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.

Organize Yourself in 2015: Setting Yearly Goals

One motivational author who has been very helpful to me in my quest to get better organized is Brian Tracy.   His books on goal setting (Goals!) and preventing Procrastination (Eat That Frog!) have been instrumental in my keeping the various pieces of my life connected into a coherent picture rather than just being separate pieces of a puzzle.

I thought I would share some of the techniques from his book, although I must emphasize that to really understand them, you should take his book and read it, because it has a lot of explanations for why they work as well as examples of how they have worked for some of his clients.

Want to be more productive in 2015?   Follow these steps, which I have adapted from Chapter 1 of Eat That Frog! by Brian Tracy.

1.  Decide what you want to accomplish in 2015

This can be a daunting task, so I suggest you divide your life into various sections based on the Maslow hierarchy of needs120412_1244_1.png

Here’s the 12 sections I’ve divided my life into based on this pyramid.

1.  Health

2.  Organization

3.  Finance

4.  Work

5.  Family/Friends

6.  Networking

7.  Spiritual Community

8.  Toastmasters

9.  Professional Development

10.  Reading

11.  Language Study

12.  Games

The physiological needs are taken care of by Health.   The safety/security needs are taken care of through Organization and Finance.   Work is transitional, because it has to do with Finance as well as love/belonging needs.   Family/Friends, Networking, and Spiritual Community are all having to do with love/belonging needs.   Then esteem needs are taken care of through Toastmasters, which helps give me self-confidence in communication and leadership skills.    Professional Development is transitional, because it helps me with esteem in the sense of achievement, but it also fulfills a self-actualization need.   Your list will be different of course, but it should at least cover the five sets of needs in the pyramid above.

Take each of the areas of your life and think of an accomplishment, or series of accomplishments, you want to achieve in 2015.

2.  Write it down

I take a notebook, put a column to the left marked “Purpose”, and then list the 12 sections mentioned above, giving about three lines each for section.

I create a second column marked “Goals”

I then start filling in accomplishments I want to accomplish in that area, but I write them in the present tense, so I say “I weigh 210 lbs” under Health, not “I would like to …”   By stating the accomplishment as if it has already occurred, you are sending a message to your subconscious that you are going to do what it takes to make it a reality.

I use the “rule of three”, which means that for each of my 12 sections, I list the three most important goals I have in that particular area.   This ensures that I am working on the goals that have the most “bang for the buck” during the year.

Also make sure you that the accomplishment is written with a specific, measurable goal.   I don’t say, “I have lost weight”, I say, “l have lost 20 lbs.”

I put at least one accomplishment, but a maximum of three for each area.

3.  Set a deadline on your goal, set subdeadlines if necessary

Put a third column to the right marked “deadline”.  For each accomplishment, put a deadline.

4.  Make a list of everything you can think of that you’re going to have to do to achieve your goal

Here you are going to take the completed skeleton list of goals, and you are going to start with a new sheet of paper, with “Purpose”, “Goals/Tasks”, and “Deadline”.    Each of the “Goals” you created in section 1 should be numbered 1.1 for the first goal in section 1, 1.2 for the second goal, etc.   Now go to goal 1.1, for example, “I weigh 210 lbs”, and start listing the tasks, in order, you will have to do to reach that goal, “Join gym,” “Buy new gym shoes,” “Hire personal trainer,” etc., however you decide to reach that goal, and for each task write 1.1.1, 1.1.2, 1.1.3, etc.   You are creating what is in essence a miniature project plan.    Then you can start filling in deadlines for each task.

5.  Organize your list by priority and sequence

Create a fourth column for “priority” to the right of “deadline”.   You will see that your goals can be sequenced by when their deadlines are.  Once you have put the first goal to be completed at the top, you can rename that as goal 1.1, the second goal to be completed as 1.2, etc.   (All of the tasks will have to renumbered as well, so that the first task under goal 1.1 is called 1.1.1, etc.)   Then put the priority of goals in the fourth column, with “A” being goals you feel you “must” accomplish in order to improve your life, “B” being goals you feel you “should” accomplish in order to improve your life, and “C” being goals you feel you “want” to accomplishment in order to improve your life.   Sometimes to create the task list you may have to draw a diagram with boxes or circles to figure out what needs to be done first to accomplish a goal.   You can do this on a separate sheet of paper.

6.  Take action on your plan immediately

What goals/tasks take place in January?   Create a monthly plan for those tasks.   Then for those goals/tasks, create a weekly plan for the first week of January.   Then create a daily plan based on the weekly plan.   I find that it takes about 3-4 hours to create a yearly plan, 2 hours to create a monthly or weekly plan, and about half hour to create a daily plan.

Don’t resent the time you spend on planning thinking that it could be wasted on doing something.   Believe me, you will be a lot more productive in the time you spend on doing things, if you have spent the time planning ahead.
7.  Resolve to do something every single day that moves you towards your major goal.
Even if you only spend five to ten minutes on a goal every day, it is better than trying to cram a lot of activity for an hour or two on a weekly basis.   It will constantly in your thoughts, and you may find that your plan enters your dream life and you wake up gaining new ideas or insights on how to head towards your goal.
At the end of the week, before drawing up the weekly plan, review the last week’s activities and see where you did well, and where you need to improve.
I have a planning journal which doubles as my gratitude journal, and the attitude that my gratitude journal gives me helps me tackle the tasks in my planning journal, and together they make a formidable team in my effort to achieve my goals and dreams.
I hope you take these adaptations of mine of Brian Tracy’s goal-setting ideas and make 2015 the most productive, and therefore most profitable, year yet for you!