Plan-Do: Defining and Achieving Your Life Goals


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Plan-Do: Defining and Achieving Your Life Goals

  1. 1. Plan-Do: Defining and Achieving Your Life Goals by Tom Christoffel Box 1444 Front Royal VA 22630 540-635-8582 Copyright 1988, Revised 1990, 2003 and 2009 Introduction In 1978, at age 32, I was frustrated. In spite of family, home and career, I didn't know where my life was going. Although I'd worked as a planner for seven years, as I looked for relief in a new career, I found I didn't have any life goals. The planner had no plan. Beginning with a simple 3" x 5" index card I remedied that and over a period of seven years developed an efficient, yet simple, personal plan. To do so I didn't have to invent goals, but found that unconsciously they'd always been part of my life. I only needed to uncover them, write them down as goals and realistically work to achieve them in small steps. The exercises in this three part workbook will help you uncover your personal plan and develop your own personal planning process. Wherever you are now is on the path to your life goals. In the 2003 update I’m involving use of computer programs somewhat to simplify the writing piece. The thinking part is more important. This is a start up to getting your plan – establishing your goals. What works for you is the deciding factor. 1
  2. 2. Part I - Where am I now? Exercise #1: We all have many things to do. We are overwhelmed by the obligations. Think about all the things you need to get done. Then on a 3 X 5 index card write down just five important things you want to have done in the next six months. Put the date of six months from today at the top. Each must be something that could be completed. It may be big or small in terms of time and resources, but must be important to you. Only spend five minutes. Keep this card and review it regularly. Make a new one in six months. You could put this in your computer or PDA. I’ve done that over the years, but have come back to using yellow index cards. You may already have a long list in a scheduling program. Try the index card. Terminology. Now you have some goals. Goals are the focus of a plan. Are your goals objective or subjective? Objective Goal - One whose completion can be quantified or measured in some way. You want to go somewhere, do something, purchase a certain item, earn a certain amount of money. How do you feel when you achieve an objective goal? Good! You have a sense of accomplishment which encourages you to tackle other and perhaps more difficult objectives. We will refer to objective goals as "objectives." Subjective Goal - One whose determination of progress or completion is based on your judgment. It might deal with a relationship, an emotional state or sense of security. Subjective goals are at a higher level than objective goals since they represent the outcome of your life. They cover a broader view and are more open ended in terms of completion. They are accomplished over a longer term and are more complex, often the result of completion of many objectives. Depending upon your perception of time, a goal might be accomplished in the short or long term, one to five days, weeks or months. The time frame for goals in a personal plan are measured in terms of the life time, or even beyond it. In the sense of your life spanning many years. Collectively your subjective goals are your personal vision and form the basis for your personal plan, your "life goals." Strategy - A plan of action to work within your environment to accomplish your objectives and therefore move toward accomplishing your life goals. Manager - A manager's job is to get results from the resources of an enterprise. In business, results are objective - units sold, dollars earned, etc. A good manager knows what the goals are and what resources the enterprise has. If it needs more resources to grow, the manager 2
  3. 3. works to get them. Planning is used to find ways to get better results from resources and achieve the goals. Likewise, as manager of your life enterprise, you can get better results by planning. Planner - One who plans. By education and occupation, that's what I am. Planning is in fact a part of all activities we undertake so we are all planners. To have no plan is a plan, since you have decided to let the world make decisions for you. Just take a moment and acknowledge yourself as a planner. Futurist - One who has a vision of the future. You have goals from exercise #1 which represent events to happen in the future. You can picture them happening, therefore you are a futurist. All futurists are self-appointed. Take a second and appoint yourself as a futurist. Plan - The written document, dated in time, which will serve as a reference for your growth and change for the future. A plan properly used will improve your self management. If you have nothing to manage: time, money, or resources - you have no need to plan. Plans can be single purpose or comprehensive. What we seek in our