Whether they are new for 2011 or not, you probably have some goals for your life. Have you set yourself up so that you will meet them automatically?
Life’s easier when you arrange it
I have a series of goals to achieve during 2011; some of them are fairly simple (a day trip, some books to read, and some drawings to draw) while some are more complex (complete undergrad degree, build a successful business, and spend 4 weeks on motorcycle trips). I’m sure you have a range of goals as well, from simple to complex. No matter how involved they might be, however, none of your goals will complete themselves.
The simple act of writing them down is a great step in the right direction. But no matter how fancy a list you’ve created, it won’t do the work for you. You still have to take action to realize your desired results. Before taking action, however, it is in your best interest to plan out how you will be achieving your goals. Make sure that your plans include the individual steps you need to take and time frames to complete them in.
Example in progress
One of my big projects for 2011 is to complete undergraduate degree, including two minors. While this goal is fairly automatic, assuming I follow through with the program that the school has set out for me, I still have to make sure that I get certain tasks done on time in order to graduate in December.
- Here’s what I have to do and when I want it done:
- Do paperwork for Business minor – start: 1 Jan – end: 31 Jan – Though I have taken all of the required classes, some of them were during my time in Ireland. There is still some paperwork to be completed to get the necessary credit and be eligible for the minor. Then I have to actually apply for the minor itself.
- Do paperwork for Art History minor – start: 1 Jan – end: 15 Feb – This application is a simple form to fill out, though it is through a different college within the university than the business minor. With less paperwork to do, I gave myself less time for this task.
- Apply for graduation – start: 15 Feb – end: 28 Feb – This application only consists of an online form, which I can do from home. I wanted to make sure my minors are taken care of first, however, in case they might interfere with each other for some reason.
- Complete spring semester – start: 12 Jan – end: 30 June – This is a fairly automatic process, especially with 7 semesters of practice behind me.
- Complete fall semester – start: 10 Aug – end: 20 Dec – Even more automatic, with 8 semesters behind me.
Other than the school semesters, the schedule is fairly self-created. I wanted to make sure to spread things out and give myself plenty of time to complete each individual task. Realistically, I could easily complete all three of the applications in less than a week. However, with other goals in progress at the same time, school in progress, and life happening, I felt that the extended time-frame would give me plenty of breathing room.
I have noticed that I don’t look ahead in my planner more than a day or two. This means that deadlines can catch me by surprise. In order to prevent this surprise, I planned out not only the deadlines but also the start dates. This way I don’t have to think about when I need to get started, but just do what my calendar says.
Having taken the time to plan out the dates for the various steps, it would be a shame for them to exist on the spreadsheet in my computer and not be seen again until my quarterly review. Thus, I’ve set up a system of reminders so that I know when to begin tasks and also when they must be completed by.
- There are three main components to my reminder system:
- Planner with sticky-notes – The various end-dates have been noted in my planner in red. I wrote out sticky-notes with my starting dates and placed them where they belong. These sticky notes can be added to as needed, and also moved from day to day as I work on the goals.
- Google calendar – Both the beginning and end dates have been added to my google calendar as well, so that I see them no matter which calendar I look at.
- Email reminders – The notes in Google calendar have been arranged to send me an email reminder on the proper dates.
Between these three notification systems, there is no way for me to avoid my scheduled beginning and end dates. Daily reminders will help me ensure that I take the actions required to complete the individual steps.
If I kept everything on one calendar it would be easy to simplify my system. However, I know I don’t check either calendar on a daily basis, and so I have to keep this information in both places.
Another option that I considered was to create a poster-sized calendar of my goals that I could hang in my office. This calendar would display the end-goals, the individual tasks, and their deadlines. This daily reminder would help keep me motivated and being able to make big red slash marks across completed goals would be quite satisfying. Though it isn’t completed yet, I haven’t ruled the idea out.
Have you set up your system?
Having a reliable system to remind you of your next steps is amazingly important to achieving your goals. It doesn’t take much time or energy to plan out your goals, their next steps, and the important dates. By taking a bit more time you will be able to create a system that works perfectly for you. Maybe you only need the end dates noted in your planner, or perhaps you’re like me and need multiple reminders. If that isn’t enough, you could set up a daily email to remind you of the days tasks.
No matter what you need to do, take the time to set up your system. It will make completing your goals for the year so much easier.