Life as a parent is often hectic, busy and messy yet filled with love. In such circumstances, it can easily get difficult to stay motivated to reach your goals. It seems there is always something to do, a subject to be researched, a toy to be found, a snack to be prepared, and quite honestly, the list never seems to end and it feels like there is not enough time to simply do the minimum.
I’ve found that planning plays a crucial role in helping myself stick to any goal I’ve set through these busy time-constrained days as a mom of young kids. I’ve experimented with various ways to plan out my goals, some have been very helpful, others not so much, but along the way I’ve learned about keeping my planning simple while making sure to plan on a regular basis.
My current planning method:
Right now my ideal planning method is a three step process that allows me to align my longer term goals with the changes that happen on the shorter term.
Firstly, I have a 5 year plan which I update every fall. I implicate Mr. Mod with this planning as it involves a higher level of goals that impact the whole family.
Every year is broken down as such:
- Kids: This includes how old they will be, if they are still in daycare & the estimated cost, or which grade they will be entering.
- Renovations: We bought a 1960s home that requires some larger renovations which we’ve spread out through several years. This category therefore includes what renovations we think will need to get done or what we would like to get done and the estimated total cost.
- Other Plans or Large Spending: This will include things like travel we would like to do and if we would like to take time off work.
- Special Notes: This highlights things like a special anniversary coming up, or somebody in our life that is having a special event like when my mom retired. It also includes when we get more vacation days at work for hitting a certain year of service. Essentially, just notes that can help us plan special things throughout the years.
Based on this long-term planning, I’ll make a more detailed 1 year plan which is broken down into the 5 most important categories in my life at the time. For 2019, it included simplifying (decluttering, focusing on a simpler routine), family, health/lifestyle, projects/finances (this includes writing on this blog as well as work objectives) and finally a fun/social category. I then break down each category into a point form list of objectives or guidelines I would like to focus on for the year.
Finally, on the shorter-term planning, I’ve been experimenting with re-using my 1 year plan categories and breaking them down into monthly goals. Here’s an example of the list I posted on Instagram for March:
You can probably see why one of my focus is simplifying… I tend to reach for many objectives at once. Luckily in June the list was already quite lighter:
Inspired by Zero from Walking to FIRE, I started using a simple bullet journal tracking to keep track of my consistency with certain objectives. Here are the lovely BuJo spreadsheets that inspired me:
This has honestly been a game changer in reaching my goal as this visual tracking allows me to gain a lot more information on how I am doing with my consistency throughout the month.
Plan on a regular basis:
Making a plan for a long-term goal is awesome, however, these goals are built on day to day actions. It takes some additional planning, to keep showing up and doing what needs to get done to get closer to that goal. Turning to plans on a more regular basis can help you find opportunity.
An interesting Principle in the book The Happiness Advantage is called the Tetris Effect. It’s based on studies showing that when some people played Tetris for an extended period, they became stuck with a cognitive pattern that caused them to involuntarily see Tetris shapes wherever they looked.
The author goes on to explain how this effect can be applied in other situations, such as Tax auditors that constantly scan tax forms for errors, and their brains become wired to look for mistakes. A habit which starts to spill over into other areas of their lives, for example seeing only the mistakes those around them made, causing them to become depressed.
Luckily, the author goes on to explain that: “Just as our brains can be wired in ways that hold us back, we can retrain them to scan for the good things in life– to help us see more possibility, to feel more energy, and to succeed at higher levels.” – Shawn Achor, Happiness advantage
This is then applied to see more positive in your life, by employing exercises such as identifying three good things that you experience in your day. This is an activity we practice with our kids every night at bedtime, helping them scan for positive moments in their days.
I like to apply this principle to my goal planning. If I make time every week and every day to sit down for a quick 5 minutes of reflection on how to get closer to my goals, I’m wiring my brain to see opportunities for success.
Concretely, I consult my monthly goal list and make a quick to do list at the start of every week in my bullet journal. Every day, I consult this list and might make a few notes for the day ahead. At really busy times, I sometimes plan out my day ahead on a more detailed basis to make sure I fit in all that needs to get done.
Normally, I aim to keep this weekly and daily planning simple to make it easy for me to write quick logs that take up as little of my time as possible. According to the wonderful Atomic Habits book, the 4th Law to Create a Good Habit is to make it easy, therefore simplifying this planning on a regular increases the chances that I will stick to this habit.
This planning on a regular basis also helps me get proactive with potential obstacles that might come up during the upcoming week. For example, knowing ahead of time that I will need to take the kids to the dentist on the morning I normally workout, will help me plan to hit the gym on another day. This marks my 13th week of working out 3 times per week therefore this planning has helped me maintain my consistency with regard to this objective.
Sometimes The Best-Laid Plans Fail
Sometimes plans fail, and that’s okay! For example, I had initially made a plan for this article, that ironically turned out to be way too much to handle in one post. As I kept on writing according to my initial plan, I was simply not feeling the outline. It just felt like I was trying to cram in too much information in one post!
Instead of spending a lot of time trying to stick to my initial plan I thought “Hey this can be two articles!”. So I built on my plan, saw opportunity by not seeing an obstacle as a problem and actually gained more this way.
You should see my 5 year plan document! I’ve kept all the planning for the years that have passed since we have been doing this back in 2014, moving these down to the bottom of the document. Instead of removing the things that didn’t end up panning out, I’ll strike through them so I can return and see what plans changed or what might need to be added in future years (especially when it comes to renovations on our home).
While planning is a great tool to achieve your goals, life happens and you need to be flexible. I can personally say that having a plan as guidance is helpful to improvise when changes happen, and that it allows you to do so in a way that considers your future and current objectives.
Just make sure you don’t stay stuck in the planning though. Things happen when you take action so find a planning method that works for you and then go out into the world to reach those goals!
What’s your favorite way to plan how you will reach your goals?