Welcome to the third post in my 4-part series on Marching Toward Goal Achievement. Last time we talked about why goals fail and how to create a savvy goal and turn it into an ass-kicking machine. This week I want to show you how to plug those goals into a schedule that won’t stress you out.
Since becoming a mom and also splitting my time among seven different spokes in my wheel of life, there was a long stretch when I was pretty sure I was losing my mind. I couldn’t keep up with anything. My brain was on constant shuffle or replay, there was just no sense of traction. No sense of productivity. No sense of success.
For me, this was especially limiting because those issues totally go against my grain. Even as a little kid, I kept my bedroom tidy and every little memento had its own special place—which I dusted, mind you. I kept a journal and I loved making handcrafted calendars and lists and color-coding and doodling my creations to personalize them. If I didn’t alphabetize the books on my shelves, then I arranged them by color or size, so that the entire shelf was aesthetically pleasing.
That is how I am naturally. But motherhood and a crazy, fragmented adult life prevented me from being able to maintain that level of organization and, well, sanity.
The result? An inability to think clearly. My study turned into a dumping ground. Piles of books on my floor instead of a bookcase. Sheer madness.
This wasn’t okay for me. Many trials and errors led to my discovery of natural writing forces, where I learned the conditions under which I am most productive and creative.
Once you get to know your real-world and writer selves and how they work best, then you can design a scheduling system for your plans or goals.
The one scheduling method that has saved my arse over and over, which I am happy to pass on to you, is the Rolling Schedule. I have used this schedule with several clients, and it has worked with everybody. Even though I firmly believe we all have to come up with our own personalized goal-scoring system for the long game, the Rolling Schedule is so flexible and forgiving that it can fit virtually anyone, anywhere, even at the last minute.
Pick ONE day of the week that will act as your first day of the week. Many people choose Sunday or Monday, but it’s completely up to you. Most important is that it should be the same day every week for consistency. This will also help establish the habit of weekly and daily goal-setting.
The night before or the morning of the first day of your week, mark out all your tasks, reminders, jobs, appointments, chores—anything of consequence in a scheduler of your choice. I describe my system below—help yourself to what you like and leave the rest.
I have a Mind Dump notebook where everything of any kind of consequence is jotted down. I’ve reserved the first quarter of my notebook for my mind dump. There is no logic or reason to the order of tasks written, but that’s the point. This is only the starting gate.
The remainder of the notebook is divided into categories: Immediate, Week, Month, Ongoing, and Duration. I go through the mind dump and select all the tasks that need to be done ASAP or at least within a day, and list them under my immediate category.
Then I select the ones that need to be completed within the week, list them under weekly category, and so on. If there are tasks leftover (maybe because they’re ongoing or because I don’t have a clear goal for them yet) I highlight them with yellow so they stand out in the Mind Dump. Everything that is written under categories is crossed off in Mind Dump so I don’t repeat it and also because crossing items off my to-do list makes me giddy.
Looking at all the tasks and reminders and jobs in each category I arrange them by priority and then plug them into the appropriate time or date in my calendars(s).
This middle stage, my notebook, is a critical bridge from Mind Dump to Scheduled because sometimes I forget how certain tasks or jobs are prioritized and I just work on whatever comes to mind. The breakdown in the categories of my notebook helps keep me on track.
Once it’s in the calendar I cross it off my notebook. This is another warm-fuzzy step. It’s a satisfying feeling to physically cross off a job you finished. That’s one of the reasons I love working schedules by hand. I also leave enough space in each day’s block in case I need to drag and drop from day to day OR, and this happens in my life frequently, in case something unexpected happens.
This includes tasks or reminders of anything that is on repeat, with no real end-date or completion. Checking email, social media engagement, log receipts, SEO, etc. I have to tend to such chores on a daily basis but they can easily take up more time than necessary. I plug these into any gaps of my day where I have thirty minutes or less available free time. Plugging them in ensures that extra downtime is not wasted.
Anything that is in my notebook that never makes it to the calendar, I roll over to the next opportunity. They are prioritized at this point and I’ll write them in a different color, usually red, to help me remember this is an older goal.
A rolling schedule works for short-term goals, so daily and weekly goals are best used here. Monthly goals might work depending on whether or not they are linked to anything in a quarterly or yearly goal. I prefer to keep monthly goals in a quarterly schedule.
Sometimes writing everything we need to do can feel overwhelming. Also, the mind dump might feel too disorganized or chaotic. If that happens, then just list every single task that you would like to complete within one week. List one task per line for organization purposes.
Keep in mind: the total number of items in your Wish List will be different from one week to the next. Some weeks have a light load; some a heavy load. This is normal. To help you keep your week from becoming too overwhelming though, I recommend that you assign yourself no more than 20 weekly items. For an average workweek (40 hours), that comes out to about 4 Wish Items per day.
Again, depending on how your real-world and writer selves work, 20 Wish Items may be too many or too few. Play around until you find your best system.
We can’t control life. And making a schedule or plans almost seems silly in the face of a lack of control. Some people do well flying by the seat of their pants. But that, I am willing to bet, is because they’re naturally spontaneous and unshakeable. Some people just go with the flow. I’m not like that, so I had to figure out how to fit my natural tendencies around a lifestyle that was all but predictable.
Next week is the last installment of my goal series where we’ll be talking about how to assess and GROW goals for maximum output!
How do you manage your weekly goals?
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Have a writerly day!