Goal planning and Me

I’ve spent a bit of time lately considering my goals and wishes for my life. I find that I have a lot of “I wish” things. Things like “I wish I spoke German” and “I wish I could play guitar” and “I wish Justin and I could travel to Austria.”

The problem is that it’s tricky to look at my life today and figure out how to get from here to Austria, speaking German, and plucking away on a guitar. It’s this enormous situational gap and while I have all these wishes, I haven’t actually done a whole lot of planning out how to get from here to there.

So I’ve been thinking about how that would actually work. I’m sure that there are books and lots of resources that go into how to do this, but I haven’t actually gotten that technical yet. What I’ve been doing is this:

  1. I wrote down a huge long list of my wishes and goals for the future.
  2. From there, I tried to narrow down a handful of ones that I want to focus on right now, because it’s a really long list and I can’t work on all of them at once. There just isn’t enough time or brain space.
  3. And then I tried to break it down even further, into the things that I want to do in the next 6 months to work toward those goals.
  4. And from there, even more, I’ve got to break it down into things that I can do each week to get working toward those goals.

So the big wishes that I’m working on right now are (and several of these will be familiar from the Smoky Mountain planning):

  1. Be debt free
  2. Be a great seamstress
  3. Play guitar
  4. Run half-marathons
  5. Move to the mountains
  6. Grow vegetable gardens
  7. Find a career that I really enjoy
  8. Plan for the future better

That seems like a lot. In order to get to those goals, my 6 month goals are:

  1. Pay at least $200/month extra toward our debts
  2. Sew at least 1 skirt and 1 shirt
  3. Be able to play 3 chords on my guitar
  4. Be able to run 1 mile contiguously
  5. Visit Chattanooga
  6. Grow 2 plants for food/spice
  7. Look into Lean/Six Sigma certification training
  8. Learn how to make better goals

That seems more manageable. From there, my goals for this week look like this:

  1. Pull out the items for Craigslist and eBay that we were going to sell and get them looking nice, take pictures, figure out how much they’re worth, and get them listed.
  2. Review budgets for February and make sure we’re sticking to them.
  3. Look up the information about gored skirts again and work out the details on how to create a pattern for that.
  4. Pull out the guitar, re-learn how to tune the strings, and read though the book I bought about how to learn how to play.
  5. Go walking/do aerobics or yoga/go for a bike ride a couple times this week.
  6. Ask Justin if he needs/wants  my help with the Chattanooga planning.
  7. Figure out what plant to grow – I’ve got parsley already, if I can keep it alive. What else do I want to grow? Basil? Oregano? Strawberries?
  8. Remember to water the parsley.
  9. Look up what goes into Lean/Six Sigma training.
  10. Go to the library and look up books on goal planning (also pick up books on gardening and sewing).

It’s a pretty big list for one week, I think. And that’s not including the normal around the house things that I tend to do, keeping things tidy, organizing things that get out of order, all of our Present Time Plans compared to our Future Plans. Like, figure out how to actually get the most out of the limited space we have in this kitchen and keep the house clean and figure out how to NOT let the library just be a dumping ground for stuff we’re not sure where to put.

But it’s that’s also a sign of how badly I’ve done at working toward my big goals. I’ve spent more than a year with this guitar sitting in my living room and a book about how to play and I’ve barely touched it. It’s not something I’ll learn by osmosis, no matter how much I wish I could play. And it’s not like it’s this complicated trick – work on the small stuff to get to the big stuff. Stick within the budget and we’ll have money at the end of the month left over. Go for a walk today to build up muscles for running later. Water the parsley this week to keep it alive to next week.

But I have a tendency to be lazy. I get home and sit on my butt, playing a video game or reading a book. If it’s a productive evening, I’ll make sure the house is tidy and the dishes are washed. I get more done over the weekends, when I have more time to dedicate toward a project, or during the summer when there’s more light in the evening. But I’d still get to the end of the month (and the year) and wonder “What happened to the time? Why haven’t I figured out how to play that guitar yet?”

So this is how I’m hoping to address that problem – by intentionally setting up manageable goals. If I can’t make it at least partially through that list of things for the week, then I’ve got to figure out what exactly I’m doing with my time, and if what I’m doing is of more value to me than the end goals that I’m working toward, then I’ll re-evaluate my goals.

For example: Last week, I worked a lot of long, frustrating hours at work, covering for a coworker who was out of the office due a death in her family. I intentionally spent my evenings away from computers and doing things that I found extremely relaxing because if I didn’t, I wasn’t going to make it through the week. As it was, I found myself loudly venting my frustration about my boss toward Justin on Friday afternoon, raising my voice and behaving badly. Last week, my one goal for the week was just to make it through the week with my marriage and my job still in place. Having managed that, I took the weekend to really enjoy spending time with Justin. And now I have the brain space to consider my other goals.

I think it’s important, too, to realize that goals change over time. I might decide that playing guitar just isn’t my thing. And that’s okay. It’d be silly to keep trying to be able to play guitar if I decided that I just don’t enjoy it. And maybe that’s one of those “Well, d’uh!” things, but I think it’s worth saying anyway. I think sometimes people get an idea stuck in their head that they “ought to” do or be something and they keep working toward that idea when it’s just not what they really want to do. They just feel like they should.

This post got a whole lot longer than I had originally intended! I guess I had a lot more to say about this than I thought.

For anyone who’s interested, I keep my To Do list on Wunderlist. It’s an online, desktop, Android-device compatible list-thing.  I find it super-easy to use, pretty to look at, and I can share my lists; I’m just not sure with how many people I can share them. I’m going to try to keep on top of my goals using that tool. If you want more information about that, I can try to get that to you.