So now I have a list of goals for the year. This list seems fairly long and involved when I look at them all together. But that simply means that they are ready for the next step in my process.
And the next step is to do some preplanning. Not everything has to be done at once and to think of it that way will help me not feel overwhelmed by just looking at the list. As I look them over, I see that several of my goals can be scheduled, for example getting new glasses in March. Some require a build up or a plan like walking three times a week or building my cash reserves. Others require a full project plan like several of my home projects and almost all of my business projects. Some things I need to plan when I start them, others when they are due and still others require both – a start and a due date. And several of my ongoing goals are already linked to the calendar in some way.
And I need to enter all of these goals into my current system for tracking projects and tasks till completion. I use a variant of Getting Things Done (GTD) for tracking my projects and next actions. My tool for GTD is an application created by the Omni Group called OmniFocus. (To learn more about GTD, check out the Merlin Mann’s brilliant series on 43 Folders.)
I could have just as easily simply added this list to my current list of projects and created a project list for each goal listing all the steps required. And by then identifying the next action needed for each, I could include these actions within their respective context list.
I do however print out an index card listing my mission and long-term goals. I also do most of my project brainstorming by hand on scratch paper (backs of old code samples and reports). And I do create physical project folders for my larger projects, especially those related to my business.
Whichever way I approach this process, I will definitely need to break each goal down into a series of actionable tasks. Without actionable tasks, how exactly would I go about adjusting my glucose levels for example? So as I enter my list into OmniFcous, I try and identify the steps needed to accomplish each goal. I may not have all the information I need to fully plan each goal, but I can at least list what I think are the next few steps.
For example, as I sat scratching my head about marketing goals, I suddenly realized that I was no longer sure what a marketing goal was anymore. So I listed reading up on marketing plans and reviewing sample marketing goals as the first few steps.
In the process of moving these goals into my system, I noticed that some of the goals needed to be broken up into succinct parts and others needed wording that more accurately described their end state. In this way, my goals are becoming more refined and also more accessible.
After adding some timeframes, I select the set I want to work on during the first quarter. Since I am already a week into February, I need to be careful that I have not overloaded this quarter. This is especially important because as a quick look at my calendar will confirm, I have a really full schedule these next few months.
So I temper my expectations within the reality of my life circumstances. What makes this step less painful for me is that I am already doing so many things that reflect my mission and purpose. In earlier times, it was a struggle to find space for my goals and priorities within so much mind numbing, soul draining and heart breaking work. I carried my artistic goals around in my emotional inner pocket to protect it form the constant pain, illness and grief within my life. Now I can let my artist self out to play within a life filled with soul enriching work and meaningful connections.
Knowing that whatever goals you set have to be nurtured within the soil of your lived life was such a revelation to me. So my goals need to not only stretch me, it has to fit me and somehow fit within my current life somehow. Setting goals that call for a complete change in my life in order to accomplish them is not helpful for me. However setting goals that when they are completed, will change my life is another matter altogether. The latter respects the ground where I currently stand, and allows me to be changed by the process. The former demands that I change first. I seldom am successful with goals that require me to change before I can accomplish them.
An example of this are my goals associated with improving my health indicators. With the exception of the walking goal, all are indications that can be tested objectively. I have loads of ways to reach these goals. But notice that they do not say, “Switch to a vegetarian diet”, or “Cut out processed sugar”, although one could argue that doing these things would certainly help. I have found over the years however, that goals like these do not work for me personally. Last year for example, when it looked like I might be diabetic, I did not go on a diet. I simply began tracking my food intake by food groups. The result was that I lowered my blood sugar and lost weight. My goal was a normal glucose result, and I was successful.
Another way of saying this is I tend to focus on the “What” not the “How” when I write goals for the most part. And as soon as I say this, you will notice that I do include a “How” goal of walking three times a week for 30 minutes. So it is not a hard and fast rule, but I know some things are far more likely to happen if I word it a certain way that reflects my unique perspective and lived experience.
And so over the next few weeks, I will discuss my process and plans for the next few months as I begin working toward my annual goals.