Organize Yourself in 2015: Setting Monthly, Weekly, Daily Goals


“The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.” – Lao Tzu

The last post talked about setting your “grand vision” for the year.   But like the saying from Lao Tzu reveals, you can only get to that completing that vision by taking a single step now.

Once you have created a list of yearly goals in the various areas of your life arranged in their order on the Maslow hierarchy of needs, as described in the last post, you need to take those goals and break them down into monthly goals, and then weekly goals.

There are two schools of thought regarding breaking down the weekly goals into daily goals.   After discussing the alternatives, I will give you my take on which I prefer.

1.  Brian Tracy–do daily goals

In the second chapter of his book on preventing procrastination called “Eat That Frog!”, Brian Tracy recommends taking the yearly goals you have broken down into monthly and weekly goals, and taking the additional step of creating a list of daily goals.

This gives you the following advantages:

a.  This will allow to focus on activities, rather than accomplishments during the day.   Just start on the list based on priority and urgency of the items involved, and keep up a steady pace, while allowing occasional breaks for you to “come up for air”. Priority means based on the A, B, C system mentioned in the last post.    “A” is an activity that must be done that day.  “B” is an activity that should be done that day, but which is not absolutely required, and should be done after the “A” level activities are completed.    “C” is an activity that can be done that day as long as the “A” and “B” level activities are completed.

Urgency means what part of the day the activity is required.   Although completing a report at work may have higher priority than doing exercise, if your exercise plan requires you to exercise before work rather than after work, you will be exercising before you do the report.    Use the combination of priority and urgency to create the order in which the items should be done like this:   A1, A2, A3, …, B1, B2, B3, …, C1, C2, C3, etc.

b.  The list will allow you to get a feeling of accomplishment when you check them off after completion.

c.  The list will allow you confidence at the end of the day when you really how much you have accomplished.

d.  The list will allow you to review the day’s activities, and help you plan for the next day based on putting items on that list that were not yet completed on the current day.

2.  Dave Allen–don’t do daily goals

Dave Allen, the author of Getting Things Done, says that a monthly goal and weekly goal should be all that you need to do.   If there are day-specific actions or time-specific actions on a given day, they should be added to your calendar (using Outlook or a physical appointment calendar), along with any day-specific information related to those appointments, events, or activities.   But a list of activities from the weekly list put into a daily plan is not recommended for the following reasons:

a.   Shifting priorities at work may make it hard to pinpoint exactly what activities should be done on a given day.   Let’s say it’s Monday and you are looking to see what to do.   Check the weekly goal list and figure out which you should start on first, usually based on their priority (A, B, C) as mentioned before.

b.   If you keep a list in writing and don’t finish all the items, and have to rewrite them the next day, then it could be demoralizing and a waste of time.

c.  If there’s something on the daily list that’s on the “C” level that don’t need to be done, it will dilute the emphasis on the items on the “A” level that DO need to be done.

Here’s my take on this.   I combine the Brian Tracy and Dave Allen methods in the following way:   for those activities that need to be done on a daily basis (exercise, taking vitamins, etc.), then these don’t need to be repeated every day.   There should just be a list on the weekly goal list with a grid for each day of the week.   Once you do these daily activities, just check off the box on the grid in the weekly goal for that particular day.

Then I do create a daily goal list, but for those activities which are to be done on a specific day rather than every single day.  This creates a daily goal list (which goes along with the Brian Tracy method), but eliminates from the daily goal list those repetitive items from the weekly list (which goes along with the Dave Allen method).   So I reduce the burden it takes to create a daily list–I just find that the psychological advantages of having a daily goal list mentioned in paragraph b and c in section 1 are worth the extra time it takes to create that daily goal list.

The next post will explain what the “frog” is in Brian Tracy’s book title on preventing procrastination, “Eat that Frog!”, and what it has to do with something called the Pareto principle.

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