

One Day At A Time

Don’t wish away your time. Take everything one day at a time.

The stubborn part of me always snickers at these cliche bits of advice, but since I’ve started working entirely at home and on my own terms (and having time for more hobbies), I’ve been taking these more seriously.

One Day at a Time

Why? Because lately (as you can probably tell by my silence on the blog these past weeks), my to-do list looks like this:

  • Be a millionaire
  • Be a marathoner
  • Keep the apartment pristine – always, and no matter what
  • Be an ultra-minimalist
  • Be a famous writer (in what? I don’t even know)
  • Crochet something the size of the continental US
  • Discover the cure for sleep (who needs it?)

And, if you’re anything like me you probably understand this desire to do all the things, and the feeling of failure when all of the things don’t get done. (Also, clearly this is not my actual to-do list, but it is a good representation of how I like to overschedule myself).

Our standards, while sometimes helpful, can often be our downfall. It’s time to grab that cliche advice in our hands and read it, recite it, hug it dearly until we understand it. One day at a time. 

No such thing as overnight success

Isn’t that the truth? However, we’re constantly presented with people and stories that seem to be just that – it’s like they woke up and were suddenly more awesome than they ever dreamed they could be. I have to be honest with myself: I can’t go out and run a marathon tomorrow.

I think this is a source of frustration for a lot of us – expecting greater results (and faster!) than we actually get. So what is it – is it us just not meeting some standards that practically everyone else in the world is meeting? No, and I’m going to say something that might drive some people crazy, but it’s true:

It’s all in our head.

It’s a mental thing! Nothing more. Starting from there, you can start to readjust your expectations and mold them to fit a more agreeable and achievable reality. I’m not saying to settle for less – I’m saying to avoid frustration and burnout, you need to set reasonable expectations for your progress. It’s not easy.

How I’m revamping my to-do list

So, instead of the above to-do list, I’ve been focusing on making things a little more tame. For example, I’m nearing my two-week mark of running (or other similar activity) every day. My old high school successes in cross country (that came to a painful end with hip fracture and surgery) have been coming back to haunt me lately, so I decided to get back in the game.

Am I running 7-minute miles and knocking out 5k’s like they’re nothing? Hell. No. I want this to be a lasting habit, so my goal each day is a leisurely 1 mile run around my apartment complex and a bit of walking. Some days I feel like I could run for hours, and some days even half a mile is painful, but I always make sure to get just 1 mile and train my mind to think of running shoes as an everyday accessory.

Here’s what the rest of my to-do list might look like, keeping in mind the one day at a time rule:

  • Pursue a daily average income goal; when I reach it, I can start reaching higher if I have more time
  • Put away my dishes when I’m done with them and clean one area of the apartment every other day
  • Spend an hour each week considering what I need to get rid of before the big move
  • Write a blog post once or twice a week
  • Crochet if I find myself in front of the television
  • There’s no way around this one: actually sleep and don’t feel bad about it

It’s time we all slow down a bit and allow for a bit of sanity. I’ve already started with the running habit, but can I make the rest of these habits as well? Yes. Yes I can. It’s never too late to pursue one of those high-level goals (like becoming a marathoner), but they require small steps at first. What’s more, they require any steps at all – getting started can be one of the biggest challenges (and there, my friends, is another true cliche for you).

As for the rest of my evening, I have one more work goal to meet and then I’ll happily fall asleep and rest up – tomorrow’s a brand new day.

Any tips you have for slowing things down and getting more done?

 

“The best time to start was last year. Failing that, today will do.”

– Chris Guillebeau

Wooden Sunglasses & Doing What You Love

“Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?”
Mary Oliver

Last weekend I had the privilege of visiting my younger brother on Hilton Head Island in South Carolina, where he lifeguards in the summer. In the winters? He makes wooden sunglasses out of a garage in the Midwest to sell online and on the island in the summer.

And here I am a week after my trip, and I still can’t quite find the words to describe the state in which I found my little brother. I found him doing what he loves most, despite how unconventional it is, despite naysayers, despite what the “normal” professional trajectory is for us Millennials. Even on the hottest days on those beaches, he seemed calm, happy and energized when brainstorming about his burgeoning business.

He’s found a place where he’s surrounded by like-minded, supportive people from all walks of life and from all corners of the world. He’s living an active (and frequently grueling and exhausting) lifestyle where he spends most of his days outside.

He does not have a computer, and rarely accesses Facebook. In fact, he took off for Hilton Head right after my wedding with half of a car full of stuff. Half. (I don’t think he would ever call himself a minimalist, but he is).

The most important things? Surfboard. Sunglasses. Phone. More sunglasses.

If you want to catch a glimpse of the island life, check out Luke’s Instagram here: instagram.com/luke_shades

His story is a page out of some of the most successful people we know about’s book: started college, switched majors, switched colleges, didn’t know what to do. Instead of embarking on an expensive out-of-country internship, he discovered Shore Beach Service in Hilton Head. He went to work, where he got the idea for Luke Shades and is now out of school and fully immersed in entrepreneurship and beach life.

So when I saw him last weekend, my heart was an odd mix of light and heavy – how wonderful for him that he’s found his place and is starting such an exciting journey! And yet, here at home my husband and I aren’t “living for Monday” so to speak – we’re getting by just fine, but we’re not flourishing. We aren’t doing what we love in a place that we love.

