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Published on June 18, 2020

How to Make a Plan And Reach Your Goals in Life

How to Make a Plan And Reach Your Goals in Life

If your 2020 goals feel out of reach right now, it’s totally understandable. With so many unforeseen changes due to COVID-19, it becomes difficult to know how to make a plan and stick to it.

The thing is our world is always changing. Most of the time, it’s not overly noticeable or we handle it fairly well.

This particular global challenge is different, though, because we are all affected. This has caused chaos for our economy, our livelihood, and our original plans for the year. And it feels unmanageable for many of us.

It’s tempting to just sit and wait. Because how can you make a plan when you don’t know what will happen next? However, the one thing that hasn’t changed is our ability to adapt, and we can use this to create new goals and make a plan that works for us now.

The capacity to modify our behavior is something we are all born with. In fact, it is one of our greatest childhood gifts. As a baby we use it to move from crawling to walking.

It’s the same skill we use to wash our hands more frequently and maintain a safe physical distance. We practice flexibility when we decide not to watch the news and listen to a positive podcast instead.

Many of us have used this muscle to move our work online during isolation.

In fact, behavioral flexibility is considered one of the five principles for success[1]. Used together with sensory awareness, we give ourselves maximum potential to achieve success.

The good news is, by embracing this flexibility muscle, you can make a plan in any situation. This includes times when you feel you have no control, like now. It’s just about staying aware and adapting as you go.

Here’s how to get started.

1. Plan Your Outcome for the Year

Beginning with the end in mind and working backwards is a well-known strategy to achieve success. Shared by Stephen Covey in his book 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, it is a habit that has stood the test of time.[2]

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Without knowing our target, it’s impossible to adequately plan or have influence over what we achieve.

This highly effective habit is essential, even in the current situation. No matter what is happening in your external environment, you can still decide on an outcome you want.

As you get clear on this and write it down, you will begin to notice opportunities to help you achieve it.

2. Be Realistic

When you set your goals, consider whether the timeframe is realistic. Sometimes our deadlines can be a bit too tight depending on things out of our control.

This doesn’t mean we can’t achieve them.

Based on your choice of strategies and your workload, you may be able to meet a very short deadline. Take a sensible and logical look at your goal and decide if the timeline is realistic. If not, change the deadline.

3. Don’t Map out Your Plan

This is one of the biggest mistakes I see at any time throughout any year. Through a desire for certainty, people map out their plans for the whole year, each step documented month by month. Mapping out the whole year is possibly why many people dump their plans during crisis.

If we do this, we leave no space for adapting as we move forward, and it limits our potential.

As we start to take action, our brain and our external environment changes. This means we become aware of greater opportunity, which could help us achieve even more. But we have to leave room for this possibility.

When we make a plan, we use smaller chunks and deadlines. This leaves room for adjustments, and we maximize our scope for success.

4. Make Your First 90-Day Plan

This means chunking your goals down into a 90-day plan only for your initial quarter. As you do this, you leave room to be adaptable with whatever comes up.

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It takes 90 days to build momentum. This means it will take three months to see a result from a strategy we use. This is an unconscious concept, but we can use it to consciously help us stay on track and propel forward.

Divide your year into four quarters, starting from where you are now. Then for each 12-month goal, decide what outcomes need to be achieved in the first 90 days only.

Write the goals down and decide which strategies to use.

5. Chunk It Down to the First Month

Different sized chunks of information motivate different people. Some people feel more compelled by big picture goals. Others feel more motivated by shorter-term goals.

Those who love longer term tend not to chunk goals down and may take haphazard action. Those who love details find it difficult to see the big picture and can get stuck.

The most successful way to make a plan is to use both large and small chunks.

By chunking your goals down to what you will achieve in the first month, you can feel a sense of achievement much earlier. This keeps you on target and encourages you to achieve more.

Check your 90-day goals and set goals for the first month that align with them. Write them down in your planner to help them stick in your mind.

6. Break It Down Again

Notice how we only set goals for “firsts,” and this includes our first week.

It’s a natural tendency to want to plan out the whole month, but don’t. This can seriously keep you stuck or put far too much pressure on you.

Plus, remember there is always more than one way of achieving something. There are opportunities we won’t even see until we’ve achieved something else. This means if we map the month out, we can limit ourselves.

