Starting new projects and planning are two of my favorite activities. I’m a type A, if you hadn’t
already surmised. I also have bipolar disorder and therefore, I get super (I mean SUPER) passionate about new ideas and beginnings. And then…they fizzle pretty quickly. And the fizzling makes me feel bad…which leads me down the self-implosion route…and eventually…I’m once again hanging out with my old friend “depression.” It’s a nasty cycle, and one I’m sure several of you can relate to on some level.
To make things even more complicated, there’s probably a little adult ADD to contend with, which means focusing and keeping myself organized can often feel like climbing Mt.Everest without the right gear and with a pack of spider monkeys as my sherpa guides.
So, I spent my entire winter break preparing for this.
The challenge (and motivation) for me this time is that I can’t afford to let it fizzle. Sara Knight has a great little book for this). Now, like any addict (I just happen to be addicted to not having my shit together), it is easy to say I want to quit or start something. It’s fairly easy, even, fun actually, to plan. The first few days or weeks…yeah…okay. But then, like all habits one tries to create (and science backs it), it gets harder the closer you get to actually making it a habit.
fizzle. Mr. D and I have been down this road too many times, and I’ve got a thing or two to prove, not just to him, but myself, as well.
I am naturally lazy and apathetic about a lot of things. Like Eeyore, I could just bury my head in the sand and let life pass me by, sad and mopey because things just didn’t turn out my way. But, to keep my marriage…and my health…it’s going to be necessary to do some pretty serious internal and external work this year.
I took ideas from the best resources I came across this year to create my own goal/priority “road map” for the year.
Here are the steps I followed…
Step #1: Core Desired Feelings – I started with how I wanted to feel.
This was a week-long morning journaling endeavor using The Desire Map workbook. It took some doing, but I finally whittled my list down to
five four“core desired feelings” to focus on and work toward this year. I want to feel deeply connected, receptive, sensual present, gracious, and centered. From here, I had to consider what actions and circumstances would help me feel that way. And every day, as I build my schedule, these feelings are central. I write them at the top of my daily planning page each morning and make sure that the majority of what I have planned will help me get there.
Step #2: Life Vision – That led me to writing my “vision” (I used The Perfect Day Formula – a guide from the editor of Early to Rise – to help with this, since it provides a pretty decent example of what a simple life vision should look and sound like). My vision categorizes my life into three major categories: relationships (marriage, parenting, family & friends), lifestyle (home, travel, health), and work. I basically just briefly described my life as I wish it were…as if I were already there…in each of these categories. The whole thing is only two pages long. It’s optimistic, positive, and realistic, focusing only on the things that matter most to me. No complaining.
Step #3: Setting My Top Priorities & Goals – Next, I selected one sub-category from each of these main categories to focus on this year: marriage, health, and writing. Those are my priorities. The One Thing provides templates for breaking these areas down even more, from “someday goals” to “5-year goals,” “1-year goals,” monthly, weekly, daily, and “right now.” So I went through the process for each of these subcategories (it doesn’t take long with the one page worksheets in the PDF I linked above). There are a few other exercises in the PDF that you might want to try, as well.
Step #4: And that got me to the first steps I must take and THE ONE THING that I must do in each category of my life to make the biggest overall impact on everything. Handily, my sex/marriage goals connect directly to my blogging goals (yay!), and my fitness goals are just a matter of scheduling and follow-through. If anyone is interested in my fitness journey, I’ll post that somewhere separate (and out of the way) on the blog. It does actually have quite a bit to do with my sex goals, too. It’s no secret that being healthier and in better physical shape has an impact on sex drive and body image. So there’s that. All my goals intertwine, which will hopefully make them easier to stick to and achieve.
I printed all of these little items out (my CDFs, my vision, and my goal sheets) and stuck them in the front of my planner for continual reference.
Now, as a type A…I’m a serious planner. And because of the ADD, I probably go overboard on the organization and tracking. But, I’ve found that it is necessary for me to do this to stay “deeply connected” to what I’m trying to accomplish and to keep myself on track.
So, these are my tools…
I have an adorable planner.
I have tried so many different planners, but this is the one that works for me. I bought the hole punch that works with it, so I can put anything in it, remove pages, replace them. For those us who hyper-plan…and re-plan…and then screw up and plan again, this is a godsend.