life plan is something that is comprehensive. My view is that God is the only comprehensive planner, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't try. Do - The implementation of your plan. If you are doing, you will be accomplishing some of your objectives and making movement toward your life goals. This generally leads to satisfaction. It is easier to plan than to do. We can envision a great life (we did as children), but accomplishing a vision takes focus, for without planning and control, without building a resource base, we are just dreaming. Priority - A ranking process that determines what comes first, second and third among multiple goals. It is how you decide to focus and is an ongoing juggling process. Some people are really focused and can therefore achieve in their area of focus. Balance, as in anything, is important. Evaluation - The planning process has a feedback loop, like communications. Personal planning is a communication process with yourself. This is the process of judging your results against your objectives and life goals. Plans should be reviewed often. Check the life goals and objectives to see if they still fit. Take the feedback the world has given you and incorporate it in your plan. Because you have power over your plan, you can amend it anytime. Analysis - The planning process begins with a look at what is. To plan for yourself you need to know who you are; what are your skills and abilities; what are your resources. Instead of just going with the flow, try to find your flow. To continue this process there are a few more exercises. Exercise #2: "I am ______." I found this in Working Smart by Michael LeBoeuf. Take ten index cards and write "I am a(n) __________________ on each one. Work rapidly and don't censor any idea that comes to mind. 3
  4. 4. Use more than ten if you wish. When you are done, read them over and set them out in order of importance. Then number them one through ten. Then write on the back of each card: "This 'I am' is first because __________________." Go on and finish the rest. Date the cards and save them. Exercise #3: "I am" mind map. The mind map is a technique to give an externalized map-picture of thoughts you might have on any subject. I first learned about mind mapping it in The Brain User's Guide by Tony Buzan, a pioneer of the technique. The following are guidelines for mind mapping which I've compiled over the years from various sources. * Mapping materials: blank paper - the bigger, the better; pens, pencils and markers of varied texture and color; a mind and a thought to explore - to map out the boundaries of. No artistic skills are required - the words and symbols need only have meaning for you. The result may, on occasion, be somewhat pleasing to the eye of the mapper. * Begin with an image and/or word in the center of paper or wherever you think it should start on the page. * Build out from the central thought with connected lines like branches on a tree. * Use key words or short phrases to explain branches. * In addition uses sketches, symbols, codes, numbers, pictures - whatever. * Use color - you may select a marker for a subject because it matches/contrasts with the mood of thoughts/ideas. * For emphasis or to show relationships - consider arrows, boxes, underlines and anything else you can think of. * When the map seems complete - consider enclosing areas with circles or boxes to focus thoughts. * Date the map so that when you return to it you'll have a benchmark. Later additions may be dated - its your map. * If it doesn't seem to be working - start over. Use the map to be spontaneous. Give yourself a time limit - 5 or 10 minutes - for a quick exploration. * Don't let any of the above ideas limit your map. Now its time to mind map your life. A blank sheet of paper is needed. In the center, or at some place on the sheet, draw a picture or a symbol which represents your. Then, give details about yourself in each of these areas: background; strengths/weaknesses; hobbies; accomplishments/ failures; likes/dislikes; physical self-description; family; beliefs; and areas of greatest knowledge/ignorance, using simple drawings, key words and lists, using different colors as matches the subject and your feelings in response to it. 4
  5. 5. Need more, check these links: Buzan Centers - Mindjet Company - Peter Russell – How to mind map - Mind Tools Exercise #4: TO DO LIST - make a comprehensive list of all the things you have to do now and into the future. Establish categories such are work, home, finance, people, travel, etc. 5
