Do you seem to start every year off with a bang? You are so full of hope and dreams, setting several lofty personal goals. Only to pewter out with a whimper by mid-February? Yeah, me too.
Each year was so full up hope and anticipation that this might be the year I actually got my act together.
What I found was that achieving my personal goals doesn’t happen over night and it certainly doesn’t happen by just declaring my intentions on New Year’s Eve. That’s why I stopped setting new year’s goals each year.
And instead I focus on building solid habits and routines. As I have progressed, adding one small habit after another I have finally seen progress towards my big lofty goals.
And as I built habits, one at a time, I would learn to string them together into routines. This process has been life-changing, to say the least. No longer do I set these huge pie-in-the-sky goals only to forget about them once the madness of everyday life catches up to me.
If this sounds too good to be true, keep reading as I lay out the tips I have found the hard way. Through many trials and errors, through many tears and glasses of wine, I have learned many lessons over the years about getting goals.
Tips for achieving personal goals
Create Daily Habits
1.Start a gratitude journal
If you want to start to see progress in your day to day activities and energy levels, one of the fastest ways to do this is to start a gratitude journal. This is one activity you can do that will save you thousands in therapy and earn you hundreds in productive energy.
2. Journal it out
This is a tip I heard from one of my favorite biz coaches, Jen Snyder. Jen is big on journaling out your thoughts, all of them. From the highs to the lows. Whether you were just hit with a bolt of lightening with a great new business idea to those dark thoughts we all have form time to time.
Journal it all out. Get it all out of your head and it will help you to move forward in a prioritized and productive manner.
3. Create a habit tracker
As you may know by now, I am a huge fan of habits. Building great habits takes away the need to constantly use up your willpower by doing the things you don’t want to do. For instance, laundry is a bane of my existence – as it probably is for most moms of young children.
However, I don’t really ever think about laundry or dread doing it. Because it has become one of my daily habits, each morning I throw in a load and each evening I dry it and put it away. I never have a mountain of a laundry pile.
And I learned this habit from one of my favorite blogs, Flylady – more on her in the next tip.
Build your routines
4. Create a weekly routine
From daily habits to weekly routines, my entire homemaking attitude and philosophy changed drastically after I started reading FlyLady. You can read my story of how I found her and how much she changed my life here. But for this post, all I can say is: create a weekly routine for yourself. FlyLady does this by walking you through a simple system of creating your Control Journal. You can do the same thing by listing out each of the activities you need to do each week to keep your home and life humming along. Then break down these activities and give them an assigned day. Now you have a simple weekly routine to keep the chaos away.
5. Morning routine
As you are establishing habits from the steps above, you will start to string a few habits together, this is called creating a routine. And again, just like habits, the only way to get your routine truly ingrained in your workflow is to track them.
And do them every single day.
I first learned this technique from FlyLady. She taught be to create my control journal and write out a short list of three habits I wanted to do each morning.
Then each morning, as I did each step, I made a little check mark. Eventually the physical act of checking off each of the three steps could be eliminated. But I still referenced the list from time to time. And then eventually even the list was scrapped.
Now, every morning I do the same few things and in the same order. Now the routine has become a habit. But first you must start with the one habit. Then add another, and another until you have a short string of habits you do each morning.
If you are a not a morning person (*raises hand*) then this is especially important to you as it takes any brain work out of the equation as you get ready for your day.
6. Quiet time
I have a love/hate relationship with my morning quiet time. As mentioned above, I am definitely not a morning person! So when I first read the importance of it in Morning Miracle by Hal Elrod, I was skeptical. But I keep giving it a try as he really seemed adamant about important it is to get centered each morning and ensure you are taking aligned steps towards your goals. What I find in reality though is that I end up sitting on my couch for 20-30 minutes just lost in my own thoughts and then I am behind in getting ready. I like to be fully ready before my kids wake up. I seem to have birthed two little humans who wake up totally ready to tackle their day. Irony, right? So, I am a work in progress when it comes to my morning quiet time. But it really does help me to clear my head. I find that when I start my day immediately jumping on technology and trying to get any work done before the kids get up that I start to feel like my wheels are spinning. However, when I do take that much-needed 5-10 minutes of quiet time in the morning, I am better able to focus and remember what I am supposed to be getting done for the day. Give it a try in your morning routine, and if you find something that helps you to keep the momentum going in the morning while also getting in your quiet time, please be sure to message me and let me know!
7. Leaders are readers
Make a list of great books to read and get started (friend me on GoodReads here). I love to read. So this is an easy one for me to do each morning.
Again, though I definitely tend to focus on just reading a short devotional. This is not the time to delve into a romance novel or a who-done-it mystery book. Save that for your evening routine.
But definitely it is important to get 15-20 minutes of reading in each morning. So make your list of books you have been meaning to read – but can’t find the time! (How did I know?!? lol!)
Start with just 15 minutes each morning and before you know it you will be tearing through your wish list! Come over and friend me on Good Reads and send me a suggestion of your favorite book.
