Here we are in mid-January. How are you goals for 2015 going? Have any of them already fallen off pace? Most people, unfortunately, do not keep their New Year’s resolutions. Why not?
There are lots of reasons, of course, but a primary problem is that they don’t have the one goal that enables them to meet the rest of their goals. Yes, if you can get this one thing down, you are much more likely to meet your goals this year.
What is this one goal? To transfer your goals into your schedule. Make the goal to sit down every week and set aside time to work on the rest of your goals, and then see what you are able to get done. Since how you spend your time determines what you accomplish, giving special attention to scheduling your time intentionally around your goals will greatly increase your odds of success. If you meet this one key goal, you will meet your other goals, too.
How do you transfer goals into a schedule?
Some productivity gurus make accomplishing goals more complicated than it needs to be. They recommend formulas for creating goals and codes for prioritizing the tasks for your goals. As important as it is to have clarity about what you want to do, it is more important to just get started. I’ve personally found that a lot of momentum and 80% clarity is much more helpful than a little momentum and 99% clarity.
The first step is to decide when you will work on your goals. Set aside some point in your week where you make your schedule, and give special attention to when you will work on your goals throughout the week. The second step is to decide what you will do in that time slot. It’s helpful to have a list of your goals and the projects and tasks associated with them. Look at your lists, look at your calendar, and block out time to do the work.
This 30-60 minutes will be a lynchpin for meeting your goals. It is at this time that you do the hard work of figuring out when and how you will actually do them.
Perhaps one of your goals to preach better sermons this year. How would you transfer that into your schedule? You could set aside time to listen to your sermons and do some self-evaluation. You could block out a couple more hours for preparing your sermons, perhaps doing more exegesis in the text or thinking up creative illustrations. Or you could attend a workshop where you get instruction and feedback on your preaching (like those put on all over the U.S. by Simeon Trust, for example).
Where do you find “more time”?
We are all busy, which is one of the biggest reasons we don’t meet our goals. As other things distract our attention we end up spending our time on things that are not really important to us. So the only way to find more time to work on the things that matter most is to spend less time on things that matter less.
Odds are you can squeeze out some big time wasters like TV, social media, and surfing the web. Can you also find time slots that you aren’t capitalizing on? A few 15-minute dead zones throughout the day – your commute to the office and back, that sliver of time between meetings – can save you a whole hour that would have gone otherwise wasted.
It’s when you start making proactive decisions about your time – saying yes to some activities and no to others – that your goals meet reality. You might realize you are too busy to work heavily on a goal. If this is the case, maybe you schedule time monthly to work on it instead of daily or weekly. At least you will make some progress in that area. Or you might discover you have more time than you thought.
But it’s impossible to schedule your whole week!
Maybe you’ve tried to adhere to a schedule in the past, only to give up when you realize that your week never turns out how you planned. What happens to your schedule when life train-wrecks it? Is it worth the time and effort to plan when things always get in the way of your schedule?
Consider your budget. You plan what you are going to spend money on for the month, and you try to stick to it as closely as you can. But each month “life happens” and some part of your budget gets thrown off. Yet that is exactly why you need a budget! It keeps you responsible with your money, rather than wasteful, so that when surprises come – whether unexpected expenses or opportunities – you have the needed funds available.
It’s the same with your schedule. It helps you actually get after your goals. Then when plans change – which is inevitable – you have at least made some progress, rather than no progress. Throughout the week you can reconfigure your schedule to focus on your goals again.
As a final note, if you schedule every minute of your week, you are probably trying to accomplish too much, and you likely will be frustrated every day. Leave margin in your schedule so that you have plenty of time for non-goal priorities (your personal relationship with God, family, friends, serving others, etc.), and so that you can roll with the punches when your schedule goes awry.