Are You a Checklist Junkie or a Sailor on the Winds of Chance?
I have a confession to make. I harbor a secret stationary fetish - particularly diaries, journals and weekly planners. Oh the thrill of a new year and the annual hunt for the perfect diary and planner. The frisson of excitement as I open a new journal. The idea of a whole new year to fill with meaningful activity excites me. Each year is a blank canvas full of possibilities. I read through old journals and flip through the previous year’s diary to reflect and appreciate all that happened and what I learnt and accomplished. Journaling explores my inner world, records various events, practices gratitude, documents hopes and dreams and inspirational things learnt from books, podcasts and others. I call mine “My Little Book of Thoughts.” And then my diary awaits - a knight in shining armor that magically turns dreams into reality. A chalice of potential. What’s not to like?
Having written down my goals I consider if there is any new ability, skill or resource I could acquire that could help me achieve them?
Anything likely to hold me back? Maybe I can modify a goal to be more achievable or think creatively and plan ways to overcome a particular limitation. My primary focus is on setting goals. I’ve discovered that people who change the world step out in faith. They are risk takers and innovators.
I nut out what steps need to be taken to accomplish each goal, mapping them out over the 12 months of the year. Then comes the pleasant task of setting rewards. Research suggests taking the time to savor accomplishments and rewarding yourself is important for success but also for building a healthier, more resilient brain.
And wallah! - I am ready for my diary and planner. How thrilling. Time to start organizing my first week. I set aside some time every week to plan the following week consulting my goals and monthly objectives. Each day after meditation and journaling I consider the day before me and write tasks on my weekly planner because new jobs crop up and stuff needs to be adjusted. We stimulate the feel good brain chemical, dopamine, when we set small daily, weekly and monthly goals and then achieve them. I am a big “to do” list fan. It is nice to know that the crazy satisfaction I feel each time I tick something off is not OCD but my brain getting a healthy whiff of dopamine. I like diaries that have space to write in things like reminders, notes and the “to dos” - the extra jobs you hadn’t thought of that just crop up. The quite affordable OTTO diary I discovered in Officeworks this year has a section in the front for writing your goals, planning, and a monthly tasks breakdown - heaven. The weekly planner lives on my fridge. My diary seems to go walkabout - bedroom, lounge, study, handbag and car whereas the weekly planner is an ever present little kitchen Yoda that reminds me what I need to do each day. The holy grail of weekly planning is to develop the ability to set just enough activity each day to satisfy but not unduly stress or overwhelm. With time, planning and thought a malleable routine is arrived at as I work out the best day/time to do certain recurrent activities.
As the weeks pass a lovely rhythm to my days emerges and I hit the sweet spot breaking through the murky mists of chaos and setting sail for the calmer waters of order. The tasks set are challenging but doable. I think life is more marathon than sprint. Pacing myself by planning and scheduling rewards, rest and recreation all help ensure I make the distance. Of course there are inevitable storms. There is always a degree of mystery and surprise. Things change and so my plans and sometimes even my goals do too. I’m learning to hold them more lightly. They are a guide, not an obligation. And sometimes I just wing it. Things happen, new opportunities arise, and I have to learn to go with the flow when the current of life changes direction.
Perhaps there is a lot of uncertainty in your life right now. I have had many seasons like that. Sometimes as we navigate life exploring new things, our goals are just not clear. You might be at school or uni, for example, not sure where you’re headed. I say buckle in and enjoy the ride. Trust that things are moving forward towards something better and keep your eyes and ears open for opportunity.
I have also faced significant hurdles in life when planning a year in advance was just not possible. In seasons of struggle and uncertainty, I have found it more helpful to just take the next obvious step, and then the next, and so on - living day to day until the way forward becomes more clear. If this is you, please be kind to yourself. Find people who inspire and want the best for you. Remember that difficult journeys often lead to beautiful destinations.
How do you go about planning your life? Are you a checklist junkie or do you leave life to the winds of chance? What tips and tools do you use? I would love to hear your experiences. I will read them all. Feel free to share in the comment sections below.
In my next blog I will talk about one particular ability we all have and how it can be strengthened to help us ace our 2019 goals.