I never like to presume that I know how to do something better than someone else. What works for me isn’t always what will work for you. But, I’ve had a few twitter DMs and emails that have me thinking that this post might be necessary and valuable for some.
First, you need to know the resources I have accessed over the years to gain the background knowledge that I use for my process. I’ve read a lot of books on this topic, and these are the ones that I have consistently relied upon. I prefer audiobooks for this because…well…I don’t have a lot of time, and Iike listening to them in the car, while doing chores, and while exercising.
This is where I learned to completely change the way I set goals.
This is where I learned to set daily priorities to meet goals and how multi-tasking can sabotage all of it.
This is how I learned to craft a workable morning routine and write a “life vision statement.”
This is how I learned to set my priorities and build my vision at work and set limits between work and life away from work. It also helped me get a handle on the legacy I want to leave.
Figuring out how I really want to feel every day
Every December, I go back to the Desire Map workbooks (which I got with my planner…the whole thing comes together as a program – read this post for more information: The Desire Map – Put Your Soul on the Agenda). I redefine how I want to feel and what I will do to achieve those feelings. The audiobook takes you through the same process that the workbooks do, so you don’t need more than one. I just choose not to re-listen to the audiobook and instead flip through the workbooks and pick and choose where I need to re-evaluate things. Then I brainstorm all the possible feeling words that make sense for me right now. This year, I chose creative, mindful, restored, and sexual. I try to keep it down to 3-5 so I can memorize them easily and devote myself to working toward them all the time. It doesn’t mean I only do things that make me feel this way (wouldn’t that be great? but it isn’t realistic!), it just means I try to add activities that will help me achieve these feelings on a regular basis throughout my weeks and months.
YOUR TURN: List 3-5 ways you’d really like to feel on a regular basis (examples: energized, powerful, joyful, connected, reflective, lighthearted…choose things YOU have power over, not feelings that rely on others, like loved, cared for, or revered.)
Figuring out how I’m going to achieve those feelings (this is the goal-setting part)
I then consider what will make me feel that way. I brainstorm using a mind-map.
Then I consider what I can do to feel those things:
Reading and Writing make me feel Creative; Doing Yoga, Keeping a Sane Sleep Schedule, and Taking Time for Rest and Self-Care make me feel Restored; Focusing on Relationships makes me feel Mindful; and Focusing on Submission makes me feel Sexual.
And I go even further by considering how to achieve all of those actions: Reading = Book Club, Writing = Blog, Yoga = 30 Day Challenge and T/Th class, etc.
YOUR TURN: Put your feelings from step 1 on a blank sheet of paper and mind-map activities that will help you to feel them…get as wild and carried away as you want.
This mind-map can get a little unwieldy, but, once I get a handle on what is important, I then start selecting which of the things on the mind-map are MOST important, since I likely can’t manage all of it. I get it down to ONE THING for each category. I learned this strategy for prioritizing and goal-setting from The One Thing. They have some pretty good resources on their website to help you.
YOUR TURN: Look at your “crazy” mind-map and select ONE thing from each main category that can be turned into to goal. You should have no more than 5, since it is one per feeling word. Fewer is better.
Creating a Life Vision
Yours can be simple or more complex, but the idea is to write it as if you are already living it (present tense). It should be the goal…not how you get there. This is the vision, not the process for achieving it. Our goals are how we achieve it. And this vision is what helps us decide what goals make the most sense for our live. The vision should be based on the way we want to feel, and the feelings from step 1 should be evident throughout the description. I broke mine down to three categories: relationships, lifestyle, and work, but you can choose whichever and how many you want. I used The Perfect Day Formula to help me design this statement (the author explains it in detail) and a workable morning routine.
Marriage – I see my marriage being sensual, romantic, and sexually passionate, with a strong D/s core. We are connected and easy with each other, laughing often. Conflict is minimal and dealt with in humor and patience. We talk things out and make time to connect during the week, without distractions. We are past the drama of our earlier years and stronger for it…more resilient and laid back. We are both happy with our level of sexual adventure and we each make a concerted effort to meet the other’s needs for sexual variety and romance – e are both happy with the compromise we have come to and are willing to continue to change and grow as sexual beings. Our sexuality is paramount and our connection with each other is our greatest priority in life.
Parenting – Our son is happy and successful in school and/or life. We do things together on a regular basis, but he is independent and well-adjusted. We are open and accepting parents with simple and traditional ground rules. We spend time together as a family, attend his events, and enjoy each other’s company.