  6. 6. Part II - What is my ideal future? Exercise #5: I am cards - step II. Look at the "I am cards" from exercise #3 and answer these questions: 1. What do these cards tell you about this person? 2. What things are most important to him/her? 3. What types of things would this person enjoy doing with his/her life that you are not doing? 4. How would you recommend that this person spend his/her life if there were only six months to live? Exercise #6: Ideal Future - Heart Map Now imagine that all resources are unlimited - time, energy, money and that you can do anything that you wish. On the second large sheet provided, begin with an image in the center of the paper that pictures for you the essence of your ideal future. Then do the "mind" mapping process from your heart of hearts, again using colors, pictures and symbols to express your ideas. Include all hobbies and dreams; any and all secret desires. Exercise #7: Life Perspective Chart The following chart shows a life span of 0 to 100 years. My personal goal is to live to be 100+ so I can get my birthday announced on the Today Show. Print out this page. On the bottom put the year you were born under the 0 line and number the decades of your life. Mark your current age. Using different colors set out individual time lines reflective of periods or events in the subject areas of: family, education, employment, philosophies, travel, etc. The average life expectancies, as of 1987, were for men and women, ages 70.11 and 77.62 years respectively, as shown. That has increased and your own, based on your year of birth can be found on-line Life Expectancy. Your goal may be to exceed the average. You might include the age lines for the longest-lived person in your family. When you look at this what does it tell you about the flow of your life? 6
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  8. 8. Exercise #8: Pieces of the Whole Take your three major information sources - the to do list, the I am mind map and the ideal future mind map and categorize the things you find on each into no more than seven subject areas. Use the "I am cards" as a second source for the mind map column and the answers to exercise #5 with the ideal future mind map. To get everything to fit, you may need to combine some categories. Do so with whatever logic makes sense to you. Using your own terms is important. I Am Mind Map To Do List Ideal Future _______________ _______________ _______________ _______________ _______________ _______________ _______________ _______________ _______________ _______________ _______________ _______________ _______________ _______________ _______________ _______________ _______________ _______________ _______________ _______________ _______________ 8
  9. 9. Exercise #9 - Integration Now envision the wholeness of your life as a circle. Today it is a certain size encompassing your life. In the past it was smaller and in the future it will be bigger. We are going to divide that circle, your wholeness, into slices of your life, like a pie. You are limited, however, to no more than seven slices. Why? Based on brain and management studies, the maximum span of control for issues has been determined to be seven. Seven in a biblical sense means "completion." Working with fewer issues is often better. Look at the three lists of no more than seven categories above and consolidate across them for a single list of seven that covers the range of subjects you find there. You may use a word or a phrase to describe these divisions: Slices of Life Description _______________ ___________________________________ _______________ ___________________________________ _______________ ___________________________________ _______________ ___________________________________ _______________ ___________________________________ _______________ ___________________________________ _______________ ___________________________________ You are a whole person and these pieces then cover comprehensively the wholeness that your life is now and that for which you strive. Is there anything missing? If so go back and work it into a category. 9
  10. 10. Part III - Your personal comprehensive plan. Exercise #10: The Framework For each slice of life, take one of the "GOAL" sheets from the back of the workbook. In the top space, use the category name and write a sentence explaining what it means to you. Draw an image which represents to you this part of your life, as it is or as you wish it to become. Then go to your index card from exercise #1, or your "to do list" from exercise #4, and put those goals on each goal sheet. Use the day's date for the "IN" column. In the future you'll use the "OUT" column to record its accomplishment. One sample continuation sheet is provided. The ideal future mind map will also be a source. You may list both objective and subjective goals. Remember, objective goals are important to measure movement. Where possible, list a date by which you would like each goal to be accomplished. You can make additional sheets with regular three ring notebook paper. Now you have goals, both subjective and objective, but in order to "do" effectively, you must set priorities and determine strategies for accomplishing your goals. Exercise #11: Elements of the written Personal Comprehensive Plan Planning is a process and although goals may change over time they should be stated. A plan does not limit you, so "serendipity" and "intuition" are needed. The environment can change radically for better