‘Most people overestimate what they can do in one year and underestimate what they can to in ten years.’ - Bill Gates
We all have goals of some kind. We may want to get a promotion, run a marathon, or spend more time with those we love. Some of our goals may be more ambitious than others, but the important thing is that we all have them, small and large. Unfortunately, goal setting has become associated with the somewhat cliched New Year’s resolution goal setting exercise that is rarely exercised. We set a goal on January 1st to go to the gym 4 times a week for the rest of the year and give it a half hearted attempt for a week or two. Wearing the same suit and tie from last New Years eve party a year later we revisit the “goal” we made realising that we kind of screwed up, and the process repeats itself.
Progress is one of our most basic human needs that leads to feeling fulfilment and happiness in everyday life, and finding a way to maximise our efforts and precious time is worth giving some of our attention. I have found that setting yearly goals can feel exhilarating and motivating in the moment, but that without a proper strategy these dreams will struggle to see the light of day. The secret that I have discovered for myself is the art of planning my week. Making a plan for the coming week is the best way to get an overview of what you want and need to get done. However, it is also the easiest way to feel overwhelmed and disheartened with the amount of things you realise need attending. This can lead to unnecessary stress and worry that ultimately defeats the purpose of planning. The following techniques and tips provide a uniquely playful approach to weekly planning that leaves you feeling excited, enthusiastic, and most importantly confident that you can get everything done. They help me to make the most out of each and every week I spend working toward achieving my goals, and hopefully there is something that you can take from it to use for yourself!
1. The first thing I am going to suggest in planning your week is getting yourself a blank notebook that you can use solely for this purpose. I have chosen one that is aesthetically pleasing because it helps me focus, knowing that writing in it is for one purpose only. I also recommend that you hand write your weekly plans, as it helps to establish a firmer mental connection with what you write down, as opposed to typing it on a computer.
2. The second step is to identify what your PILLARS are. What I mean by this is identifying 5-10 areas in your life that you consider to be the most important to you. You might have Pillars that include My Body, My Relationships, My Work, My Hobbies, My Finances, My Home and so on. While most people will probably have Pillars called My Relationships and My Work you might also have one called My Travels or My Dating that others won’t have. Whatever they might be you should be able to fit everything in your life into one of these categories. You’ll notice that even tedious tasks like grocery shopping and doing laundry can fit into one or more of these categories. I’ll get back to that in a bit. Once you have your Pillars solidified you can now move onto step 3, which is the most important one.
3. Find the WHY. Identify why the Pillars you came up with are important to you. Next to each Pillar write down at least 3 reasons why this is an area of your life that is important to you and something that you wish to improve on. Your body may be a Pillar because the way you physically feel and look is important in determining how you mentally feel about yourself. Having a stronger body may make you more self confident and lead you to be more outgoing. Or working out first thing in the morning may be what you personally need in order to kick start a productive day. What ever the reasons you have for choosing a particular Pillar, write it down. The WHY is more important than the WHAT when it comes to getting motivated and sticking to a plan. Compare the two sentences below.
“I should go to the gym more often.”
“The reason why I want to go to the gym and eat cleaner is to loose weight and get healthy so that I can be a role model for my kids who need someone to look up to.”
It is pretty obvious which sentence is going to have a bigger impact on an individual. Finding the WHY is what’s going to make working on those Pillars important for you to do, and therefore make you want to do them. Life coach Tony Robbins says that turning your shoulds into musts is the most important step towards taking action, and it makes complete sense. Going grocery shopping may feel like something dull that you would rather skip and order takeout. However, going grocery shopping may be an important step in the process of buying the healthy foods that you need in order to better stimulate your brain during the day. Or it may be something you need to do in order to save money to be able to afford going on that dream vacation. Taking the time to identify and write out your WHYS will significantly help you feel enthusiastic and motivated long term.
4. The next step is where some people might want to pass, but I urge you to hear me out and give it a try. Instead of leaving my Pillars with there original and perfectly acceptable titles, I decided to personalise mine. Instead of having the ordinary title of My Body I wanted to give them titles that would do two things. a) Excite me and b) make them specifically tailored to my WHY. I did a quick exercise of writing down any words that I could think of that I strongly related positively to. I came up with words like inspire, create, focus, achievement, World Class, and innovation. I then took some of these words and created new exciting titles that reflected my WHY. Instead of My Body I named it World Class Health and Fitness because it makes it sound awesome! Yes, it’s a bit silly but it gets me excited and it reminds me that I want to maintain optimum health to be able to function at a peek level throughout the day. Instead of My Home I named it Focused Living because it reminds me that tidying up and doing the dishes isn’t just a boring task that I ‘should’ do, it is a necessary task that will better allow me to not be distracted and instead focus on more important things. The words we give things have significant impact on how we perceive them and this exercise utilises this fact.
5. The final step is to actually write down underneath each relevant Pillar what it is you would like to and need to get done in the coming week. This is everything from cleaning the basement to going on a run to marketing your new business. Whatever your plans are write them down underneath the corresponding Pillar and remember why it is that you are going to do them.
The amazing thing is that you may have 50 different things that you need to get done throughout the week but because you have categorised each thing under a Pillar, you really only have 7 or 8 things that you need to do this week. This way of thinking is both more focused but also more achievable and will get you much better results. The first time you do this exercise it will probably take you an hour, but I can pretty much guarantee that it will be enjoyable. After the first week you need only take 20 minutes out of your Sunday to plan the coming week and set yourself up for maximum productivity and eventual long term fulfilment.
I have started to omit things from my weekly plan that have already become routine and that I no longer need to write down. Things like tidying my desk regularly and going to the gym first thing in the morning weren’t always routine for me, but after a few weeks of having them on my weekly plan they have now become second nature and I don’t need to focus on them. Taking them off my weekly plan frees up mental space and allows me to improve in other areas and not getting stuck in the same plan week after week. Taking it one week at a time is what I have found works best for me as I can set manageable weekly goals that will help me in achieving my bigger goals. I make sure to briefly revisit my weekly plan daily just to make sure that I am staying on track and remind me of why I am doing things, and I recommend that you do the same. Don’t be the person who’s New Year’s resolution gets forgotten, make a choice and make it happen!
Email me if you have any questions or would like to know more and I’ll make sure to get back to you!