Family & Friends – We do things with our families occasionally – dinner, holidays, and talking on the phone. We have occasional social gatherings with friends, as well. And we go to a few community events, too. We have a few couples we like to hang out with on a regular basis. But as we both work hard during the week, socializing is not one of our major priorities. Staying in on the weekend is usually more appealing to both of us.
Home – I see myself living in a nice house, something clean-ish and uncluttered, with lots of space and light. A calm place, with trees and mountains and water…with books, and pets, and lots of windows. A small town. We have hired help for the yard and housework…finally!
Travel – We travel somewhere new together every other year, just the two of us…for fun and relaxation. We camp on a regular basis and take family vacations the years we don’t go on our own.
Health – I see myself and my husband being healthy…fit and active, but not overly so. We don’t make fitness our focus (we aren’t crossfit folks), but we make sure to fit something into our daily schedule. We want to look good for ourselves and each other. And we want to live long, healthy lives. We don’t drink as much as we used to, but we enjoy fine wine and have a lovely bar. I do yoga (at home or the studio) and walk (or run…if my knees hold out). We walk the dogs together and hike sometimes.
I see myself writing on a daily basis, following a routine where I write each morning but have time for my family and maintaining my health. I make a good enough living at what I do that I can afford my lifestyle and save for the future. But, I love my work enough that I can see myself doing it for life.
My husband is happy doing something he loves.
Maybe we own a business?
We have plenty of time for relaxation and travel, but we love our work enough that it doesn’t feel burdensome.
Basically, when I envision my future…I see calm and contentment. I see happiness without turbulence. And I see fulfillment and joy…for all of us.
Some people prefer to do this as a Vision Board rather than in writing…and that works, too!
YOUR TURN: Draft a vision statement. What would it look like to be living your perfect life right now? Write it in the present tense, as if you were already living it.
Select and Prioritize Goals and Then PlaN to Achieve Them
I use the process explained in The One Thing to do this (asking these questions: What is one thing you can do this year to achieve this goal? What is one thing you ca do this month to achieve that? What is one thing you can do this week to achieve that? What is one thing you can do today to achieve that? What is one thing you can do right now to achieve that?)
For example, let’s use my Creative category to illustrate the process.
What is one thing I can do to feel creative? Blog
What is one thing I can do this year to improve my Blog? Create a content routine that is based on my own ideas (weekly or bi-weekly features.
What is one thing I can do this month to create this routine? Post the content schedule in the sidebar so readers know what to expect.
What is one thing I can do to fulfill this routine this week? Brainstorm ideas for Mindfulness Monday and Lessons from the Mat.
What is one thing I can do to fulfill this routine today? Write and schedule my first Mindfulness Monday post.
Obviously, I wouldn’t do this for every single thing I want to accomplish. Only the big things, and it’s only intended to help me get it down to the actionable steps that I can accomplish in stages to achieve my goal on time. Some of my goals have a specific deadline, but most do not. They are just things I’m focusing on improving this year. That’s why I don’t always use the S.M.A.R.T. goal process. It gets to complicated when I make goals that do not have deadlines attached and it doesn’t really work with the global type of planning I like to do. With S.M.A.R.T. goals, I tend to get bogged down in the details, and I don’t want that to happen. I’d rather set goals and then use Backwards Design to plan out my steps. For example, if losing 10 lbs. is the goal, I design backwards from there.
Lose 10 pounds (app projects goal completion by June 13)
Step 4 – schedule workouts into google calendar
Step 3 – set fitbit app for exercise – commit to 6 day workout plan (4 x cardio per week, 2 x yoga per week)
Step 2 – commit to 40% daily carb intake and 250 calorie deficit (also 64 oz. water, 2 or fewer alcoholic beverages, and 6 hours sleep)
Step 1 – set fitbit app food plan for goal (lose 10 pounds @ .5 lbs per week)
As you can see, setting myself up to reach a goal takes planning and commitment through specific actions. I can’t just say, hey, I’m gonna lose 10 pounds. How am I going to do it?
Since this sort of planning takes hours to achieve (though it is worth it), I start in early December. And by early January I have a workable plan that has been whittled down to the essentials.
As you can see from my mind-maps, my big three are mindfulness, creativity, and restoration. I am achieving these things by scheduling routinely featured content on my blog, attending to my D/s relationship by starting a submissive journal, and committing to an exercise routine. I have to get it down to ONE thing in each category, otherwise there is too much and I get overwhelmed. Even though I know I’ll be doing a lot more with my time than just these three things, these are my FOCUS, because I feel like they’ll give me the biggest bang for my buck in achieving my goals and feeling the way I want to feel.
