I’ve got this awesome party trick I want to test out on you. It’s less creepy than putting a cigarette out on my tongue, and not quite as cool as walking on an invisible box—albeit more useful, IMHO. Are you prepared to be wowed?
I can instantly tell your greatest frustrations.
For you? Hmmm…let’s see. Can you put your forehead a little closer to the screen? Thanks—it helps with the clairvoying bit. Nice forehead, b-t-dubs. Is clairvoying a word? Ah! It’s come to me:
You’ve had lots of great ideas…but you’ve never done anything about them! So you feel stuck.
I have another cool trick where I can intuit exactly how many chromosomes your DNA carries—but that’s for another day. Right now I want to help you resolve your greatest frustration.
This successful marketer and communications expert from Quebec began to dislike her work. Mara knew the reason why: she didn’t have any purpose in her life. Spending half of her waking hours slaving for someone else’s dreams just didn’t satisfy her. (Go figure!)
Every couple of months or so she’d get so existentially worked up that she had to purge all her dreams onto a piece of paper just to quell her anxiety. Working for a nonprofit; doing freelance writing; starting her own social-issues nonprofit—seeing these dreams made her feel reassured. But there was one small problem…she never acted on them! Once she poured out her heart and experienced catharsis, she left her great ideas sitting on a shelf. Which made her feel even worse.
This cycle of anxiety and relief culminated in so much frustration that Mara was forced to seek outside help. She was on the brink of quitting her job without another plan. That’s when she called me.
Probably like you, Mara already knew what she wanted. But, because she wasn’t continually planning and orienting herself towards her goals, she had locked herself in a pattern of inaction—which left her feeling totally out of control. The solution was dead simple:
Mara Started a Daily Planning Ritual
We started off by taking an hour to get clarity on exactly what her great ideas were and listing those as her bigger-picture goals. Once she defined these and printed them out, I helped her break her bigger-picture goals into smaller chunks that could be accomplished in a month—like submitting x applications, volunteering at non-profits, and getting published on different sites to grow her writing portfolio.
The monthly plan also included habits and goals that energized her and made her feel balanced enough to make progress towards her goals; This included things like spending more time at her sparring gym, journaling, and significantly reducing her time on social media.
Once she had a focused plan for the month, I assisted Mara in developing weekly plans which included enough bite-sized tasks to keep her consistently engaged in her purpose Monday through Sunday. Can you guess what the most important goal was?
Plan every morning
Each morning after her mindfulness and exercise routines, Mara decided which five goals from her monthly and weekly plans she would commit herself to. She also reaffirmed which high-value habits (like exercising and limiting technology) she’d stick with.
Fast forward one month of being consistent in her new habit: Mara has accomplished more purpose-related goals in thirty days than she had in the last five years combined. She’s engendered so much focus and positivity through working towards her goals and eliminating distractions that she decided she didn’t have to quit her job after all—she could be happy at work when she was actively bringing her greatest ideas to life. Smart move.
Some of the biggest issues that Mara faced were saying yes to every request for her time, spending an inordinate amount of time on social media (I’m talking 4+ hours per day), and constantly feeling frustrated about not doing what she really wanted to in life. But by adopting a dedicated planning routine—and factoring in everything from fitness to purpose to fun—all of these problems have been resolved. She’s unstoppable now, and living life on her terms. It only took one month of planning to completely change her direction and outlook on life.
Instead of feeling frustrated about what she hasn’t done, Mara is checking off goals and building her confidence. And if this woman who swore she would never be a planner can do it…so can you.
Five steps to become an expert planner (and significantly less frustrated person) today
1-You have to purchase a planner
I recommend a blank-paged, hard-backed sketchbook small enough to carry wherever you go. Six by eight is perfect. You can also purchase the Y-Planner, which comes prebuilt with recurring daily goals (exercise, meditation, limiting emails, etc.) and checkboxes for your top eight goals.
2-Define your long-term goals
Once you purchase a planner, you have to define your long-term goals. You can use the simple template I share with my clients below:
Career: What educational steps do I need to take? What skills do I need to acquire? Do I want to transition into another field? Who do I need to connect with? What would I really love to do, but have been too scared to try? How could I make my current work environment more productive, relaxed, and enjoyable?
Spiritual: Where do you want to be in one year? How will you get there?
Fitness/Health: What routines will you stick with for the next year that will make you incredibly fit and healthy? What is your ideal picture of health?
Self Love/Self Improvement: What trips, classes, and adventures do I want to go on this year? What do I really love and want to do more of? What do I need to do more of to be happy? What would I regret not trying, or sticking with? Which fun/enjoyable things can I do regularly each week? Which bigger things would I love to do a couple times a month? And which ones could a plan only a couple times per year?
How many books will I read this year? What successful habits am I committed to for this year?
Giving: What social/environmental/spiritual causes do I want to support? Where do I want to volunteer? How can I best help my family and friends? How often will I give? How much will I give?
Low-value habits: Which low value habits am I committed to eliminating entirely? Which will I strictly limit throughout the day? For most people, these are social media, texting, email, tv, and hanging around toxic people. Some of these can be foregone—like social media. Others should be limited as much as possible—like texts and emails.
Procrastinations: Write down a list of the biggest procrastinations that are making you feel paralyzed. Most people should have at least twenty. Make these procrastinations a priority for your first month of goal setting!
3-Create monthly goals
After you’ve gained clarity on your long-term goals, you’re going to create a monthly planning page in your journal. (Set a recurring reminder in your phone to do this once every month on a Saturday or Sunday.) Break the page into quadrants. Then slash a line one and a half inches from the bottom. Top left is daily recurring goals—things you’ll stick with every day. Below that is career goals. Top right is self love/fun goals. Below that is health and fitness goals. And the very bottom row will be giving goals.
Fill up each box with enough challenges to take up a month. Make sure that your monthly goals are coming from your long-term goals!
4-Establish your weekly goals
Once a week on Sunday, use the same format as above to determine your weekly goals. Refer to this page every morning when you come up with your daily goals. You can use the picture from the Y-Planner below for reference.
5-Spend five to ten minutes each morning planning out your day
At the end of your morning routine—and before you check any email or messages—spend five to ten minutes planning out the details of your day. Use the template from the Y-Planner below in your own blank journal so that you have your basic habits lined up alongside the goals you come up with from your weekly plan.
This routine is simple, like I said. But you have to do it every day in order to make a habit out of planning and accomplishing, planning and accomplishing. After the first month you’ll never look back. I promise.
You’ve got hopes and dreams. We all do. But only a thin slice of the population will do anything about these dreams and create the quality of life they want. Those are the planners.
So whether you’ve considered yourself a planner or not is immaterial—you must plan if you want to succeed. I’ve shared with you a simple system that makes it easy to plan for your bigger-picture goals every day through daily, weekly, and monthly planning rituals. Are you ready to begin?
If you need help getting your life in order with a planning practice, consider my coaching services.