To be a true STEMinsta, a woman needs a goal strategy rather than just a list of goals. A goal strategy has several benefits; it:
- Let’s you intentionally go through your days and weeks
- Prevents overwhelm
- Keeps the big picture at the forefront
- Let’s you look for overlaps in your goals
You see, I always had a hard time reconciling the idea that you should set goals in all areas of your life to be balanced, yet you should only focus on one thing at a time to really get it done!
What was I supposed to do with all those other goals and plans? It seems to me I would always be in a state of focused imbalance, if I followed conventional wisdom.
That’s when I started to develop the process you find detailed in today’s post. It’s based on strategy development techniques used in the business world, as well as in sports and by the military.
One of my favorite ways to do this is with mind mapping. It allows for non-linear thoughts to be captured without having to worry about overall organization of information. I prefer to mind map on paper or a white board, but if you prefer electrons, see this article.
This is, by far, my longest post ever. However it is super-critical so I created a bonus for you, to help you out. To receive it, just click here. It is a companion guide with several examples so you can see it in action and get your own creative juices flowing.
Let’s dive in!
Goal Strategy Step 1: Assess
Start with a blank sheet of paper and draw a smiley face in the middle. This is you :o).
Draw four spikes with circles on the end (no need for a straightedge and circle template, this is a creative process!) and label them career, mother, partner and self-care.
Radiating off the self-care circle, draw four lines with circles and label them physical, mental, social/emotional, and spiritual.
Now write at least two “I” statements around the seven circles. These statements should represent your goals in these areas. Here are some pro tips:
- Follow the “I” with an action verb.
- State them as if you have already accomplished them.
- Write them in the positive. Moving toward something instead of away from something.
Now, on your mind map, circle or highlight just one from each area that represents your highest priority right now. We’ll design these seven in Step 2.
For the non-selected goals, I want you to write down one small thing you can do to move that goal incrementally forward over the next 3 months. For example, if your non-selected physical goal is “I eat healthy”, then your incremental step might be “I only drink water with my meals”. I like to call these the +1 things because they only make small changes. This helps calm the panic your brain feels when having to choose between two important things. Your brain can relax knowing you are doing something to move the needle on your other goal!
Goal Strategy Step 2: Design
For each of the selected goals in Step 1, start with a clean page and follow these steps:
- Write it down clearly and in detail.
- Set a deadline and sub-deadlines if the main goal seems too far away
- What are the internal and external obstacles you’ll face? Put a * by the most significant one
- Most of your demons will be inside of you – anticipate and prepare
- What excuses are you likely to make?
- When will you make those excuses?
- What knowledge and skills will you need? Put a * by the most critical one
- Identify the people whose help and cooperation you will need
I bet you’re panicking right about now, thinking “I have to work on all seven of these at one time for the next year! Is she crazy?!?”
Relax. We are about to make life simpler.
I want you to choose one goal from the self-care area, and another from any of the other areas to concentrate on for the next three months.
Just two. That’s it. In three months, we’ll move on to another pair. By the end of the year, we’ll have hit all of them.
I like to narrow down to two goals at this point because Step 2 usually drives home what’s really important. Plus, Step 3 is wasted if you won’t execute for 3-9 months and who has time to waste?
But we do have to calm that brain. So once again, for the 5 goals we are postponing, write down one small +1 thing you can do consistently to keep heading in the right direction.
Goal Strategy Step 3: Build
In this step, we build on the foundation laid in Step 2 and create plans for our two near-term goals using mind mapping again.
In the center of your blank page, write your goal in a circle. Now start brainstorming what has to happen. Detail what steps you will have to take to:
- get the knowledge and skills I need?
- get the support and help I need?
- mitigate my excuses?
- get the equipment I need?
- make the time to do this?
- get the money to do this?
- give up something or rearrange my schedule to do this?
Once you feel your list is fairly complete, go ahead and logically sequence and prioritize them. I just usually go around my mind map and put little numbers by things.
When you’re satisfied, now is the time to write down your steps in either a project plan or a checklist, depending on the complexity.
You may notice that there are recurring things on your list; things you have to do daily, weekly or monthly to reach your goal. That’s OK. We are going to deal with all of them AND all your +1 things from Steps 1 & 2 now.
Using the following key, go back and put a letter by each item that is recurring:
- D if it’s a daily action
- W if it’s a weekly action
- M if it’s a monthly action
You can modify the letter if you need to. For instance, if something isn’t daily, but you do want to do it two times per week, use 2X/W.
Time for more lists. Label three separate sheets of paper with Daily, Weekly and Monthly. Go through all the items from Step 1’s +1 activities, Step 2’s +1 activities and from your plans created in Step 3. List them on the appropriate sheet. It’s that simple and it’s that liberating. The one thing our brain was NOT created to do was remember lists. We have freed your brain from this burden!
The time you spend now will be returned to you at least 10X in monthly, weekly and daily planning. All because you have lists already created with your most important things on them!
Goal Strategy Step 4: Manage
Having all your goals in this strategy doesn’t amount to a hill of beans if you don’t execute it. Execution happens in…you guessed it…monthly, weekly and daily planning. But the good news is that all this up front work makes all the other planning a snap!
There are many ways to plan and dozens of paper and digital planners out there. What you use isn’t as important as the fact that you do the necessary planning. Here are just a few tips:
- Monthly plan at the beginning of the month
- Weekly plan on the weekend
- Daily plan at the end of the previous day
- Review your two goals fleshed out in Step 3
- Review the appropriate list from Step 3 and schedule those items
If the daily lists look overwhelming, apply the Most Important Thing (MIT) strategy. What is THE most important thing on that list? The second MIT? And so on. Once it’s prioritized, tackle the #1 MIT first. Then, if the day gets away from you (and God knows they do!), you’ve at least done the Most Important Thing!
One thing I like to do for a few of the daily to-dos, is track them on a small calendar. I just color in that day when I do that thing (for me, it’s taking my vitamins). I get on these streaks and all of a sudden, I don’t want to break the streak, so I just keep remembering to take my vitamins! When it becomes a habit I do without much thought, I move on to the next item I want to track.
Last but not least, is the quarterly review. After 90 days of working on a goal pretty diligently, look back at your plan from Step 3 and see how you are doing. If many of the steps are in place and you’re satisfied, feel free to do Steps 3 and 4 for another of your goals from Step 2. If your goal needs more care and feeding, feel free to work on it for another 90 days; the whole point was to work on two goals that are very important to you!
I know this seems like such a loooonnnnggg process, but you do gain that time back tenfold, I promise. I’ve been using (and tweaking it) for years, and managed to do a lot of cool things without losing my sanity (or my job…or my husband…or my kids’ respect…).
Until next time…keep smiling!