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Setting goals just for the first week leaves heaps of room for the unforeseen, and that means we can modify it to suit changing situations. It also means we can feel good about ourselves at the week’s end as we look at all the ticks. Our unconscious mind loves that!

Write outcomes for the first week into your planner that will help you achieve your goals for the month.

7. Plan and Structure Your Week

This is where many people come off track, especially when things are changing rapidly.

With a list of goals and no structure to follow each week, it’s easy to become distracted. If we don’t plan each day, we can go a whole week feeling like we’re getting nowhere.

Structuring our week and forming a routine can also greatly improve our health. Some of the benefits include better stress levels and better sleep[3].

When we structure each week and day, we feel like we are getting somewhere. This motivates us to keep going, even when the unexpected arises.

Write a plan in your journal for what you will do each day of the week to achieve your goals. This is where you can chart it out on a daily timeline and create a routine.

8. Reflect and Readjust Your Plan

This is something I recommend you do at least at the end of each month. However, when things are changing rapidly, it’s necessary to do this more frequently.

Using our awareness and flexibility regularly, we can make the most of any situation by looking at how we can change. We can make adjustments fast to keep up with the external environment and things we have no control over.

We are also able to see where mistakes have been made or if we can tweak something slightly to maximize results.

This is why we don’t map the year out. It gives us much more flexibility to respond positively to external changes.

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At the end of each month or more regularly if you need to, look for what has worked and how you can do more of it. Consider what didn’t work and how you can change it. See what you need to start doing or stop doing.

Then, write your plan for the following week or goals for the following month to include those changes.

9. Rinse and Repeat

When you reach the end of your 90 days, rinse and repeat. Make a plan for the following three months and chunk your goals down in exactly the same way.

As you continue to do this, you will notice you boost the momentum you have already built. You will feel a huge sense of achievement, and this will spur you on to accomplish more.

You may notice by this stage that some of your goals may have changed slightly, and that’s okay. Remember, as you take new actions your awareness expands to see new potential. This may change your shorter-term goals because you have found something better.

That’s a good thing and all part of being flexible, so run with it.

Final Thoughts

Whether you’re currently surfing the COVID-19 crisis or another challenge entirely, you can still make a plan by adjusting.

More than this, planning without flexibility can get in the way in any circumstance. This includes the good times because nothing is static.

As you plan while allowing space to readjust to external changes, you will find your results are pleasantly surprising.

More Tips on How to Make a Plan

Featured photo credit: Felipe Furtado via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Deb Johnstone

Deb is a professional mindset speaker and a transformational life, business and career coach. Specialising in NLP and dynamic mindset.

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Last Updated on October 22, 2020

How Not to Feel Overwhelmed at Work & Take Control of Your Day

How Not to Feel Overwhelmed at Work & Take Control of Your Day

Overwhelm is a pernicious state largely caused by the ever-increasing demands on our time and the distractions that exist all around us. It creeps up on us and can, in its extreme form, leave us feeling anxious, stressed, and exhausted. Therefore, if you’re feeling overwhelmed at work, it’s time to do something about it.

Here are 6 strategies you can follow that will reduce the feeling of overwhelm, leaving you calmer, in control, and a lot less stressed at work.

1. Write Everything Down to Offload Your Mind

The first thing you can do when work feels overwhelming is to write everything down that is on your mind.

Often people just write down all the things they think they have to do. This does help, but a more effective way to reduce overwhelm is to also write down everything that’s occupying your thoughts[1].

For example, you may have had an argument with your colleague or a loved one. If it’s on your mind, write it down. A good way to do this is to draw a line down the middle of the page and title one section “things to do” and the other “what’s on my mind.”

The act of writing all this down and getting it out of your head will help you stop feeling overwhelmed at work. Writing things down can really change your life.

2. Decide How Long It Will Take to Complete Your To-Dos

Once you have emptied your head, go through your list and estimate how long it will take to complete each to-do.

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As you go through your list, you will find quite a few to-dos will only take you five or ten minutes. Others will take longer, often up to several hours.

Do not worry about that at this stage. Just focus on estimating how long you will need to complete each task to the best of your ability. You can learn how to create a more meaningful to-do list here.

3. Take Advantage of Parkinson’s Law

Here’s a little trick I learned a long time ago to help when work feels overwhelming. Parkinson’s Law states that work will fill the time you have available to complete it, and we humans are terrible at estimating how long something will take[2]:

When feeling overwhelmed at work, use Parkinson's Law.

