Monday, February 4, 2013

On learning to set weekly goals

I like having goals. And I like meeting them even more. So that means having the ability to set reasonable yearly goals. I've been doing pretty good at that the past few years. Last year, with my household notebook I was even better, and I think I did a good job at setting reasonable monthly goals that were in line with my yearly goals. Again with the help of my household notebook, I was really good last year about setting daily to-do tasks that were within reason. The thing I wasn't very good at was setting weekly goals that would get me to meeting my monthly goals, and taking daily to-do's from those weekly goals.

I still managed to make most of my monthly goals, and I still think my daily to-do's were ok, but I think I could have been better about meeting & exceeding my monthly goals, or accomplishing more ambitious monthly goals, or just being more effective in my daily tasks - getting the most important things done, if I had weekly goals to focus on & help me along to my monthly goals.

This year I am determined to make progress to improve my weekly goal-setting abilities. Part of what it means for me, especially in this season of my life where I am growing a new baby, preparing for said new baby to arrive, and wrangling a 3 year old, is breaking things down into discrete chunks of work that can be done in around 10-15 minutes per task. Because seriously, about the only times that I get longer than that to work on things is when Little M is napping, and that is about the only time I get to have any of my down time, so I don't need to be filling that precious time up with to-do things!

So on my list of weekly goals for this week is making a detailed list of everything I want to have in Little M's big girl room & what steps are involved in those items. Like that? See, no difficult tasks, just planning/brainstorming tasks! So yesterday I sat down and started that brainstorming process. I didn't have too long, so I just jotted down what I'd been thinking of including in her room. Next I'll likely make a more detailed list of what we have on hand of those things, what needs to be made, and what might need to be purchased to round out the items.

The one thing I think I still need to work out better is each week going ahead and not just putting down my weekly goal, but ahead of time, like when I make my weekly goal list, sitting down and splitting that weekly goal up into daily tasks that take about 10-15 minutes. I've noticed that when I have items on my weekly goal list that are basically just one task that takes about 10-15 minutes, those items are much more likely to get finished. But when I have items that need to be split into 2 or more daily tasks to be only 10-15 minute tasks, its not as common for me to get partly done as I would expect. For example, last week one of my goals was to '(finally) finish M's play kitchen'. I didn't break that down into all the little steps that I knew I could fit into my days - cutting the doors, cutting the oven shelf, cutting the back down, sanding the pieces, attaching the doors, screwing on the shelf & back, etc. And so while I definitely had time to fit at least a couple of those items into my week, because when I looked at my weekly list and saw 'finish play kitchen' and felt overwhelmed at all the little things that the play kitchen still needed, I didn't get anything more done on it.

I think this is going to require a bit of re-working the sheet in my notebook where I write down my weekly goals, to fit both the 10ish weekly goals as well as their broken down small task components, but that is ok - after all, practice makes perfect, right! I also think that I'll have to have some sort of rough guidelines on number of sub-tasks to my weekly goals. For my daily task list, I only have room on my sheet for 10 items. For my monthly goals list I try to only write down 6 main items to accomplish. For my weekly goals I try to have only 10 goals. But I think more that that, for the weekly items I need to make sure that if I have 10 goals, each can really only have 1-3 sub-tasks. Otherwise I need to have fewer weekly goals!

In the past few month of setting weekly goals, typically I've had about half of my weekly goals be items that really don't have a sub-task - like 'take the ashes out from the wood stove', or 'go to dentist appointment', so it has worked out ok for the most part, but if I had a bunch of items like last week's play kitchen one, where there might have actually been over 10 sub tasks, actually accomplishing all of my weekly goals would be doomed from the get-go! Realistically, starting & finishing M's play kitchen was a monthly goal, but because after I got it functional for her birthday that first week in January, I didn't work on it again until I realized in the last week that I had listed it as a monthly goal, I made it my weekly goal to finish it, without really looking at what all was involved in that as a goal.

The nice thing about setting weekly goals, (apart from the obvious help that give me in getting to my monthly goals), is that knowing what the most important things are in a week really helps me each week & each day in focusing on what are the important things for me to get done. Which really is only important because then it lets me let go of the things that aren't important for me to get done, so I don't rush around 'doing' all of the time, and can fully enjoy this 3 year old, only child, stage that I'm in right now with Little M!
I think that's one of the biggest benefits I started to see last year of having my to do lists. Once I had my 10 items on my to do list nearly done, or well on their way, I didn't feel guilty, or rushed, spending quality time with Little M. In the past when I had a miles-long to do list, which I was always quite good at generating before I started keeping my daily list to 10 items long, I would never feel good about how much I was doing, so I could never really enjoy my down time, whatever my down time happened to look like. Now, when I can see that I'm doing just great on my 10 items, I find it easier to truly relax & enjoy myself.

I know that not everyone is like me, a person who enjoys checking things off a list, and that's totally OK! But for me, as a person who feels most content when I've set goals and clearly completed them, having concrete goals & clear steps to get me to them is a really great way to feel satisfied and content with certain parts of my life and what I've accomplished. There are other parts of my life that I really don't want or need to-do lists in to make me feel satisfied. For example, a lot of people have big lists of things to accomplish by the time they turn 30. I'm going to be turning 30 this coming fall, and honestly, although when I was in my early twenties I thought 30 was just so old, now that I'm almost there, I'm pretty satisfied. I don't feel old, I just feel good. I mean I look at my life, where I am right now, where I'll be at 30, and I just feel really content - I have a life out in the country, a great husband, a decent job that let's me focus on my family, an adorable and spirited 3 year old, and by the time I'm 30, if everything goes smoothly, I'll have a new baby to boot. Married with 2 kids at thirty? Sounds pretty happy to me!

As an aside, with this pregnancy, the baby hormones have been producing these amazing satisfied & content & happy feelings pretty regularly - which is pretty awesome for me, and you can be sure that I've been savoring them to the fullest extent possible when they hit! Definitely making me think about what I can do in my day-to-day life to make sure even post-pregnancy that I keep producing these feelings! (that's where I'm hoping having a great goal & to-do system worked out might come in handy!)


  1. You seem like someone who has high expectations of herself. I know that I am very goal-oriented too. It does feel good to cross things off the list. Breaking it down into more doable tasks is a step in the right direction. I happen to think that enjoying the process is more important than meeting my timeline, so I've eased up on stuff like that.
    Right now, growing that baby and spending time with your family is the most important thing. Everything else can work itself out.
    I'm cheering you on!


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