Are you one of those people that set New Year’s resolutions only to give up after the first three weeks? Maybe, you set goals in the beginning of the year that you forget about. Or, you just don’t set goals for yourself. Often times we don’t break our year into quarters. If we plan at all, it’s usually at the beginning of the year in bulk. What isn’t effective about planning at once is you don’t give yourself the room and flexibility towards the unexpected. Instead, it is far more plausible, and really much more simpler, to plan your year by quarters. You may be reading this in the middle of the year, or better yet towards the middle/ end of a quarter. The good thing about starting to plan your quarter is you can start any time! As there are four quarters in the year, you have four three month long chances to improve your life. Reach for those stars! Get the life you want.
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In these 90 days, hopefully you will see some improvement in your life: from being more mindful, aware of specific areas you need to change, and what you want to achieve. Now, don’t let me convince you it only takes one quarter to change. On the contrary, it will take much longer than one quarter to reach big goals. That is why, for each ninety day period, you set goals that relate to the bigger end goal. Think of these mini steps as stepping stones. As you reach each goal, you get to jump on one more stone. In order to continue to move forward, you need to be realistic, consistent, and dedicated. Whew, that’s a lot. That’s where breaking down each stepping stone into sprints. More on that later.
MAKE A LIST OR FIVE
In order to be able to reach a goal, or have a focus for the quarter, one must plan his or hers heart out. If you are a diehard planner, this won’t be a problem. Creating a master list of goals and tasks for each quarter can keep you in sight of larger goals. I suggest choosing one topic to focus on. What is one thing you want to learn, improve on, or develop further? From there, list out five goals that correlate with your focus. Remember, your focus for the quarter should be aligned with your larger goal. If you haven’t written down a large goal(s) for the year, brainstorm that first. You need to know what areas you need to focus on.
As you narrow down your focus, it’s time to list out steps you will need to take. In order to determine the steps, you should do a brain dump. If you don’t know what a brain dump is, or how it works, you can check out my article on how to use a brain dump effectively. I go into more in-depth details. Basically, you want to jot down whatever comes into your mind, dumping it on paper if you will. After you have done the brain dump, you should create a more focused, thorough list of what needs to be done.
I suggest only using this brain dump for the ninety day period. Your tasks and steps will change as you make more progress. It’s kinda redundant to recycle a list over and over again. I’m not saying you can’t migrate tasks over quarter to quarter, but you need to get at least a quarter, preferably more, on your prior list. If you don’t get a lot down, how will you reach any goal? Oh, the anxiety! Don’t think I am pressuring you; I just want you to live the life you so deserve.
If there is anything you do with your list is put it in your planner! That’s right. Give each task a deadline. Assign a date when you want to reach one of your goals. Do you want to reach them at different times? Schedule. It. Once you see on your calendar tasks you need to accomplish on a specific day, you will be holding yourself more accountable. Listen, just because you schedule it doesn’t mean it’s set in stone, either. Maybe your life had other plans for you. Or, time slipped away. It happens; you can always migrate the task. You just need to set that first deadline so you can have the reminder to get it done.
I recommend using a Bullet Journal because there are various ways you can keep organized and stay on track. However, any planner works just fine. You just need a calendar, somewhere to write stuff down, and a place to make your plans visible. Most preprinted planners that I know of don’t have a lot of pages to regularly keep quarterly/90 day plans. I am full Bullet Journal supporter, but I recognize it may not suit everyone’s needs. So, do what works for you. I can’t decide what does for you.
SPRINT YOUR WAY TO THE FINISH LINE
If you have read Ryder Carroll’s new book, The Bullet Journal Method You might be familiar with the concept of sprints. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, pick up the book! No, really. It’s a total game changer. Carroll doesn’t just use the book to talk about why his planning system is so special; but, let’s be honest it is. He focuses on becoming more intentional with the way we approach our life. I can fully get behind that. So, I decided to take a small step and create a sprint; just a single one.