Being around Luke and seeing his fearlessness and undeniable passion for what he’s doing made me think again about what it is that drives me, what keeps me up at night. My mind has been racing this week, lists have been made, thrown away, remade, lost, and remade again: what is my equivalent of wooden sunglasses? What is my equivalent of lifeguarding? (Notice “equivalent” – Lord only knows how different Luke and I am).

Everything is easier when you’re doing what you love – even the hours of work, the blisters, the struggles – because you have a grasp on what your purpose is. Your life is precious and you have the choice to either fill it with things, people, places and work that you love or you can fill it with everything else.

What is it that drives you? What is it that you’re dying to do and haven’t yet done?

The Confident Minimalist

Remember that wherever your heart is, there you will find your treasure.

– Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist

There is an inextricable link between confidence and minimalism.

You don’t have to be a minimalist to be confident, although you do have to be confident to be a minimalist. But it’s not something that has to happen all at once. As I began to rid myself of four college years worth of junk, I started to feel more confident and comfortable with myself. Like a block of marble that’s slowly being reduced and shaped into its final form. I was getting there.

The confidence grew, and the conviction to live simply grew alongside it.

Then recently (and quite suddenly), my confidence left the building and went to wallow somewhere without me – leaving me frequently frustrated and complaining. I began cooking less, cleaning less and buying more. I started to feel that without the proper duvet cover I would somehow lose my place in society (I did get a duvet cover and it actually is wonderful, although the time I spent worrying – yes, worrying about a duvet cover – I will never get back).

I felt the need to start “keeping up with the Joneses” and looked at my unpolished fingernails and old couch with disdain. I bought a coffeemaker (which, okay, I don’t entirely regret) and a new dress or two. And believe it or not, the more I started to purchase and whine over things I didn’t have, the less I felt in control. I felt less like myself.

Simple living room

But a few good conversations about goals started getting me back on the right path. Introducing structure back into my life and beginning again on simplifying has cleared my head. A minimalist lifestyle isn’t for everyone, but I do know that this feeling of confidence and fulfillment has grown for me and my loved ones who have even slightly simplified their lives.

Owning a large and ever-growing quantity of stuff doesn’t necessarily make you confident – and it certainly doesn’t make you a minimalist. It’s owning only the right things you need to get by in your lifestyle at its simplest. There’s more “you” and less clutter to distract you from yourself and your goals.

As I’ve become more confident throughout the recent months, I’m seeing that I have less fear of public speaking, of one-on-one meetings with my manager or clients, of engaging strangers in a friendly conversation. And if there’s one thing I love doing, it’s being friendly. So never be afraid to get in touch with me socially. I love hearing from you all – your experiences bring me so much joy and motivation to move forward with confidence.

Hopefully you’ve seen the confidence grow in yourself as you’ve simplified as well. And, where there’s confidence, there’s happiness. Check out this great story by Joshua Fields Millburn meeting a man who was unapologetically himself, and share your experiences in the comments below.

Yoga on the Cheap

Aaaaaaah…

I just got done with a short yoga class without leaving my home – and without dealing with creepy fitness videos (is it just me, or can they get strange really quickly?)

You guessed it – there’s an app for that

Last year, I stumbled across one of those free “Apps of the Week” at Starbucks called Yoga Studio. Now, I’m not one to pay for apps (although I will admit to the occasional, yet deadly, in-app purchase of Jewel Mania. Those days are over, though.) But, I would gladly fork over the whole $2.99 for this beauty of an application.

There is an awesome selection of classes available for free after you download the app

There is an awesome selection of classes available for free after you download the app

Yoga Studio is easy for yoga beginners (like me), and the interface is simple and beautiful. Not only can you download 15, 30 and 60 minute classes, but you can choose between beginner, intermediate and advanced versions of various “classes.” My session today was on relaxation, which I desperately needed.

One of the neatest features is that you can schedule and create your own classes – pick out your favorite poses, and the app will even link them together with other poses in order for a fluid, well-balanced session. How great is that? Tree pose, gate pose and half shoulder stand here I come!

    There's a large, and rather intimidating, pose library that includes instructions, benefits and best practices for each pose. You can create your own yoga class using any combination of these poses!

There’s a large, and rather intimidating, pose library that includes instructions, benefits and best practices for each pose. You can create your own yoga class using any combination of these poses!

But why yoga?

I’m not saying this app is the only option, of course. I’m just saying – if you’re on a budget and you want to try out some yoga, this is an excellent alternative to taking classes. The benefits of yoga are in line with the tenets of minimalism and simple, healthy living and I just can’t wait to delve further into it.

I’ve read over and over again the physical and mental affects of practicing yoga (like improved flexibility, fitness, and stress reduction), and boy, do I believe them. I’m especially bad at managing stress – I kick into overdrive when I’m stressed, and fail to take general care of myself and my surroundings, only focusing all of my time and effort on working and worrying about something that sometimes doesn’t even deserve the time of day. I notice my mood shift when I get around to a nice yoga session, and it’s something I want to incorporate into my daily routine.

Real studios are (probably) nice, too

Admittedly, I have not been to a real yoga class in years, but the perks of going to a studio are not to be ignored. There’s a community around practicing yoga with others, and with a live instructor, you’re able to get feedback on your poses. As one who’s always been a bit overzealous when it comes to stretching muscles, I don’t think it would be a bad idea for me to get some instruction on my form.

Do you practice yoga? Where?