Turning Goals into Plans

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Turning goals into plans is where the real magic – and work – starts. So far, you have prayed, reflected, evaluated, dreamed, categorized, ranked, and finally chosen your top goals. Those tasks were both time-consuming and challenging. Now, however, is where the real work begins. You must take your written goals and turn them into actual plans. That’s what we’ll walk through today.

This is the third in a series on goal setting. If you have followed the steps outlined in Goal Setting 101 and The Goal Setting Process, then you have created 3 – 5 goals and written them in one simple sentence for each goal. Like the previous stages, turning goals into plans has a few steps which are explained below.

Before you start, however, I just want to encourage you to stick with it. All this goal setting and planning means nothing if you give up after two weeks. Change of any sort takes time. Remember why you want to reach your goals and enlist help to hold you accountable. It is worth it!

turning goals into plans

One Goal at a Time

No, I don’t mean you can only focus on achieving one goal at a time. What I do mean is that you need to work through this process of turning goals into plans by focusing on making plans for only one goal at a time. Then, when you have at least a skeleton plan in place for Goal #1, move on to Goal #2.

Since you are focusing on just one goal at a time, choose the one that is most important to you to do first. Choose the goal that would most change your life. Choose the goal that you would be the happiest achieving. Choose the one goal that, if you didn’t meet any other goals this year, would still leave you feeling satisfied and accomplished. That’s the goal to start with.

Got your goal selected? Great – let’s get to work!

But first, you will need a calendar or a planner and probably some scratch paper.  It doesn’t matter as if you use digital or paper tools, as long as it works for you. Personally, I map out a lot on paper – with pencil!! – and then transfer my plans to my digital calendar and Trello. But do what works for you.

Question and Answers

The first step involves questions to ask yourself and then answer. Allow yourself plenty of time so you don’t feel rushed. Good plans involve thought and thinking is ignited by questions. Also, remember – write down your answers! Don’t just answer in your head. You’ll forget your thoughts, but if you have them written down, it doesn’t matter.

This may seem like a lot of questions to ask yourself. But the truth is that the clearer you are on how you are going to get there, the more likely you are to stick with it and achieve that goal.

Achieving a goal means time and work. Start in the planning stage by taking the time and doing the work. Abraham Lincoln said, “A goal well set is half achieved.” So, answer the questions above – and others if needed – and then map out your plan.

Focus on Mini-Goals

For this step you will focus only on the answers to these two questions:

  • What steps will it take to reach this goal?
  • In what order should the steps be done?

You will come back to the other questions and answers later.

First, you will want to re-read your answers. You may find you need to list more steps. You may find you need to change the order of some steps. Be as thorough as you can in listing the steps to your goal.

For example, if your goal is to preserve enough food to last your family at least nine months, you might list these steps:

  • Plant a garden.
  • Join a local farm co-op.
  • Buy a large freezer.
  • Learn about canning, making pickles, and making jams.
  • Preserve veggies on the same day they are harvested.
  • Determine how much of each vegetable, fruit, jam, or pickle your family will need for nine months.
  • Buy necessary supplies.

Note, these were written in the order they occurred to me and may need to be re-ordered. Some steps may also need to be broken down into more steps.

For example, “plant a garden” might include these steps:

  • Research what to grow
  • Research when to plant and harvest
  • Till the soil
  • Prepare the soil by adding nutrients as needed
  • Buy seeds or seedlings at the right time
  • Build a fence around the garden to protect from deer and rabbits

By now, you should be getting the idea – be as specific as possible in writing out your steps.

Next, put the steps in the order they should be accomplished and assign each step, or mini-goal, a due date.

turning goals into plans

In the example used above, if the growing season is over in your area by mid-October, then that would be a natural due date to achieve your big goal. Working backward from there, you would give due dates to every step on the way to that big goal.

With some goals, there are carved-in-stone due dates. If you want to enroll in a special class, that will have a definite due date. With other goals, like the gardening and preserving food example above, the due dates are more flexible. If your due date to plant corn was May 1, but there was a torrential downpour that day, you are still on track for your big goal if you wait a few days for the ground to dry.

Whichever kind of due dates your goal requires, assign them and then be flexible when necessary.

Just remember – flexibility does not mean giving yourself a month window for meeting one step!

Calendar Time

Using your steps and due dates, get out your calendar and start penciling them in. I say “penciling” because, as you are writing you may discover that you put a due date for step 5 on the same day as your family returns from vacation. That might need to be adjusted.

Because some tweaking is usually necessary, I do this calendaring on paper. In pencil. With an eraser handy.

Once you have completed steps 1, 2, and 3, for your first goal, go back and do it all over for your second goal. When all steps are completed for all goals, transfer all your due dates to your permanent planner. Again, paper or digital doesn’t matter, as long as you refer to it DAILY!

I would recommend, if you use a paper planner, to record your due dates in ink – maybe using a different color for each goal. Ink helps you remind yourself that changing that due date is only for extreme circumstances.

Of course, everything remains flexible for emergencies because life happens.

