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.

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?

Checking In On Yourself

”If you look into your own heart, and you find nothing wrong there, what is there to worry about? What is there to fear?”

Confucius

I’ve been focusing in on the importance of self-care and self-awareness lately, and one of the essential components of it is to know what you need and when you need it.

And it can be as complex as an elaborate checklist detailing all your physical and emotional parts (think something like a vehicle inspection), or it could be as simple as asking yourself “how is your heart?

As usual, I am writing this post as much for myself as I am writing it for you. I feel like our home and possessions are out of balance these days, so I need to take a moment to evaluate the root cause of that (I’m guessing that it’s overwhelming busyness).

Let’s take a look at what a middle-of-the-road self check-in might look like.

Check In On Yourself

Give yourself space

Commutes and random time spent waiting at a coffee shop for a friend are good times to do a quick alignment check, but to really dive in you should give yourself the time and space you need.

Grab a notebook (even if you don’t use it – am I the only one who thinks better when I have a notebook nearby?) and a beverage and set up camp in a comfortable space. Allow yourself the pleasure of an uninterrupted span of time (I’m going to go with 30 minutes).

A 3-point check up

You might want to add more or only focus on one of these at a time, but here’s a good place to start.

Emotional

This is where you ask yourself about the state of your heart. Are you feeling full and whole? Do you feel balanced, or are there things nagging at your gut that you haven’t fully addressed? Get in the habit of digging deeper to find what is truly at the heart of the matter.

Here is also the place to ask yourself about your relationships – with yourself and with others. Are you connecting in the way that you want to? Do you need another friend to fill a space you currently are missing, or do you need to say goodbye to someone who is detracting from your happiness?

Physical

This is the one I’ve been focusing on lately. It’s a different way of approaching your gut!

Is the beautiful machine that is your body functioning as it should? Are you aching or stiff from sitting all day? Are you pushing yourself too hard?

Many of us are too tough on our bodies, so approach this check-in with a lot of love and kindness for yourself. Don’t make it an opportunity for harsh self-criticism, focus on positive ways you can serve that already miraculous body of yours so it can serve you back.

Mental

Allowing yourself to stagnate is easy once you’re out of the structure of a school. Here is where you ask yourself what you’ve learned lately. What are you excited about learning? Do you currently have projects that you are passionate about and motivated to work on?

“Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty. Anyone who keeps learning stays young.”

Henry Ford

Now is also the time to ask yourself about your current goals. What is guiding you right now? Is it a solid guiding principal or is it a vague direction? Whatever your answer to that question should be followed up with this: is that how I want it to be?

Ask yourself why

After each check-in, ask yourself why you feel that way. Filtering your grievances through a few layers of “whys” will help you discover the values behind them. Maybe the real reason your are frustrated with clutter in your home is that you don’t find your space inspiring.

From there, evaluate if there’s a way to address the issue. Search for other spaces that you feel are more inspiring, or seek out ways to create a truly inspiring home from what you already have.

This is the most important part – if you’ve had headaches lately, don’t just stop at that. Find out if it’s caffeine or sugar or stress and then actively seek answers.

A quick gratitude warm-down

Warm downs are important when you’re exercising, and I don’t see this as any different. Bring yourself back from the check-in by listing five things you are grateful for right now.

Just like with each check-in, ask yourself why you are grateful for these things. Reflecting on what you are grateful for (and, in my opinion, why you are) makes for a happy brain.

Simple living and intentional living are one and the same: you can’t have a simple life without knowing yourself and knowing the intentions that drive you.

So what do you need to check in on today?

Give Yourself Permission

I’ve been traveling and taking on new work projects this month, which means something has had to give. And that something, unfortunately, is something I love: writing.

I’ve been considering writing this post for some time now, but it’s hard to write about this topic when I know I’m a big offender of not giving myself the permission I need to do things I enjoy.

What do I mean by giving yourself permission?

Things to give yourself permission for

I mean allowing yourself to do something positive when you might normally say no. I’m not saying it has to be something big or life-changing. Here are some things I like to (and need to) give myself permission to do:

  • Sit and read
  • Drink a cup of coffee (not while working)
  • Pick up my favorite foods at the grocery store
  • Take a walk without my phone
  • Invest in a high quality item (like a purse) that will be a suitable replacement for several items I own
  • Read someone else’s blog and leave them a comment
  • Spend time with my rabbits
  • Take a nap
  • Go out for coffee
  • Pausing work to write a blog post

Ultimately, it’s about allowing myself to stop being caught up in housework and regular work to enjoy my day a little bit more.

It’s about being nice enough to yourself to take opportunities when they are available.

Be childish

When I was a kid, I had to ask for permission to have a Mountain Dew (which, looking back, was probably not a good idea to begin with). I had to ask permission to go to friends’ houses for the night.

I was so excited, as I’m sure most of you were, to become an adult and be able to do what I wanted to do when I wanted to do it.

But then came the responsibilities and the stress. Self-denial came along too.

I find myself denying a cup of coffee when I really want to sit, sip and relax. I deny myself short walks outside because there’s work to be done.

I realized that my “childish” desires (to write, to play with my rabbits, to indulge in a tasty beverage) are still there. They’re just waiting for permission to happen – my permission.

Take a moment to consider what you find difficult to give yourself permission to do. Is it something that would be positive and fulfilling? Is it healthy? Then say yes.

Permission

So say yes

Once you’ve evaluated what it is that you’d really like to be doing, learn to say yes.

I know this comes as common sense to some people, but the more tightly-wound will understand what I mean. It’s so hard to break away from housework, real work and other obligations even when the alternative is a positive one.

Say yes to peeling your eyes off of this computer screen and stepping outside for a moment. Say yes to cooking something amazing. Say yes to writing that blog post you’ve been meaning to write.

Say yes to being self-compassionate. This TEDx talk explores self-compassion and self-esteem and has helped me realized I need to be kind to myself and say yes more often:

…and sometimes say no

There’s so much about minimalism and simple living that is about saying no to things. Say no to excess, say no to clutter, say no to the advertised “norm.”

So what do you say no to and what do you say yes to? I’ve started setting some goals and building principles for myself to help me choose the right balance between the two.

Some questions to consider when building your guiding principles:

  • What do I want most for myself?
  • What do I want most for my home and possessions?
  • What do I want most for my loved ones?

If saying yes takes you closer to that goal, then say yes. If saying no takes you closer to the goal, then say no. Always do what moves you closer to your goals.

Sometimes, that means taking a break and drinking coffee while reading a book you can get lost in.

I’m still working it all out. But one thing’s for sure – this blog has helped me to hone in on what makes me feel most alive. It’s helped me to say yes a little more often. As I write this, I’m sipping tea in a cafe, which took a lot of permission for me to get out of the house and stop working for a while.

What do you find difficult to say no to? What should you start saying yes to more often?