This is a guest post from Elaine of RadicalChristianWoman.com
Do you ever wake up in the morning with an endless stream of to-do’s racing around in your head, only to crawl back in bed at night with none of them done? One of the characters of my favorite Jane Austen novel, Mansfield Park, says it perfectly:
“Life seems but a quick succession of busy nothings.”
So true, right? As women, we tend to spin spin spin like little spiders creating a web of illusion. While it might seems like we are meeting our real goals, we never actually achieve them.
How can we stay on task? How can we avoid letting the urgent overtake our long-term goals?
I believe that every woman can get their goals accomplished by making a simple 10-goal list everyday.
Unlike many people (including Ruth!), I simply don’t do mornings. I linger in bed and stay in my PJs throughout most of our homeschooling days, but I have managed to (among other things):
- write and launch two books in less than three years
- actively blog
- have meaningful daily interactions with friends, children, and spouse
- remain loyal to my spiritual side
- exercise three times a week
- homeschool my five oldest children
- have two babies almost consecutively
- keep a clean house
- accomplish most of my long-term goals
This is not me bragging, but to show you that despite all the things that pull on my time (and they do!), I am able to stay focused on my long-term goals because of a simple little system I developed.
The downloadable chart has not only allowed me to achieve my work-related dreams of writing, but also my dreams of being a present mother, an active servant in my community and taking care of my prenatal and post-natal body. It’s not a chart that will help you merely work more effectively, but one that will help you LIVE more effectively.
I’m going to explain the chart and how I use it section by section.
Get your printable goal list here.
This chart has 10 sections. While that might seem like a lot, they fill up quickly and you might find yourself wishing there were more spaces, but I promise that 10 goals is enough. There are so many other momentary necessities that will arise (insert: “Mom, the baby broke your favorite coffee cup!”) that you will see that 10 is sufficient. Besides, our society constantly pressures us to perform. Once you’ve completed these 10 goals you can sit back and say, “Well done, good and faithful woman/wife/mommy!”
Life changes day to day, so I usually pull out my list right before I go to bed to prepare for the next day. I mark off everything I accomplished for that day and transfer anything I didn’t accomplish to the next day so no goal gets forgotten.
Long-term vs Short-term
This chart is able to be used for long-term and short-term goals. Long-term goals are be more general, whereas short-term goals are more action specific. It’s a good exercise to assess what you want to accomplish throughout the year, then break each goal into tasks.
For example, one of my goals is to facilitate a intimate relationship with my children, so I would write this down as a long-term goal. The short-term daily goal is something we call “Mommy/Daughter” time: it is 15-minutes of uninterrupted time with one child per night right before bed.
Ruth often talks about waking up early before her children and having her coffee while reading her Bible. Like I stated before, I am not a morning person (partly because my husband works as a videographer that entails late nights). I complete my spiritual time when I have settled down after the morning chaos.
In this section of the chart, I might write which book of the Bible I want to focus on, a specific prayer request I have, or list a certain book I want to read for my quiet time.
I can’t tell you how many times my children pounce upon me claiming starvation. When I’m cornered in the kitchen with tiny voices yelling that they need food, I often go into crisis mode. By mentally preparing what I plan to cook for breakfast, lunch and dinner for the children, I can avoid a spontaneous lunch of Cheese Nips and pickles. I usually write out what I’m eating if it will be different from the rest of my family.
This also helps if you are trying to lose weight and since I have been pregnant six times I usually am! Have you ever heard the phrase, “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail”? Well, it’s especially true for weight loss!
Who else puts on yoga pants in the morning in hopes that they will spur you on to hop on that elliptical you bought five years ago with your tax-refund money? Me, too. Exercise doesn’t happen by osmosis, you have to set your intentions toward it.
Even if I’m not going to workout, I like to write down ‘day off’ in the space for exercise so I’m know that I’m actively making a choice to take time off to rest and recover.
If you are like me, you probably could fill up a 10-goal list of just things that you need to do at work–even if you work at home or don’t have a job. This section is provided for something that is outside of your normal work duties you specifically want to accomplish that day. Maybe it’s that extra something-something that will help you get noticed when you are reviewed for a promotion or something that cannot be put off without repercussions.
There is always work to be done around the house (or apartment):the sink needs fixing,clothes need folding, groceries need to be bought. It’s a wonder that we can ever get to those cute DIY projects we love, much less organize the pantry and donate canned goods to the library’s food drive!
This is a section to put that ONE thing you want to tackle today.
All of life would be meaningless if we didn’t pay attention to the people we love most. We dream of playing board games with our children when they are little, but our hectic schedules cause us to often forget to play that game of Chutes and Ladders or Balderdash. This space is for remembering to do those special things with our family.
It also might a visual reminder to call your dad on his birthday!
A woman without a social life (even if you are an introvert) is a woman that doesn’t grow intellectually, spiritually or emotionally. We were intended for fellowship. Iron sharpens iron, so does a woman sharpen her friend! If you are a stay-at-home mom this can be especially troublesome. If you are only surrounded by toddlers all day, you might find yourself going a little stir-crazy. By purposing to do something social (either alone or with your family) you can ward off that pitfall.
Mother Teresa is hailed as a modern-day hero. Why? Because she served people. Giving up a portion of your time doesn’t just benefit the person your serving, but it benefits everyone. If your children watch you serve they will be more likely to become servants themselves. It benefits those serving alongside you who need the extra set of hands. Lastly, it benefits you! Everyone needs a helping hand. And just as you sow a seed and it produces fruit, when you help it will come back to bless you.
I want to note that sometimes there is a time to back off serving. Serving others should bless you just as much as it blesses others and it is better done with a willing heart. I recently heard a sermon that gave a great acronym: H.A.T. You always want to put on the right H.A.T. when serving.
Serve where you have the:
This area is often the MOST neglected — my problem with wearing PJs all day not excluded. We do a million little things for other people, but often forget the one doing them! I like to remember that little something extra I can do (usually alone) for myself that will make me feel a little more human. It might be painting my nails, reading a book or drinking a glass of wine while watching Mr. Selfridge!
Whatever it is, make sure you write it down and spend a little TLC on you!
In this section, you can write whatever doesn’t fit under another category. This is a catch-all section. It might be that you have two ‘work’ related things you want to write down or just something you want to remember.
My best advice to people who easily get overwhelmed by all the things they wish to accomplish is a common question and answer: How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.
Keep your goals simple, short and doable. By the end of the year, you won’t believe what you are able to accomplish one bite at a time!
Elaine is an author, blogger and speaker. She’s written three books: Thriving the First Days of Becoming Mommy, How to Start a Christ-Centered Blog and has recently released her first novel, Without Regret. She writes on her blog at radicalchristianwoman.com. Elaine lives in the suburbs of Austin, Texas with her husband Noah and their seven children.