I color code the events on the monthly calendar.
Each of my family members and each of my three main priorities (from above) have their own color. The weekly calendar pages are set vertically on a two-page spread, and there are three blank sections for each day. I think most people use them for morning, day, and night, but I use them for my three priorities (marriage, health, and writing). And then I use the daily pages for specifics, notes, to-do lists, and scheduling.
There’s a lot of sensitive, personal information in this little gem, so it doesn’t leave my desk. It’s part of how I start my day, with what I call my “gratitude flow.” I do a bit of yoga, some mediation, prayer…I set an intention related to my priorities and/or goals, and then I plan my day based on my CDFs. I must say, it’s hard to plan my day around how I want to feel, rather than just a bunch of shit I feel I have to get done. It changes things. My CDFs rule my vision. My vision sets my priorities. I break my priorities down into “manageable chunks” (read Sarah Night’s Get Your Shit Together) to get to the One Thing I must do right now…and today…
It really probably seems simple. But for me, this kind of planning has never really COME TOGETHER so beautifully. It took me all year to read these books, process all the best information I gleaned from them, and turn them into a “system” that would work for me. And this system keeps me from creating To Do lists a mile long and then letting them ruin my life. It also keeps me focused on what matters most, meaning I have to say no to a lot of other “stuff.” If that “stuff” doesn’t fit in with my priorities and doesn’t help me attain my goals or feel the way I want to feel, then it gets pushed to the bottom of the list or removed. Unless…of course it’s an emergency or a requirement. Things like “taxes” and “do the laundry…again…for the 4 millionth time” just never leave the list. But, they have ceased to rule my life. It used to be that I’d make a to-do list and then get busy crossing shit off of it every day. Invariably, more things would get added, and the list was always too long to actually accomplish. I never completed the list. Ever. Which always left me feeling drained and sort of pissed off. It meant I never felt the way I wanted, and what I wanted to do always got put off. And that, my friends, is a sure-fire mood killer. Bye-bye libido, right?
I am pretty much the “calendarer” in our household. I keep, update, and remind everyone what’s going on and what’s coming up. So, we have a family calendar on the wall and I use Google Calendar, since I can combine both my personal and work calendar in one place. Plus, I have a cool little widget on my phone’s main screen that tells me what’s on the docket for today and tomorrow, to keep me in check. I color code this, too, so I can see what applies to me, Mr. D, my son, and all of us as a family. And I time block to make sure my priorities take center stage.
My planning system is pretty important. And it works pretty well. I will admit, that I spend an inordinate amount of time planning, but since I enjoy it (as a sort of sick hobby, I suppose), it’s all okay. I’ll also admit that I can get mired down in the planning and forget to actually do anything (or run out of time to do anything). I’m working on that. It’s a journey.
To keep this from becoming to unwieldy a process, I use the Google Keep app. It allows me to make lists, but hide the items I’m not currently focusing on. So, at any given time, only the things I have to accomplish TODAY are showing, but I can add to the hidden list as much as I want and prioritize those items. I have checklists for my marriage, my blog, my health, reading, basic to-dos, housekeeping, work…plus all of my shopping lists (which I can share with Mr. D) and my son’s chore list (which I can share with him). It’s super handy and very simple. I like seeing all of my lists in one place and being able to check them off and edit them at a whim.
I’m using Loop Habit Tracker to track my goal progress. I played with several habit tracker apps this year, and this one was the simplest to use. The interface is clean, it sets reminders, and it shows progress over time in multiple ways. Not a bad little app for FREE. So many of the other trackers I found just had too much extra stuff, when all I wanted was to chart my progress.
And finally, I also keep a gratitude journal. The 5 Minute Journal app is perfect for this. It reminds me in the morning and at night to complete the short entry, and it allows me to attach an image for the day. Staying grateful is one of my aims this year. So, this app is perfect. I used it on and off all last year, and have determined that it is the best product of its type.
This probably all sounds like a lot of work. And, I’ll admit, the set-up takes awhile. But, it was a worthwhile undertaking for the end of the year. I think it set me up for greater success this year, because I have a very narrow focus. I have specific goals that lead up to bigger ones. These goals are directly tied to my top priorities, which are directly tied to what I want my future to look like. And all of it is meant to help me feel the way I want to feel on a daily basis.
So here’s to a great 2018.