The concept of a sprint is simple: take a goal and break it down into steps you can take in three weeks that will bring you closer to what you want to achieve. For example, you have a big project you need to get finish by such and such date. How can you break it into a three week sprint? Make another list (oh, another?!) to see what steps need to be taken. From there, pick a few you know can be done in three weeks to a month (no more than a month!). Don’t pick too many, I’m sure your list is long. I suggest choosing around 5 - 7 to knock out. As you are trying to achieve a goal(s) in a 90 day period, you can do about 3 sprints per each 90 day plan.
You don’t need to rush to finish a goal. You can make five year goals, three year goals, and so forth. However, you should be making continual progress. By starting a sprint, you can start to make progress. Eventually, you will become focused enough that you don’t need to rely so heavily on sprints; you can just check off tasks per 90 days in a more focused and timely manner.
I’ll be honest, I haven’t accomplished a lot of sprints. Why? Because I load it up with bigger tasks that will definitely take more than three weeks. For my business, I created my first sprint full of things that would take a lot of time just for one of them; now, I added five intensive steps. What I did wrong was create a sprint that would require too much of my time to accomplish. Although I love to plan, I’m not always very good at it. That’s why I suggest taking those baby steps even if you want to jump three steps forward in one go. These sprints are intended to be short and sweet. If five tasks are too many, than cut it down to three. Warning though, make sure you will want to do those tasks. Again, I listed a lot of tasks I much rather push to the side; so, I did. Don’t be like me. Be better, more efficient, and more mindful.
As you get further into reaching your goals, you can continue to do various sprints. Yet, this isn’t the only way to reach your goals. Another technique I have started to implement is creating a challenge for the month.Sometimes, we just need a good motivator to set us on the right path. By choosing to take on a challenge, you are forcing yourself to reevaluate certain things you do. Whether it be being more mindful of your spending, seeing what areas you don’t focus enough on to take care of yourself, or monitoring your eating habits and exercise routines. Now, I mention this three because they are the most universal. However, there are many different areas we want to improve on; each different person to person. Your challenge, or really your focus, for the month can be anything from a savings challenge, self care bingo (for those who have self-care related goals. I struggle with that, too), and healthy challenges for eating better and getting more comfortable with our bodies.
If one of your goals is money related, there are different challenges you can do. You can do a no spend challenge where you eliminate the frivolous purchases; that means no planner supplies, no clothes, and no random, spur of the moment splurges. It’s a hard challenge, one I struggle with. As I have started this challenge, I have made it through a week where I didn’t spend my money on anything but food. There have been other days where I have caved. We are human, after all. The goal of this challenge isn’t necessarily to not buy anything. We all have basic needs. Honestly, sometimes you just have to treat yo self. I know I have those bad days where I just need to buy something to cheer me up. My go to is usually stickers. So, with my no spend challenge I am really monitoring how many stickers I buy; where my money is really going.
TRACK YOUR PROGRESS
Another go to tip of mine is track your progress. With creating a challenge, you are setting yourself up for success. However, with actually tracking it in the form of a habit tracker, specific savings tracker, or another goal-centric tracker you can actually see the progress. Yes, you can see it by coloring in days in your challenge. But, you can’t see it for a long period of time. You need to repeat the challenge to see how you are managing. By tracking your progress on a daily and consistent basis, you can see where you are slacking; and, if you need to repeat a specific challenge.
Habit trackers are the common way to focus on task related steps. From wanting to get up at a certain time to monitoring your health and spending habits ( no spend, no junk food, exercising etc.). However, you don’t need to use a habit tracker if you have a very specific goal. For example, I am writing a novel. It’s quite an undertaking, so I want to track the amount of words I write each day. I set a word count goal for each month. You may not be trying to write a novel, but tracking something like a knitting project will not fit in a habit tracker. You are including more details than yes or no.
Let me know in the comments below what goals you are hoping to achieve. What are you striving to accomplish this year? As always, it’s all about planning one night at a time.