    This is why many people are always late. They think it will only take them thirty minutes to drive across town when previous experience has taught them it usually takes forty-five minutes to do so because traffic is often bad. It’s more wishful thinking than bad judgment.

    We can use Parkinson’s Law to our advantage when we’re feeling overwhelmed at work. If you have estimated that to write five important emails will take ninety minutes, then reduce it down to one hour. Likewise, if you have estimated it will take you three hours to prepare your upcoming presentation, reduce it down to two hours.

    Reducing the time you estimate something will take gives you two advantages. The first is you get your work done quicker, obviously. The second is that you put yourself under a little time pressure, and in doing so you reduce the likelihood you will be distracted or allow yourself to procrastinate.

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    When we overestimate how long something will take, subconsciously our brains know we have plenty of time, so it plays tricks on us, and we end up checking reviews of the Apple Watch 4 or allow our team members to interrupt us with the latest office gossip.

    Applying a little time pressure prevents this from happening, and we get more focused and more work done. This will help when work feels overwhelming.

    4. Use the Power of Your Calendar

    Once you have your time estimates done, open up your calendar and schedule your to-dos to avoid getting overwhelmed at work. Schedule time for each task, especially high priority tasks, while also grouping together similar tasks. This will help relieve stress and anxiety in your daily work life.

    For emails that need attention on your to-do list, schedule time on your calendar to deal with all your emails at once. Likewise, if you have a report to write or a presentation to prepare, add these to your calendar using your estimated time as a guide for how long each will take.

    Seeing these items on your calendar eases your mind because you know you have allocated time to get them done, and you no longer feel you have no time. Grouping similar tasks together keeps you in a focused state longer, and it’s amazing how much work you get done when you do this.

    5. Make Decisions

    For those things you wrote down that are on your mind but are not tasks, make a decision about what you will do with each one[3]. These things are on your mind because you have not made a decision about them.

    If you have an issue with a colleague, a friend, or a loved one, take a little time to think about what would be the best way to resolve the problem. More often than not just talking with the person involved will clear the air and resolve the problem.

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    If it is a more serious issue, then decide how best to deal with it. Talk to your boss or a colleague and get advice.

    Whatever you do, do not allow it to fester. Ignoring the problem will not make it go away and will only make you feel more overwhelmed at work. You need to make a decision to deal with it, and the sooner you do so the sooner the problem will be resolved.

    I remember long ago, when I was in my early twenties and had gone mad with my newly acquired credit cards. I discovered I didn’t have the money to pay my monthly bills. I worried about it for days, got stressed, and really didn’t know what to do. Eventually, I told a good friend about the problem.

    He suggested I called the credit card company to explain my problem. The next day, I plucked up the courage to call the company, explained my problem, and the wonderful person the other end listened and then suggested I pay a smaller amount for a couple of months.

    This one phone call took no more than ten minutes to make, yet it solved my problem and took away a lot of the stress I was feeling at the time. I learned two very valuable lessons from that experience:

    The first was: don’t go mad with newly acquired credit cards! And the second: there’s always a solution to every problem if you just talk to the right person.

    6. Take Some Form of Action

    Because overwhelm is something that creeps up on us, once we are feeling overwhelmed at work (and stressed as the two often go together), the key is to take some form of action.

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    The act of writing everything down that is bothering you and causing you to feel overwhelmed is a great place to start. Being able to see what it is that is bothering you in a list form, no matter how long that list is, eases the mind. You have externalized it.

    It also means that, rather than these worries floating around in a jumbled mess inside your head, they are now visible, and you can make decisions about what to do about them.

    Often, it could be asking a colleague for a little help, or it could be that you need to allocate some focused time to get the work done. The important thing is you make a decision on what to do next.

    When work feels overwhelming, it’s not always caused by a feeling of having a lack of time or too much work. It can also be caused by avoiding a decision about what to do next.

    The Bottom Line

    It’s easy to feel like you have too much on your plate, but there are things you do to make it more manageable. 

    Make a decision, even if it’s just talking to someone about what to do next. Making a decision about how you will resolve something will reduce your feelings of overwhelm and start you down the path to a resolution.

    When you follow these strategies, you can say goodbye to your overwhelm and gain much more control over your day.

    More Tips for Reducing Work Stress

    Featured photo credit: Josefa nDiaz via unsplash.com

    Reference

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