or worse and you must be able to respond to new opportunities. The basic work has established your goals and objectives. Priorities: For the life goals and objectives you should establish priorities, indicating the relative importance among each. There will be some cross competition between objectives when you are pursuing more than one goal. Rank your goal sheets from first to seventh and set the order using the "GOAL INDEX" provided. You may wish to get tab sheets and number or color code them. Put them in a three ring binder. The eighth index section can serve - front or back - for the compiled plan. Strategies: To accomplish your goals it is likely that you will have to become more efficient, since you've listed way many more things than you can accomplish. Strategic thinking is the action portion of the plan. You can analyze these things in writing or just work them out in your head. The goals you have now are still lists and not a plan. 10
  11. 11. Now write your plan, begin with: I. Life Goal Categories. This lists the big seven with an explanation of what is covered and its relation to your life. Prioritize them, putting the most important first. II. Goals by category - subdivided into: Long Term - list those things that will require more than a year to achieve. Annual - list those things that you want to accomplish in the next 12 months. It is useful to begin the annual process on the calendar, birthday or fiscal year basis. You can make a statement about the year indicating your expectations for it. This should be a positive affirmation. These are your current priorities. A sample outline follows. If possible, put this on word processing so it is easier to shift things around and keep current. A Personal Plan A statement of philosophy, principles or other ideas which reflects your overall approach to life and meeting the goals in your life. I. Life goal categories and statements: 1. ABC in order to xyz. 2. DEF 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. II. Goals - Long term objectives and life goals by category with decade, year or other measure of when to be accomplished by LONG TERM 1. ABC a. Achieve X by 2015 b. Go to Y by 2008 c. Have Z by 2010. 2. DEF a. U in 2010 b. Visit V for Christmas 2005 c. W on 12/31/03. 3. 4. 5. 6. 11
  12. 12. 7. ANNUAL PLAN - Time dated Goals for 20__ A year of ____________________ 1. ABC a. Do x by March 31. b. Go to y by June 30. c. Have a z monthly. 2. DEF a. Do u weekly. b. Visit v for Christmas. c. W each day. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. This can run as few or as many pages as appropriate. The source for the objectives is the goal pages of the plan. You need not list every goal in every year. When you have an idea, act on it and record it as an goal. Then give it time to incubate. Serendipity allows you to change anything at any time. It is your plan. Exercise #12: Evaluation. Is your plan working? The only way to find out is to evaluate it regularly. At the start you may wish to refer to it often. Carry a copy that you can review regularly. Your goal statements will be positive affirmations, noting not where you are, but where you want to be. They will help you keep focused. Seven is still a wide scope of activity, so you may not be able to make progress on all fronts. Priorities may change as you go along. That's OK. With the three-ring notebook, you can move things about without renumbering. Keeping the work on a computer will help with the maintenance as well. On an index card, list those things you want to accomplish within the first six months. You may do this on a one, two or three month basis as well - whatever works for you. Experiment. When you finish the six months you are likely to find that some objective goals have been completed, others have not. In fact you may have to make a special effort in order to get one done in the period. That's OK. The important thing is that you work on your highest priorities. Why? The Pareto principle, formulated by a nineteenth-century economist states that: eighty percent of the value of a group of items is generally concentrated in only twenty percent of the items. Called 12
  13. 13. the 80/20 rule, it can be observed in many parts of life. For a business, 80% of its orders may come from 20% of its clients. If you have a list of ten objective goals, you can accomplish 80% of your results by completing only two things on the list, as long as they are your highest priorities. That focus will make you effective and move you to achieving your goals. Good luck. Please let me know how this worked for you and where it can be improved. This is set up for an individual. It could be done by a couple, a family, members of a group or business. Tom Christoffel Box 1444 Front Royal VA 22630 540-635-8582 - Recommended Reading: The Brain User's Guide by Tony Buzan Working Smart by Michael LeBoeuf What Color is Your Parachute? by Richard Nelson Bolles Web sites: Buzan Centers - Mindjet Company - Peter Russell – How to mind map - Mind Tools 13