A Game Plan for Goal Planning

Written by my amazing wife, Emily Menard Weaver:

There is something about the fresh start of a new year that always gets me excited for a new challenge! While I know many people no longer set new year’s resolutions because they feel it sets them up for failure, I think it is a healthy practice to embrace fresh goals in the new year. There is no reason to fall into the “resolution failure trap” if you set goals well and make a realistic action plan to move your goals forward.

With January ending, how have you progressed on your goals and resolutions so far? Were you too scared to set resolutions, or did you set resolutions and already fall off the bandwagon? Either way, if you have struggled to make steady progress on your goals in the past, I encourage you to read on and consider incorporating my favorite goal planning practices into your new year. Even if you are a goal crushing pro, I hope these tips help you to continue living an even more intentional life in 2019.

1) The 3-2-1 Method

The 3-2-1 Method is a simple way to reflect on the prior year before diving into planning for the new year. It helps you quickly identify where you may need to continue growing and where you should be celebrating.

List 3 things you are thankful for from 2018. Spend a few minutes really thinking about this and try thinking outside of the box, below are a few prompts to help you reflect.

  • Who extended you grace that you did not deserve this year?
  • Who spoke encouragement to you?
  • What difficult situation did you make it through?

List 2 personal “wins” from last year. A win can be anything you saw as a positive accomplishment in your life. This could be something like a memorable event, a service project, sharing the gospel, or purchasing your first home.

  • What did you do well in 2018?
  • What did you enjoy in 2018?

List 1 area that could use some growth.

  • Was there something you regretted doing or saying?
  • Did you fall short of a goal you previously set?

When I work through the process of goal setting and planning, I always like to start with seeking the Lord first. I ask for his guidance in prayer and read at least a few verses from his word. This practice may look different for you, but I promise that starting with both of these spiritual disciplines will open the door for guidance and peace from the ultimate perfect plan maker as you step into setting new goals for 2019.

2) Identifying what matters most

Now it is time to jump into dreaming for the new year! If you haven’t already, grab a pen and paper for this part.

Dreaming now

“Dreaming now” hopefully came pretty easily, but now it’s time to dig a little deeper. To set goals that will not fall by the wayside when life gets tough, it is crucial that you identify what matters most to you and structure your goals around those priorities. This dreaming exercise will help you uncover more of those areas that matter most to you. For those of you who are not “visualizers,” this step may be tricky and require a few moments of discipline, but I encourage you to challenge yourself and try this exercise regardless.

Close your eyes for a moment and visualize your life when you are 80 years old.

  • What do you want your life to look and feel like when you are 80?
  • Visualize the people that will be around you.
  • What things did you contribute to and help build by the time you are 80?
  • What is making you smile and where are you?

Write down every detail that came to your mind during the visualization exercise. No detail is wrong or incorrect if you visualized it, but you may experience some conviction or perhaps fear over some items. If that is the case, simply take some time to process those thoughts with God and then re-start the exercise. Remember that God’s perfect plan for each person looks different and no goal planning tactic will help you predict his plans, but going through the exercise of visualizing can be a powerful tool to help you get to the core of what matters most to you.

Finding the themes

Once you have completed the two dreaming steps, it is time to compare your lists and identify the common themes. I recommend using highlighters or markers to color code similar ideas on your lists. There is a good chance you may come across a few ideas that you realize are not that important to you right now after all. Cross those items out or place them to the side for a future year’s review.

3) Turning your themes into goals

Did you know most people can only balance about 3 to 5 different things in their lives at once? I’m not going to dive into the science behind that statement right now, but this concept is the reason why I recommend you only choose your top 3 to 5 common themes to focus on for the new year.

On the list from your dreaming exercises, identify the top 3 to 5 overarching themes you’ve identified. The themes or things that are truly the most important to you right now and really get you excited and motivated! These top 3 to 5 themes are the foundation for writing your 2019 goals. Once you have identified them, you can begin writing a few specific and measurable goals for each. These smaller goals should help you accomplish and achieve the progress you desire in each of your 3 to 5 areas. In general, I recommend setting no more than 3 goals for each theme, so aim to not have more than 10 goals in total for your new year.

4) Creating a road map

You have a list of goals and a whole year to accomplish them, but do not expect to make progress without a strategic plan of attack! My #1 recommendation is that you do NOT start working on all of your goals at once. Instead, create a realistic road map for success by spacing your goals out over the course of the year where they make the most sense for your life. Some goals may span the whole year, but other goals may just need a month or two of attention. I find using a blank piece of paper to brainstorm my roadmap is a helpful visual tool to realistically organize and prioritize my goals across the year. I divide the blank paper into twelve months and place my goals in the months that make the most sense. I take into account existing commitments that I have for the year such as travel time, special events, or busy seasons of work, so I do not overload my goals on a particular month.

5) Monthly maintenance and weekly check-ins

Congratulations! You have planned some great goals for your 2019 and have created an attainable roadmap to see you through accomplishing those goals. My final tip is to establish regular rhythms in your schedule to maintain progress and course correct your goals as needed.

Setting aside a half hour once a month to review your goals is a crucial step for success. During this half hour you are reviewing your roadmap to reflect on the prior month and to plan for the month ahead. I also recommend scheduling brief weekly check-ins where you review your roadmap and make a plan to make progress on your goals that week. Whether it is adding a few goal related items to your weekly to-do list or scheduling focused time to make progress on your goals, try not to let a week pass without moving your goals forward in even the smallest of ways.

While weekly planning is the ideal scenario, there are times when we know the week ahead will be particularly busy. Try to identify those weeks ahead of time and make the mindful “choice” to be gracious with yourself and your goals that week. Things outside of our control can also happen, but do remember to not let those items completely derail you. Remember, your goals are not rigid, you can revise and course correct them as needed. Each new day is a fresh start and each new week is a new chance to move forward in the direction you desire. Life will always happen, but when your goals are centered on what matters most to you, it is worth prioritizing them.

I hope these tips have been helpful and I am excited for you to live an even more intentional life in 2019!

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