What About All Those Other Questions?

Well, the planning work is done. Everything is planned out and on your calendar. There are just a few more things you need to do to set yourself up for success.

Go back to the questions and answers at the beginning of this phase of the goal setting process. Some of them have been answered through the “turning goals into plans” steps outlined above. Now, it’s time to tackle the rest.

Do You Need Special Equipment or Tools?

If your answer to this question is ‘yes,’ then you need to plan on how, when, and with what you will acquire those items. In our gardening example, a tiller might be needed but could be rented for just one day.

But if your goal is to master photography with a DSLR camera, you might have to buy a DSLR camera first. You will probably need it fairly soon, so begin putting out feelers to friends or acquaintances who might have one they don’t use. Begin looking on Craigslist, asking for help on Facebook, or – if you have the funds – shopping around on different sites, looking for the best price and the features you want.

Will this purchase be with money you already have? Or can you barter for a friend’s old camera? Or will you charge it (not optimal, but sometimes necessary)? Will you set a goal of saving X for three months before you purchase so you can buy outright or charge only a portion of the price?

Only you – and your husband if you’re married – can answer these questions. Don’t just assume the only way to get what you need it to buy new. Explore other options.

What About Habits and Accountability?

Frequently, having good habits will make reaching your goals easier. If you want to get in shape, having the habit of going to the gym first thing every day will help you reach that goal.

Now ask yourself – what habits do I have that I can build on to help me succeed? Or what habits do I need to abandon?

Bad habits are hard to break and staying on track with your goals is also difficult. Enter accountability. You need it. I need it. We all need it.

If you’re married your husband might be your best accountability partner – or your worst! Pray about who to enlist in your efforts to change habits and reach goals. Perhaps your best friend is also wanting some accountability and you could help each other.

Or maybe you have no close friends and are anxious about being honest and vulnerable. Maybe you could start with an online support group. But I did say ‘start.’ The best accountability is always in person.

As an example of how this might work, I have joined the 40-Day Sugar Fast for 2020. I have friends where we lived a few years ago that have done it and are doing it again in 2020. Plus, there’s a Facebook group. That’s online support. But I’ve also told everyone I know that I’m doing it, without actually asking anyone for accountability. That’s the in-real-life-but-not-yet-totally-vulnerable part.

Whatever shape this takes for you, you need some accountability. Accountability for building habits that will help you reach your goals and also for working towards your goals. Few people succeed without help.

How Will You Maintain Motivation and Focus?

This is where reminders and celebrations or rewards come into play. And this will be different for everyone. But I do have a few suggestions to help you think:

  • Having a visual reminder that you cannot avoid seeing every day is very helpful.
    • Some people make vision boards.
    • Some people post their goal statements. Tape your goal statement written on index cards to your bathroom mirror, over the kitchen sink, and on your windshield or steering wheel.
    • Some people keep a checklist of steps and check off every step as it is completed.
    • Some people create a chain of days. A chain of days can be as simple as a calendar you place an X or smiley face on every day you do something to work towards your goal. It can be a page of numbers you cross off, trying to reach 100 days in a row of working towards your goal. This is also great for changing habits. The idea is to not break the chain.
  • Putting items into a digital calendar with a set reminder to email you or pop up on your phone can be helpful. A reminder that asks, “Have you worked on your goal today?” can be challenging (or frustrating, depending on your personality).
  • As far as rewards, the sky – and your checkbook and calendar – is the limit. But try to save the really big rewards for reaching really big goals. Again, this depends on your personality, but here are some suggestions to get you started thinking:
    • A spa day
    • A new manicure or pedicure
    • A new sweater or blouse
    • A new book
    • A night at the movies
    • Dinner at a fancy restaurant
    • A half-day on Saturday when your husband takes the kids and you are free to relax at home alone.
    • Going horseback riding
    • Lunch date with friends
    • Going to a museum or gallery
    • A weekend trip with hubby

Assign your rewards to different steps in the process of reaching your big goal. If your goal has 20 steps, maybe you could have a reward every fourth or fifth step, with a big reward on reaching your goal.

I find that having my rewards completely unrelated to my goals is best for me. If I have a goal to write a book, I don’t want my reward to be playing video games. Too much screen time! If my goal is landscaping our yard, I don’t want my reward to be a new rose bush – I want something that doesn’t involve work!

Do what works for you. I would encourage you to at least select one or two rewards to start with. You might need a reward for steps 1, 2, and 3. But then start skipping steps and spreading out rewards, like this: reward on step 5, 7, 10, 14, 18, and so on.

Time to Get to Work

Congratulations!

You have worked through the entire goal setting process. You started with creating a vision in Goal Setting 101. Then you moved on to taking your dreams and turning them into just a few goals to focus on in The Goal Setting Process. Finally, you have worked on turning your goals into plans today.

Now you have a plan. It’s time to roll up your sleeves and get to work. But first, go have a cup of tea and savor your success in getting this far!

turning goals into plans
Are you craving change this year? You can have it by making goals and then turning those goals into plans. Get started today!
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