YOUR TURN: Come up with one goal for each of your feeling categories.
Step 5: Create A Time-Blocked Calendar that Accommodates your Have-to’s, Need To’s, and Want To’s (which should be in line with your Goals and Feelings from earlier Steps)
Just because I determine my desired feelings and most important goals, it doesn’t mean that everything else that needs to get done just doesn’t make it on my schedule. The final part of my planning is to list out all the things I HAVE TO do, NEED to do, and WANT to do. I wrote about this a few days ago. Check out that post for an explanation of how I use Google Calendar to do this. (Here’s a post that might give you some ideas on how to use your digital calendar to time block.)
Once that calendar is set, I use it to guide my day. It doesn’t mean there isn’t room for change. I’m not locked in, but at least the important things are on the calendar and I know I’ve been fair about how I have scheduled my time. I’ve made sure to be true to my obligations while still leaving time for fun.
I even time-block my work day so I know I am being true to those goals and I don’t let others pull me off track as easily.
It may seem very complicated. But once I get it down to the essentials, it’s really much easier to say no to anything that isn’t in line with how I want to feel, my goals, or my schedule. My time becomes much more valuable in the context of those things. I’m a lot less likely to do housework for 3 hours on Sunday, when my calendar reminds me to stop and workout or hang out with my family. I simply have to say, “Sorry carpet, you’ll have to get vacuumed later today or tomorrow when I have unscheduled time…I’ve made a commitment to my health that can’t be put off.”
Of course, I have to be flexible. I may have to put off a workout to attend my son’s game. Or give up blogging for a night to hang out with my family. Priorities can shift, and no one should be locked into a schedule. It is simply there as guidance and support. A reminder of priorities. Just so we don’t lose sight of them.
YOUR TURN: Create a time-blocked calendar.
Step 6: Create a Simple Morning Routine (and maybe a “before bed” one, too)
Each morning, when I wake up, my routine is to make coffee, let the dogs out, fill out my 5-Minute Journal app, and review/modify my schedule and priorities for the day. I use Google Keep to track my daily priorities in each life category (home, blog, work, health, marriage…along with a running to-do list and grocery list). I try to keep it to one priority in each category…no more than three. Then, I either read or do yoga, depending on my current schedule. Right now, I’m doing the 30 Day Yoga Challenge, so that is what I do next. It means getting up at 5:00 a.m. every morning, but I’m a much better person for it. I get ready at 6:00 and leave the house at 7:15.
YOUR TURN: Create a morning routine…keep it simple…make it a habit!
I’m not sure if this post will help, or make the whole process look that much more overwhelming. If you have questions or want guidance, I’d be more than willing to help. Really the whole thing boils down to being in tune with what makes you happy, what you can do to achieve a more common feeling of happiness, setting goals with that in mind, and sticking to them through conscious action every day. Whatever process helps you achieve that is a good one. This is just the process I’ve worked my way up to.
Important Note: Try on your “perfect schedule for a week or so,” keeping close tabs on the activities you avoid or just never have time to actually do, even though you have scheduled them. A schedule/routine shouldn’t feel like drudgery. It should feel comfortable. If you find that you’ve over-scheduled or things need to move around…do that! If you find you need to simplify even more, accept that you only have so much time and some things may just have to go or be pared down to the essentials.
I find that I’m often too tired in the evening to do a whole lot of anything, and I usually simplify my morning routine even more over time. I fall back on the rule of three (I have about enough time and energy to focus on three tasks at any given time). And if it doesn’t work out today, I can postpone it for tomorrow. Items that habitually get postponed may not need to be done at all, or may be less important that other tasks.
Yes…crappy things like housework have to get done. And I schedule time to do those things. But, I’m relegated to the time allotted. I only do my housework when I’ve scheduled it, otherwise it tends to take over my life.
This is a personal journey. And only you know what will really work for you.
Another thing to keep in mind is that schedules change and routines change as the seasons of our lives change. I don’t keep the same routine all year. It changes periodically. When my Husband is in school, I have more household responsibility. When I’m off for summer, I have more time for writing and other fun activities. During the first few months back to work, my career takes center stage. I also have to work things around my son’s schedule as that shifts from sport to sport. So…flexibility is the name of the game.
This article has been featured on Sex Bloggers for Mental Health – prompt #52 “Priorities”. Planning is a big part of creating work/life balance for me…and that means it’s a big part of maintaining my sanity and mental well-being. It’s how I make sure I’m allotting a fair amount of time to myself, my relationships, work, and home.