How are you doing with your goals for this year? Have you done a mid-year review? Did it leave you energized and excited over all the goals you met? Or do you find you are behind?
Here is one way to create a strategic 6-month action plan that will help you meet your goals for this year. . . no matter how far behind you might be.
I love new beginnings. I adore the first day in January. While many people are sleeping off the effects of New Years' Eve parties, I'm generally up early with my notebook and Bible. Because I love the idea of a new year, new goals, new accomplishments, I don't want to waste a single moment of my bright new start.
Maybe this is why I also love mornings. Each glorious sunrise brings the promise of a new day, a new chance.
When my husband played golf (for the first and only time) a few years ago, he brought home a new word. Mulligan. A Mulligan in golf terminology is a do-over. A second chance. I think that's how I feel about fresh starts, so I try to notice and celebrate them.
Today is the fifth of July. But before the month of July had begun, I had already prepared for it. July is a great time to issue yourself a fresh start! The first of July ushers in the first day of the second 6 months of your year. About time, in my mind, for a Mulligan.
THE 6-MONTH ACTION PLAN
This year I definitely needed a Mulligan. My husband and I laid out our goals for the year--as usual--in January, but even at that time, I already could foresee that the first six months of my year would be a matter of simply clinging to the edge of my obligations with my fingernails. There would be a lot of barely getting by and not much in the realm of actual progress.
Not that I'm complaining! For a mom like me, most of life lies in the sacred mundane: laundry, homeschooling, church activities, supporting and helping my husband, sweeping, washing dishes, cooking, nurturing my children. I'm one of those blessed women who always wanted to do exactly what I am doing, and all those things are a part of that life. I'm grateful for this. I love these things.
But there are a few things I feel a need to add to that mix. These are some of the things that ended up on my goals list for the next 6 months.
Which, as I was saying, I updated as of July 1. My husband and I read back over our goals, discussing which ones we completed, which ones we no longer felt a burden for, and which ones we needed to start focusing on again. And then I made a more complete goals list for myself in which I delineated my biggest priorities and the focus areas of each one, along with my "next step" in that area and a list of small steps to take to complete the project or move forward with my priority.
It's a simple process, breaking down your priorities into smaller, manageable goals. But many people don't do it. They see a goal, like "Clean out the garage," and they envision a huge project that requires three weeks to accomplish. So they never move forward on it.
CHUNK IT DOWN
But that's not the way to accomplish a goal or a project. The way to accomplish a project is to chunk it down into manageable sections and then break it down further until you have tiny, concrete, 5-10 minute mini-projects. Then you can move forward, absolutely clear on what the next step is and when you should finish it.
For instance, as I said, one of my priorities is reading. I want to read through the Bible twice this year, taking notes and making it a meaningful journey. That's a big task, and not one that can be accomplished all at once in a block of time.
Instead, I have to chunk it down into several small steps.
The hard part is the "two books a month" that I want to read in addition to the Bible. Which books? How do I get them? When do I read them? It's easy to fall into analysis paralysis and never actually take the first step toward your goal. How many times have we all done that?
So, when I decided to make reading a goal, my first mini-goal was to pick the 12 books I want to read during the rest of this year and collect them. I chose to pick 12 that I already owned, most of which I haven't yet read. I gathered them, made my list, and put them by my bed on a shelf that I stole from our living room. (I needed it more. Sorry.)
Then I challenged myself to finish each book in two weeks. So at the beginning of each two week block, I have to look at the Table of Contents to see how many chapters there are, so that I know approximately how many I need to read each day to finish within that time.
COMPARTMENTALIZE YOUR TIME
Then I put a time slot into my day when I would devote myself to reading that book.
Because there is always work to be done (floors to be swept, laundry to be folded, tests to be graded), if I don't compartmentalize my day somewhat, homeschooling and housework will eat my whole entire schedule. Swallow it whole. Gobble it down, and leave no leftovers for me or anything else.
So a major task in accomplishing our goals as women with a mission is to compartmentalize our time. I do this by making myself a time budget, telling myself that from this time to that time I don't do housework or homeschooling (unless my ox is in the ditch). From this time to that time, I only focus on these other important tasks. This time-compartmentalization is an extremely important part of my goal setting process.
However, I have found that accomplishing my goals, even after chunking them down and picking the next step and compartmentalizing my time, is still a challenge to follow through with. It seems like the urgent things of life always crowd out the important things of life. So I sometimes need accountability.
The problem is that accountability opportunities don't usually just magically appear. Sometimes you have to create them.
I look for ways to create accountability in several places.
I hold myself accountable on paper. Somehow, the act of acknowledging on paper that I did (or didn't do) the thing I am committed to doing makes it more tangible and more grave an offense if I fail. I can look back and measure myself this way. I can self-edit: "Oops. . . I forgot my vitamins three times this week. What do I need to do to make sure I remember?"
We share our goals with each other. We don't crack any whips over each other's heads, but we challenge each other and encourage each other. When we know the going is tough, we try to help the other person accomplish their goals: "I'll watch the kids this morning, honey, so you can finish that project." Not only are we spouses and best friends, we are awesome accountability partners.
Friends and Relatives
Sometimes I need that whip-cracker in my life. I love it when I have a friend or a family member who is also working on a goal. It doesn't even have to be the same goal! You just need someone who is working toward something who also wants accountability in their life. You can mutually benefit one another. (Quick tip: kids make great whip-crackers. They love checking up on their parents.)
If you are really struggling with something and need to take it to the next level, you may want to find someone who can help you on a more formal basis. This is the idea behind a personal fitness trainer or a counselor. Coaches are experts in the field you want to improve in. Finding a coach could mean taking a class, signing up for a seminar, or registering for a conference. It might mean hiring someone to help you, but it doesn't have to. Maybe it means finding a mentor who is willing to take some extra time with you.
How are you doing with your goals for this year?
Do you need to take some time to re-evaluate where you are and how you are doing?
Laura Berrey and her husband Tim are missionaries with Gospel Fellowship Association. They share a passion for missions which has taken them to several countries in Africa, Asia, and Europe. They currently minister in the Philippines.