Overwhelmed by my new goals planner
January 11, 2014 10:29 AM   Subscribe

Has anyone conquered the overwhelming task of personal and life goal setting and tracking? I just got a Tools4Wisdom weekly planner and I don't know where to start. Specifically I'm looking for a simplification and breakdown of making this process a new long term habit. I think that someone who has been there and done that who could share their insights on how they made it manageable will be really helpful. I've looked at some websites on this but it's too much data to process. I guess I'm looking for a dumbing down of some sort based on personal experiences.
posted by mrflibble to Health & Fitness (6 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
Conquered? Not really, but I can tell you what’s helped me get better at it.

1) Establishing a baseline level of energy. I started with fitness – clicked with me first, was a sort of right-time, right-place thing – and there was a natural spillover effect into nutrition and other areas of life. All of a sudden basic (literal, figurative) housekeeping was easier, and I had a greater capacity to do things I spontaneously felt like doing, plus, improved focus. Turned out I mostly knew about what needed doing and how to do it, I’d just been foggy and sluggish.

2) Establishing a meaningful overarching goal. I mean the big personal-career type stuff, easier said than done. This was a long, sometimes painful, nonlinear process that involved lots of tests, smaller goals, stops and starts, and brutal honesty. However: once there was a clear super-goal I could state in a sentence, it was easier to approach the intermediate details, working backwards. (e.g. Well I want to do x, and to do it, y must be done, by May 12th.) When I eventually grasped a Big Goal, the organization bit just kind of followed.

Tools etc: I spent two weeks researching time management and productivity tools up to wazoo. In the end, I stole a bit from everything. I went with writing a weekly dump list of things needing doing -- on my laptop, in MS Word, Outline view -- prioritizing it, and putting time-sensitive things into Google Tasks (lets you have subtasks on the web version), and use reminders. I have a small number of themed lists in Google Tasks, including one called ‘Odds and ends’ for miscellaneous stuff that doesn’t fit. I access it through Tasks Free on my Android (can’t add/amend subtasks from there, but it’s very convenient and clean). Google Calendar for firm dates. I use one email account for all this that's not connected with anything else.

GTD, Evernote and about a million other apps/tools didn’t work for me. Just Word – it wasn’t important to me to be able to access this anywhere but home, I just sit and do the dump list once a week on a Sunday or Saturday, no need to do it daily -- and Google Tasks/Calendar. Little things that come up when I’m out and about, I just put into Tasks. So it's not a perfect system (compromise on subtasks and being able to access that Word doc from anywhere, which I worried about but it turned out I didn't need) but it's easy for me to keep up.
posted by cotton dress sock at 11:15 AM on January 11, 2014 [3 favorites]

I am not familiar with that planner format, but I had a look at some screenshots of it and it looks like it's taken bits from different sources, which is kinda cool but almost overwhelming I imagine. It's got a traditional weekly planner, a task list that's based on Covey's time management matrix, and it's encouraging you to break goals into action steps and then annual, monthly and weekly action lists as well as categories. I can see that you could spend all your time filling in the boxes rather than, well, doing anything, which is the risk with a lot of these products. Don't be one of those people that sources the perfect moleskine and the perfect pen for their to-do list but never actually checks anything off it.

What are your actual goals? Are you at the point you haven't made any yet?

If so you can do a sitdown where you just clean out your brain of everything large and small - I'd like a new job, I need a new frying pan, I should phone John, I wish I could draw and so on. Or you can do the whole "come up with goals in 14 different areas" exercise .... worldview, contribution, finances, work, social life, etc. Either way you can come back to the list a few days later and see which are just to-dos to put in your calendar and which are Big Goals that need broken out into steps, which again you can schedule or list. It's almost impossible to make a whole bunch of changes at once though, I think most of the habit forming advice agrees with me there.

If you have specific goals already I bet someone here can offer advice on how they achieved them.
posted by jamesonandwater at 11:46 AM on January 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

Haven't done this, but I have done a diet (the No S Diet) where developing new habits is key. One mistake lots of people new to No S make is trying to change too many habits at once. It's better to work on a few at a time, just because of how willpower seems to work. Trying to change more than three habits at once doesn't seem to work too well.

Another rookie mistake is expecting change to happen too quickly. Most people need a few weeks or even months to get a new habit established. This isn't a quick process.
posted by Anne Neville at 2:26 PM on January 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

Start small.

For me that meant starting with "I'll be very low carb just one day a week." And "I'm only going to the gym two days a week, for 30 min total."

I know i have a tendency to get gung-ho so by limiting myself for the first month or so it became an easier goal to achieve.

I now have a goal of being mostly low carb/paleo during the week and not giving as much of a crap on the wkends. The holidays screwed up me workout schedule, but i was going about 3-5 times per week for almost 4 months and have been going at least twice a week since July 2013 which is the looooongest ever for me and any sort of healthy habit.

So start small. And give yourself credit for that one time or two time per week for the first month or so.
posted by sio42 at 2:37 PM on January 11, 2014 [3 favorites]

Try this...

First, it is ok if you fail, flounder, or change direction. Just try again.

Set a smaller goal that could probably be achieved in under a year. If you don't run, a year might be enough time to work up to a 10k. A year is more than enough time to raise $5000 for a good cause. It's enough time to be recognized for a award in your workplace and more than enough time to get certified in something you would like to be considered an expert on.

Now break it down... what are ssmaller benchmarks? Before yiu can run 10k, you need to run 5k and before that you need to be able to run 1 mile... Before you can raise $5k maybe you need to host a couple fundraising dinners and before that you need practice asking for money.

Now what regular actions could you take this month to get started? For running you could get outside and run for 15 minutes 8 times this month (teice a week). Next month you can see how that went and maybe change your actions.

And that's it. It's hard at first so just start with one thing that takes time, bust it apart into an imperfect plan, and recalibrate from time to time. If you miss your goal, you git an education in the process. You will be better prepared for the next one.
posted by jander03 at 12:02 PM on January 12, 2014 [2 favorites]

Thank you everyone for all the advice. I guess we're all stuck with long and arduous until someone invents the magic wand. What was that Bill Murray movie about baby steps?
posted by mrflibble at 6:37 PM on January 12, 2014

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