I have been getting a few emails about the difference between setting goals and accomplishing the normal day-to-day activities. What do I consider what? How do I stay motivated to do the mundane or routine stuff over and over again? How do I tackle large goals?
I thought it would be a fun topic to blog about, especially at the beginning of the year.
First, it helps to break it all down. At the simplest point, I think you can separate everything you do into one of three layers.
Layer one is the necessities. You breathe. You eat. You sleep. Those are the basics and items that must occur for you to live. Most likely, if you're reading this blog, these are things you do every day without thinking too much about them (unless, of course, they are interrupted by an outside factor and then they are the only thing you think about).
Layer two includes the actions you preform over and over again to sustain a "normal" life. I am totally generalizing here but this would include everything from putting gas in the car to showering to taking out the trash to going to work. I would consider these the "chores" or "routines" that happen over and over again. Many of these things are habits or rituals that you do once a day or when they are needed without thinking about them.
Everything in layers one and two has to be accomplished by me or someone in my household. They are not exciting, but they are for the most part, necessary.
Layer three is where I see the bonus stuff. It's the more creative, more life-enriching (as opposed to life-sustaining) stuff that I make choices to add to layers one and two. For the most part, "goal-setting" and the majority of goals I set fall into the layer three category. I love layer three. It's the exercising, creative experimenting, house decorating, challenging work ventures, saving money, planting a garden "stuff". All of these are things that I choose to do on top of the "normal" stuff because I have found they make my life better. I don't have to do layer the three items and that's what makes them fun goals to work toward.
With that said, I can explain a bit more how I tackle both layers two and three.
Layer two :
About two-thirds the stuff on "layer two" is just habit that over time has ingrained into my routine. The other third gets added to my daily to-do list because I appreciate the reminder. Like some days I'll actually write "LAUNDRY" on my list and make a point to get through five or six loads as I go about my day. I write "mail rent" or "make pizza dough" or "pull chicken from freezer" on my to-do list in case it slips my mind. Personally, I am able to focus better on the "fun stuff" as well as fully commit to a productive work day (remember, I work from home) when I know layer two has been taken care of and the house is relatively clean. I am able to accomplish more goals and explore layer three when layer two isn't nagging at the back of my mind.
Avoiding Facebook almost entirely, not caving to "in-active" TV watching time and severely cutting down the number of blogs I read has given me more time to accomplish daily tasks. Having a place for everything in our house has helped me stay organized and not feel like I am drowning in "stuff". Having one day a week for tackling laundry (obviously I'll need more than that when we add a little one and cloth diapers into the mix) or grocery shopping has helped me feel like I am not spinning my wheels and getting no where. Turning on music and setting a timer in the kitchen (by literally punching 10 minutes into the microwave) then twirling around like the tasmanian devil and washing dishes, unloading the dishwasher and wiping down counters has really helped me feel like I am moving quickly through my least favorite chore.
Layer two, for me, is about finding the right time in my day and little tricks that help me move through mundane tasks. Finding the right balance is totally a personal preference, but something that I think is important to experiment with and allow to develop so I don't dread the "normal" and just embrace it so I can move on with my day.
Layer three :
A lot of what I share here is layer three. The crafts. The projects. The running. The bread baking. The gardening. The books I read. Even all these thoughts about goal setting. Layer three tends to make for more interesting blog content, that is for sure. Often these things are inspiring and flashy and look great in a photo grid, but really, layer three projects get broken down into manageable bites in the form of to-do list items just like layer two.
When I was running mile a day, I went through my calendar and wrote "mileaday" on each page and then diligently crossed it off. When I am working on something more long-term and intense, like decorating our bedroom, I break the project down into steps (paint walls, move dresser, sew pillow, buy plants, reorganize drawers, hang art, etc) so instead of looking at one giant and overwhelming task, I am looking at 10-15 small and manageable ones.
The lesson, of course, is that at the end of the day, layer three is really just made up of to-do list items (that can be relatively fun). If you don't break big goals up into actionable items they serve as nothing more than wishes and will not be accomplished. It all comes down to scheduling and then following through. I have spent a lot of time the past few years getting a handle on layer two so I can actively devote time to more "enriching" projects. I know I'll have to work hard to re-gain the handle I have when we add a new family member. I am nervous but incredibly excited for the challenge and the joy the baby (and then child!) will add to our lives.
Goal-setting can be SO overwhelming. Long to-do lists can make me want to give up and mindlessly scroll through Pinterest. But ultimately that's boring and ineffective. So I schedule. And plan. And write. And edit. And simplify. And remember how good it feels to accomplish something and cross stuff off. And I practice, practice, practice.
Related reading from previous posts :
- on expertise & tips for making it work
- tips for staying inspired
- on motivation
- how I get from idea to reality quickly
Since writing this post, I created Get To Work Book! It's a day planner + goal setting workbook that is designed to help you take your big goals turn them into something real. Learn more and shop the brand here.
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