Make your health a priority
Whether your favorite way to get moving in the morning is yoga or crossfit, it doesn’t matter. What matters is that you just get moving. Getting your heart rate up each morning is imperative if you want to start reaching your personal goals. We are way too sedentary in our modern day lives (even though we feel like we are moving at a million miles a minute!) and so a little bit of movement is just what our bodies need. Getting our blood pumping first thing in the morning gets that much-needed oxygen to our brains and helps us to think clearer and stay more focused throughout the day. Ask me how I know! On the days when I ‘just don’t feel like it’ or I am ‘too tired’ I feel so sluggish around mid-morning. Then my solution is to turn to an extra cup of coffee that I don’t need. And it stats to snowball from there. So, start your day with ten to twenty minutes of movement and start making progress to your goals.
9. Water, water, water
when it comes to increasing your energy there isn’t a better or more affordable way then to increase your water intake. I have talked before about how when I was trying to increase my water habit, I would simply put a glass of water by the coffee pot, then whenever I went in the kitchen to top off my coffee I would have a drink of water. Nothing was forced or felt like I had to drink a gallon of water. However, slowly over time I was able to increase my water intake and feel so much better for it. If you are feeling sluggish, then instead of having more coffee, have a sip of water. Your body will thank you.
10. Make a meal plan
Do you ever get to 4pm and wonder what you are going to have for dinner? Yeah, me too. It’s like we conveniently forget that our families want to eat….every day! So, start planning ahead and make your evenings so much easier and stress-free. Okay, maybe not completely stress-free, especially if your kids are anything like mine (ie: “Mom, I need to create a complete dinosaur diorama by tomorrow” What?!?!). But I digress, back to meal planning. I like to make lists, so I print out my meal planner every Sunday and physically go through my refrigerator and pantry. Honestly, I must open my fridge a hundred times a day, you would think I should know what is in there. But when I skip this step I inevitably buy something I don’t need and then forget something we are out of. So stop trying to cut corners and “save time” just walk into the kitchen and do this step!
then I take a look at what I already have. Do I have 3 of the 5 ingredients needed to make Chicken marigold? Then lets add that to the list for the week. The next thing I do is look at my giant FlyLady calendar on my kitchen wall and look at our activities and committments for the coming week. Do we have an especially crazy night coming up? Then let’s make that a crockpot night. These steps truly allow me to take the stress out of wondering what’s for dinner. You can grab my free printable menu planner here. The full document includes the steps and instructions, so don’t worry about saving this article. Just grab the document and then print the last page.
Take it a week at a time
11. Weekly review
I have talked at length about my Sunday routine. Without this weekly review to reflect and review, then brain dump and plan ahead I end up feeling like a hamster on the wheel running and running without making any progress. Do you ever feel this way, like you are stuck in some awful Groundhogs day where each day feels like the last and you can’t get anywhere? Or is it just me? So, each Sunday I sit down with a hot cup of java and my journal and I reflect on my previous week. Ask yourself, what went well? What didn’t go well? What can I do differently next week. Then I brain dump everything on my mind for the following week.
12. Brain dump
After my weekly review, I start to think ahead, and I just dump out my brain onto paper. This doesn’t have to an organized list, in fact most times its not. This is getting out whatever is weighing on my mind that I need to get onto paper. Sometimes the amount of stuff I have floating around my brain startles me. Once I see it all out on paper I realize why I can end up so frazzled. Other weeks I end up staring at a blank piece of paper and don’t really feel like I have anything to write down. I also have found that the more often I do my weekly review and brain dump that I am able to get most of the junk that is on mind finished up and I don’t really have a lot of pressing tasks. You can get my full printable worksheet here to help walk you through the process of a weekly review and brain dump.
13. Then prioritize everything
once you have everything out of your brain and down on paper (or Notes app) it is time to look through your list with a fine toothed comb. what is on there? chances are it is a mix of everything from the very important like remembering your favorite aunt’s birthday next week to the mundane, like getting the dog to the groomer. Take some time to go through each item and put a small label next to each and every task. (PS – if it’s a project, break it down into tasks, and then do the same thing for each task). How you choose to label each item is less important than actually doing it. You can use A1, A2, A3; or you can use Now, Next, Later, or you can draw a prioritization matrix and put each item into it’s corresponding box. Regardless of your choice of labels you need to figure out some sort of hierarchy of importance for each item. As the saying goes: When everything is important, nothing is important. Then move on to the next step.
14. Break it down
the next step I learned from the amazing Abbi Perets over at Successful Freelance Mom. Abbi has been working from home since before that was a thing. She has a whole gaggle of kids with one of them being special needs and another with childhood cancer. To say she has to juggle a lot is an understatement. Abbi taught me the importance of tracking my time so that I could see how much of it was actually being wasted. And boy was it an eye opening experience when I first saw it in black and white. Once you have your list of tasks and know which ones are the highest priority, you are going to schedule them in your calendar in 25 minute chunks. This is called the Pomodoro method and it has worked wonders in my life. I use it for personal household chores as well as an amazing resource for tackling big work projects. Basically, Abbi says that if a task can’t be completed in 1-3 25-minute chunks then it needs to be broken down into smaller tasks and then each of those smaller tasks need to be given a time slot.
