If you’re great at thinking big-picture and casting vision, but struggle to stay focused and organized around that vision in the day to day, you’re not alone. In my recent blog survey, over half of you said you needed help with being productive and staying organized.
While there’s not one power book or magic tool to magically make our lives run more smoothly, I have discovered some great steps that have kept me personally and professionally moving forward. I say often my measurement for success is progress not perfection. I want to measure my life by a progressive movement forward of growth and reaching milestones.
One key to consistently staying focused is not making it too complicated. You need a journal or notebook for long-range life goals. You need a calendar with margins for you to write action steps and planning notes. I use my digital calendars for daily, weekly, and monthly viewing but not for planning. Digital calendars help me get things done, but they don’t work for vision-setting and planning.
Here are five key planning steps that have made a significant difference in organizing my life over the decades:
1. Five year bird’s eye overview
We need to think beyond the short-term goals we set personally, professionally, and spiritually and look further down the road. Look over the next five years of your life, and write down what you see. It can be as simple as writing a year at the top of a page and then write everything significant you know that will happen in that year. Fast-forward out a few years and list your age, the ages of your children, parents, etc. Write down professional and spiritual markers you want to achieve down the road. Some of the most significant milestones in my life have happened by thinking five years down the road.
Examples from one of my own five-year overviews: Celebrate my dad’s 90th birthday in Alaska, write a book, and celebrate my 40th wedding anniversary.
This overview led to my follow-up goals and specific action plans to make them happen. Getting a bigger and broader perspective gives you the resolve to act now.
Ask your teams to do this. Collaborative thinking around the future helps us face the reality of change and the need to plan now for the realities of tomorrow. Seeing generational trends, digital publishing trends, and global opportunities are just a few of the things we changed in our business planning by looking at the future.
2. One year metrics or targets
Use whatever tool works best for you, but write down the goals you want to accomplish and put them on your calendar. Key measures for success will help you tangibly track progress. Your biggest challenge will be your time. Taking an annual audit of your life and blocking off the time to accomplish goals will help you be successful. Don’t set too many goals, but focus on the few that are the most important to you. An annual view will help you spread out actionable steps over a year. You can’t do it all in a day but you can make progress in 365 days.
3. Monthly overview
At the beginning of each month, review your calendar, your goals, and make adjustments to your plan. Adjustments are a reality. Capture time each month to work on your goals. Be specific, be simple, and be actionable. At the end of each month, look back and assess the progress you have made. Interruptions happen in life and adjustments will always need to be made but keep pressing on. Monthly views help you break down goals into specific actions.
4. Weekly action plan
Each Sunday evening, I review the coming week and drill down on specifics. I write notes all over my weekly calendar and make adjustments as needed. Our lives are a mix of actions so I want my week to be intentional about that mix. Lunch with a friend, a ministry opportunity, a book to read, a call to make, a bike ride with Rodney, plus the meetings already set. A weekly view is where the rubber hits the road in terms of time and actions.
5. Daily assessment
On my drive home each day, I like to think through the day. Top of mind, what do I feel good about the day? What do I feel is unfinished or needs more focus? I like to do a spiritual assessment each day asking myself have I lived on mission and on purpose. Have I honored God with my life?
And above all, give your life, your time, and your planning to God every single morning. And be settled by the interruptions and turns that will come to your plans. They most certainly will come. Commit your life to the Lord, and he will give you the wisdom and direction for all the days of your life.
What helps you plan and execute well?
“Commit your activities to the Lord, and your plans will be achieved.” Proverbs 16:3
“Satisfy us in the morning with your faithful love so that we may shout with joy and be glad all our days.” Psalm 90:14