I’m going to let you in on my dirty, little secret – despite being somewhat of a free spirit, and naturally unorganized, I really love this time of year with all the planners and checklists and spreadsheets and goal-making series. It makes me giddy with the possibility that this year I’ll find the perfect planner or system and suddenly become a productive whirlwind!
For many years, I would sit down on or around New Year’s and write out detailed resolutions – usually with main categories and subcategories. Looking back now, it’s kind of laughable that I thought it was possible to accomplish two pages full of goals. Nevertheless, each year, I’d carefully record them in a pretty notebook. Then I’d tuck the notebook away on my bedside bookshelf, and promptly forget about them. I don’t think I ever opened those notebooks up again all year. I had dreams, but no plan to reach them. Because I had no plan, the urgent often muscled out the important.
Over the past few years, I’ve been slowly learning narrow down my goals and then figuring out the steps that make those dreams a reality while still doing the daily stuff -like cleaning my house once in a while and making sure my family doesn’t have to wear dirty clothes or go naked. As a dreamer, an idealist and an optimist, I have a very bad habit of underestimating how much time things take and am notorious for overbooking myself. Practical has never been my strong suit. It’s taken me a long time to understand that focus is my friend when it comes to accomplishing my goals – not trying to do ALL the things.
But before I ever sit down and work on my goals and the steps towards achieving them, I’ve found it’s important to look at five things. Whether you use a fancy planner (I bought PowerSheets for the first time this year and am in love!!!), or you just pull out a single subject notebook and jot things down, the whole reason to even have goals is to live the one life God has given you with intention – not just do more stuff.
Look Behind You
It’s really hard to know where you are heading, if you have no idea where you’ve been. Take a morning or afternoon to really assess this past year. What worked? What didn’t work? What’s weighing on you and what has brought you joy? Make a list of things you feel proud to have accomplished. Make a list of things you said yes to, but wished you hadn’t. Really evaluate what worked and what didn’t. This isn’t an exercise in beating yourself up. This is an exercise in simply seeing what worked and what didn’t, so you can better craft your days this year. Pray that God would open your eyes to things you need to let go of or move on from. You might be surprised at what He shows you!
Look at Your Commitments.
I am a somewhat visual person, so it helps me to visually see how my hours, days and weeks are spent. Since I tend to not have a realistic grasp on time (always the optimist!), it really helps me to time block a typical week and month which gives me a visual idea of how much free time I actually have. First, I take a blank weekly grid that has an hourly agenda for each day. I use markers to color off the time blocks that are taken up by my current commitments. For instance, I teach every morning, so I would block off and color each day from 8:30 to 11:30, with a longer time block on Fridays which I use as my planning/prep day. Then, I take a blank monthly calendar and fill in the monthly/weekly commitments. By having this visual map of my weekly and monthly commitments, it is much easier for me to tell people no, rather than continuing to add to an already busy schedule. I have a really hard time telling people no. That’s why I do the exercise above. I also have a quote from Arabah Joy up by my computer to remind me to not say yes so much, that I end up inadvertently telling God no.
Look at Your Relationships
Are you so busy that you rarely have any uninterrupted time with your spouse? Do you always have good intentions to visit your parents or siblings, but can’t seem to get around to it? When was the last time you and a friend had an adventure together? When was the last time you just enjoyed a free evening with your family? While it is great to be productive, that is not an end unto itself. No matter how good your intentions (you know the saying about what the road to hell is paved with, right?), if you don’t clear out some space for the people in your life, your relationships will suffer. God created us for community. If you never have time for community (or even the people in your own immediate family), that is a red flag that something needs to change.
Look at How You Want to Spend Your Days
I actually got this idea from Amy Lynn Andrews. (If you are at all involved with anything online, you NEED to sign up for her Useletter – awesome stuff and the one email I read every single week). Instead of looking at these big, giant goals or dreams, (which can be overwhelming) look at how you want to spend your days. How are you wired? I’m not saying God isn’t going to ask you to ever step out of your comfort zone, but how has He wired you? There are clues to God’s calling in your life in how you are made and what brings you joy. For example, if you think you want to start a photography business, but you dread having to meet new people and make small talk, you might want to rethink those goals. That doesn’t necessarily mean you shouldn’t be a photographer, but maybe instead of booking senior sessions and weddings, you need to focus on fine art or landscape photography that you can sell. By really looking at how you enjoy spending your time, it makes it easier to give yourself permission to pursue the dreams that God has planted in your heart.
Look In Front of You
Where do you want to be a year from now? How do you want your life to look? Nothing is more frustrating than feeling stuck and like you are spinning your wheels. Just as we can’t know where we’re going until we look where we are, we also can’t reach our destinations unless we decide where it is we want to go. (Say that 10 times fast!) We would think someone was crazy if they left for vacation but didn’t have any directions on how to reach that destination. Many of us, though, head into the New Year without a clue of where we are headed. As someone once said, “If you aim at nothing, you’ll hit it every time.” While God often doesn’t give us a detailed map, we usually can see the big idea of where He is point us. Look at what the steps are to go from where you are and where God is pointing you and starting heading in that direction.
It’s NOT About Doing More
This post isn’t about adding more to an already full plate. This isn’t about squeezing one more thing into your already busy day. This is about living life on purpose.
So, how do you prepare for the New Year? I’d love to hear about it, so please share your favorite ways you are gearing up for 2017 in the comments!