15. Plan it out
Each weekend i sit down with my Happy Planner and plan out the following week. If I skip this simple step, my whole week seems to fly by in a blur of reacting and putting out fires instead of productive work. However, on the weeks when I am super intentional and make a plan that I know I can stick to, it seems like time just slows down and I am able to get so much more done. I plan everything from my personal life to my work life in my Happy Planner. I love how I can customize it to just what I need to track and plan for. First I plug in non-negotiable family commitments. Mostly with the kids this is doctor’s appointments and such. Then I put in any after school activities they may have to ensure we are not over-booked. We have pretty strict rules on how many activities they can be in so this doesn’t get out of control. But if you don’t plan it out you will come to realize the night before that you need to be in two places at once. Since I haven’t quite figured out cloning, this just doesn’t work! Second I put in my hours at my day job so I know exactly where I need to be when and if I need to arrange rides for the kids anywhere. Third, I look at each evening and plan my meals, you can see my full meal planning process here.
16. Clean it out
whenever I start to feel overwhelmed and like I just can’t seem to keep up with it all, I start to take a look at my environment. It is amazing to me just how much I am affected by my environment. I wish I had embraced minimalism earlier in my life, but I am just glad that I have finally found this new freedom. I can’t believe how much more energized I feel when my environment is picked up and tidy. Even just picking up the toys in the evening and making sure to run the dishwasher gives me such a feeling of accomplishment each night. I am not a morning person, so stumbling around tripping over toys and pushing things aside just to get to the coffee pot puts me in a bad mood before my days has even started. Cleaning out my environment and keeping it free of clutter has helped improve my productivity ten-fold.
Have the right tools
17. Prioritization matrix
As mentioned earlier, the priority matrix is a great tool for organizing an out-of-control to do list. If I just can’t seem to make sense of what items need to be done next, I simply brain dump in no particular order and then start putting each item into it’s corresponding box. I first learned about the prioritization matrix in college reading Stephen Covey’s book 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. And this simple method has definitely withstood the test of time.
18. There’s an app for that
There are so many tools out there to help you boost your productivity and work towards your personal goals. Here are three of my favorites for boosting my productivity. And the best part is they’re all free!
I love my Toggl app which helps me track my work in 25 minute increments. Whenever I am feeling overwhelmed by a large writing project, I make a game out of it and simply see how much I can get done in 25 minutes, then I take a break and walk away from the computer. When I come back, it is amazing how rejuvenated I am. Historically, I would push myself to keep going until I was finished. But these days I feel like I will never be “finished” or even “caught up.” So I just work for 25 minute sprints and see how much I can get done.
If you are a visual/spatial person like me you will love Trello as it puts all your thoughts into a Kanban style board and allows you to move away from sticky notes. Although, lets be honest I will probably never truly move away from my sticky notes!
If you are a list maker and like crossing things off your list then you should definitely check out Asana. Both are free and amazing tools for tracking your progress on your goals.
19. Follow the gurus
I want to break free from the mold and suggest a different kind of productivity guru to help you in achieving your personal goals this year. I have learned so much from reading Emily Ley’s books. Her style of keeping it real definitely connects with this hectic mom, she is a mom of three and has created an empire out of encouraging busy women to slow down and give themselves grace. Check out her book, Grace, Not Perfection, I know you will love it as much as I did.
As mentioned in the above tip, it is so important to schedule in intentional rest. Not just pressing the snooze button a few times, but scheduling margin in our lives. I used to plan every single minute of every day. I always had to have something I was doing. Now I have found the beauty of taking time off and recharging my batteries. It’s ironic, but the times you need to do this the most are when you are feeling overworked and overwhelmed. Look at your day and find some time you can unplug and recharge yourself. Go for a walk, take a bubble bath, do some yoga, it doesn’t really matter what you do as long as it doesn’t involve scrolling through social media. Completely unplug and get some rest. You will be better equipped to come back to your never-ending to do list and start ticking more items off your list.
Synergy and Entropy
To steal some lessons from science class, lets talk about synergy and entropy. Synergy is when the group as a whole is stronger than each individual part. And entropy is when things are left alone, they will return to chaos.
Looking at this whole list you might get overwhelmed. Don’t, take it slow, and look at each individual part. Yes, eventually you will want to work towards the whole list, but not all at once.
And likewise, with entropy, if you build up one routine, you will need to continue to practice it day in and out. Otherwise, you risk letting that one area of your life return to chaos.
So, there you have it, my 20 tips for tackling your personal goals in 2020 and beyond. I hope they help you as much as they help me.
Be sure to remember that I didn’t start doing all these tips all at once over night. These are a culmination of years of working towards being more productive.
Ironically, the more I read and work towards my personal goals I realize there isn’t much that I truly need or long for. We live in a pretty amazing time of abundance and prosperity.
As I get older I find that I actually want to commit to fewer projects, and strive to have fewer possessions.
It takes a lot of work to care for and maintain a large house filled to the brim. The more I work towards setting and attaining personal goals, the more I find that I actually crave much less.
If this is you, take note in that feeling and work towards having less on your plate and fewer commitments on your calendar. You might just find that less is more.