I recently spoke with a talented woman who avoids writing down her plans. She said that she feels anxious when she thinks about her future, and she doesn’t write down her goals because she is already overwhelmed with her to-do list and doesn’t want to compound the stress. Another woman told me that she was too old to have goals. (She is about 65.)
At one point, I didn’t see the purpose of writing down my goals, either.
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Before I began what I call “life design,” I felt extremely unsatisfied: I was living in a place I did not want to be, working at a job I was ready to leave; I didn’t see my family enough; I didn’t have time for the things that mattered most to me. Needless to say, I had a lot of complaints.
My life design process began when I conducted an annual review, looking back on what worked and what didn’t in the past year. Once that was done, I started working with my planner throughout the year. I started to document myself on a monthly basis, then I envisioned what I wanted: more joy, more community, work that makes my heart sing, more energy. Doing so only reinforced my belief that our words carry power. We all know the power of intentions, the law of attraction. When we say things aloud, we make waves. When we write down our goals, values, and priorities, we commit to them consciously and subconsciously.
Slowly but surely, over about two years, I shifted. I found a job that allowed me to move back to the state of Colorado where I feel at home. Still, these shifts led to more shifts as I continued to document and realized that my job and location weren’t the only issues.
Are you moving to the next level in your life? Life design planning with a journal or planner is your ally.
How to get started with journaling and goal-setting
Create a ritual every Monday where you look back at the prior week: what did you accomplish? What’s still hanging over your head? What is your focus for the upcoming week? Once you create a template with the points you would like to track, it will be easy to notice your patterns.
If you find it hard to start a routine, make it special. Keep your planner on your desk and sit down for 10 or 15 minutes and a delicious morning beverage each Monday morning and fill out your template.
If morning doesn’t work for you, try Sunday evening or Monday at lunch. Choose something that works for you.
Each day, glance at your focus and top tasks to make sure you are making progress. If there’s a particularly great day or terrible day, make a note of what worked or didn’t work.
Review the past year/quarter/month.
Looking at what worked and didn’t work over a period of time (a month, a quarter, a year) helps us clearly identify the challenges we faced.
You can record these by writing down the question “What worked?” “What could have been better?” “What did I learn?” Then answer the questions in paragraph form. It can be a short or long paragraph. Perhaps once you start writing you discover more questions to ask like “What would I prefer?” “How might I solve this challenge?”
When we see challenges, we can address them as opportunities to ask the question, “How might I…?”, which can help us discover new possibilities and solutions.
Envision what you want.
Envisioning is all about calling forth our highest values and checking if the way we live lines up with them. For example, if you’re someone who cares deeply about the environment, it may not make sense to drive to work every day. Perhaps changing location, finding a new form of transportation, or working from home one or two days a week would help bring you into alignment.
Start to live your vision by writing down the qualities that make up your ideal world. How would people treat each other? How would they treat the land? Once you’ve finished that vision, you can focus on you and imagine how your daily existence fits in with that world.
Use a template.
After you review and envision, it is time to start self-documenting to keep yourself on track. Templates are helpful because they can guide the way we think. When you don’t feel like writing or feel stuck, once you put the pen to paper, the process takes over and you can still write down valuable information even if you’re not trying. Since the template is the same for every day, week, month, or quarter, patterns and repetition become more obvious.
A weekly template might look like this:
What were last week’s successes?
What could have been better last week?
Top 3 weekly goals:
I am grateful for:
This week’s self care:
Close open loops.
Taking a “brain dump” is a powerful way to get rid of everything that’s on your mind. So set aside some time every Monday to write down your nagging lists, concerns, and issues. Doing so will free up more room, time and energy for us to be creative rather than overwhelmed.
Choose the most important tasks or goals in your life and write them down. It’s most effective to do this at the beginning of the year, then quarterly, monthly, and weekly. Set your dream-big goals in the beginning of the year, and use each quarter, month, and week to get there. That means you’re setting aside time in your calendar each quarter, the 1st of each month, and every Monday to review your planner. When we document our priorities, we can take an objective step back to analyze what is most important to us. If that is aligned and feels good to realize, we keep going! If it doesn’t feel good to see what we have been prioritizing, it’s time to change course.
Write down your challenges and insights.
At the end of each month, do a review to write down the challenges you faced. Then, examine them and dream up a list of potential solutions. Even if a challenge seems unresolvable, we can still brainstorm ways to help us cope. We should also write down insights, because they can be fleeting. This includes realizations we have from dreams, conversations, meditations, and just shower epiphanies. Writing down feelings and the messages that came from dreams and spirit deepens the connection with out intuition and allows us to see patterns or messages that are desperately trying to get our attention.