Monday, January 9, 2017

Make Your 2017 Goals Happen With This Plan

So, here we are, one full week into 2017. Got those resolutions and goals accomplished yet? If you're like me, you have scratched the surface of a few, but the majority still need a lot of work. So I thought I would share how I am breaking down my projects and goals for the year to try to keep them on track and make them happen.

Making Projects

First off, I like to think of these goals more along the lines of projects. Projects to me have a discrete start and end date, an objective that I can measure, and I can break it down into steps along the way. That breaking it down (and breaking it down again) is the best way I've got to keep myself on track, and to also tell where I am slacking or falling behind due to overzealous planning. For example, this week I know I am already behind a little writing on my big project for the year.

I created a project template (if you want a blank one you can get it for free here) and started plugging in my projects across the top in the rough sequence that I want to get them done. There are some ongoing ones that will likely last the whole year (blogging, etc.), and then some with dates I would like to hit (we will see how overly ambitious I may have been).

On the next row, I plugged in target launch dates across the projects, trying to be as realistic as possible, knowing what other home and work obligations that I have and also trying to space out those launch dates so I was not overlapping too many things at once.
Goal plan broken down into projects with launch dates targeted (probably too ambitious, I can already tell)
So, once I have those launch dates penciled in across the top, I've then gone through and started marking those dates in an orange cell down through the year. This lets me visually see where and how I am hoping to get things done.

Breaking Down The Work

From there, I started working backwards, putting in a smaller broken down goal or two a week that if I accomplish, will position me to hit my launch date. Then it's easy, right? Just check everything off, and all your goals magically happen. Of course not.

Once all the individual week goals are plugged in, I can see across everything I am trying to do and decide how ridiculously aggressive I am being. If I have more than three or four non-home, non-work tasks to try to accomplish in a week, chances are I will fall behind (something I am already seeing one week in). Which, actually, is fine because I can then adjust the plan accordingly using my newfound knowledge of what my capacity really is instead of what my underestimating planning side thought it would be.

Weekly tasks are great, but even those likely have two or three different steps for some of them, and the spreadsheet doesn't provide the level of granularity I am looking for all the time to get the satisfaction of saying "Done Done Done" when I complete small things (All I do is win win win). So next, I break those down. You could use another spreadsheet, a paper to-do list, or your favorite productivity app. Personally, I like using Trello. It works similar to a Kanban board (if you don't know what that is, you can look it up), which fits with the concept of treating my project backlog like an IT scrum team.
Here's my early 2017 Trello board

As I get those items completed, I move them across to my "Done" column (you can name your columns whatever you like in Trello - I like Done and Done), This lets me track it on a more granular level.

Finally, when all of the "sub-items" for a weekly task are completed, I head back to my spreadsheet and mark those grey (or strike through the text, or both, whatever makes me feel more accomplished). Then, starting this week, I am looking at whether my lack of accomplishing a weekly task puts my entire project at risk, or if I think I can make it up, and adjust the plan (the plan is being adjusted, I can tell you).


For me, accomplishing big goals generally comes as a result of breaking down the work into smaller, more bite-sized pieces. And the satisfaction of checking those items off of my to do list keeps the motivation flowing as I chug along towards the bigger effort. It's a positive reinforcement scheme, I think, both to trick my brain into not thinking the big goal is so huge that I will never get there and also to give me the small satisfaction of ticking things off the list. That little feeling of accomplishment goes a long way towards hitting the next one. But tracking the goals physically in a list or workplan also lets me see progress and understand where I was overly ambitious with my planning. I fully expect that through the year, I will realize that I thought I was going to do more in a given week than circumstances allow, and will have to adjust. You should expect that too. It's not failure, it's just life. And life throws obstacles at you that might delay your goals, but only give them that - a delay. Don't let it knock you so off track that accomplishment is off the table. Because it's not, if you just make whatever adjustment you need and get back on the plan.

Click to download my free 2017 goal planning template

Good luck, and hope my template helps you out. Let me know via Twitter if there's anything you need help with on it, and I'll see what I can do.