Thinking About Goals for 2015

Yesterday the writer’s group I’m a part of was talking about goal setting for next year. I’m great at setting goals, but I’m pretty bad about meeting those goals. After a good deal of thought I came to the conclusion that a large part of my issue is that I plan based on the resources and circumstances I WANT to have, instead of what I ACTUALLY have. To put it easily, I plan goals based on ideal conditions instead of reality.

The dream is that I have lots of time to devote to my writing and natural health businesses, hobbies, physical fitness, on-going education, family, and everything else I want to do. I typically have 30 or more projects going on at one time.

My reality is that my first priority is homeschooling my kids. And I have 3 high needs kids still at home. Two are gifted and one has Asperger’s and PTSD. All three require individualized curriculum and instruction. All three are working at or above grade level in every subject. My reality also includes multiple sclerosis (not a grammatical error. I don’t capitalize it for a reason.). Because I have ms, I must take my energy and physical needs into consideration. If I don’t then I run the risk of using up my energy reserves. When that happens I can’t do much more than attend to basic tasks for a few days.

While we were discussing these things on my writer’s group several people posted links to articles on goal setting and meeting goals once they were set.

Below is an email that I started to write to my writer’s group. I’ve decided to post it here instead because it became rather long, and I think goal setting fits into the focus of this blog.

As I read the links and articles about goal planning that everyone sent yesterday I was struck with one overwhelming thought. One of the articles recommended focusing no more than three main areas of concern. THREE. At first glance that was a super tiny number. I have at least 30 things going on at any one time,and I’m pretty sure every body else does, too. I started freaking out about how much I would have to give up, how much I’d lose if I were to even attempt to follow that advice. But, after some thought and meditation I realized that all of my projects – the ones that are important to me, anyway- fall into one of three categories. In fact, many of them overlap with two or more categories.

For me, the three most important areas of focus are:

Health – I have to pay special attention to my health. If I neglect myself I can’t function well enough to take care of the other two focus areas.

Immediate Family – My kids are the only things I would be willing to sacrifice my health for, but in reality if my health is poor I can’t homeschool or take care of my kids.

Income/Financial– I’m not money motivated, but reality check..$ is important, because without it, I can’t take care of areas 1 and 2. In addition, the husband and I are both in our mid 40’s (he turns 48 the day after Christmas), we need to give real consideration to the life we want when we’re old.

Now, if I look at the projects and tasks that are important to me every single one falls in one of these three categories.  Many things, like gardening, growing herbs, making herbal remedies, saving $ to start raising chickens, giving classes, et. al, fall into more than one category.  For example, raising chicken is health related activity, but it’s also income/finance related because it’s a homesteading act that will save us cash (and possibly earn income). Raising chickens is also a family activity because learning to homestead is homeschooling.

Knitting a pair of socks for my mother is an Immediate Family activity because well.. she’s my mother she counts as immediate family.

Sewing a gift for our church choir director is outside of my three focus areas, even though I really like the woman and can see us becoming good friends at some point.

Just because something is outside of my main 3 focus areas doesn’t mean I can’t complete that task or project, it simply means that project/task needs to take a back seat to the “big 3.” In the case of the sewn gift for M, I will probably set aside the time to do this because she has taken an interest in our kids. That makes her important to the Immediate Family. (and to me “immediate family” has nothing to do with blood)

How does this help me narrow my focus and conserve my sometimes limited energy? If I can’t easily fit a project/task into my three main focus categories: Health, Immediate Family, or Income/Finance, then it is not a priority.  And, along with that, if a project or task doesn’t help one of those three focus areas truly advance then maybe I need to consider getting rid of it. One example is playing Magic the Gathering at the hobby shop every other Friday night. It’s a family activity because the whole family plays. I enjoy the game, but the room is loud and crowded enough to put me in “neurological overload” and cause ms symptoms. So, even though it’s a family activity it goes away because it does not really further any family goals, and it causes temporary damage to my health.

I’m considering organizing further and assigning each task or project a priority number that corresponds to how much that activity will further my progress in its respective areal. For example, blogging on msquill is part of my marketing efforts. Marketing in general receives a priority rating of a 1 in the Income/Finance focus area,  because if no one knows I have released a book, or am teaching a class, or have a cough syrup for sale, then nobody will consider buying from me. You can’t sell anything in a bubble, therefore blogging on msquill is important. Is blogging my primary way of marketing myself? Right now, the answer to that question is YES, so blogging must receive a priority rating of 1.

Eventually, I would like to approach our local newspapers about a weekly column on natural health. If I get permission to do the column it will have a priority rating of 1, and blogging will move to a 2. Or, maybe blogging will stay at a 1 because my blog targets a much bigger market than a column for our little weekly newspaper. But, the column would hold greater importance because it falls under two minor focus categories – Income and Marketing.

Everything I do can be prioritized in this way. I might need to use something more in-depth than a simple 1, 2, 3 system. For example, within the main focus area of Income/Finance there are several second level focus areas. If you put it in outline form, it looks something like this:

1. Health

2. Immediate Family

3. Income Finance

A.Writing

a.books

b.newsletter

c. magazine articles

d.newspaper column

e. blogging

B. Herbal

C. Classes/Seminars

D. Marketing

E. Homesteading

F. Investing

If you look at Writing, you’ll see I have several possible ways to earn income through my writing.  At first glance, they are all equally important. But, let’s say I land that newspaper column, and get a go-ahead on a magazine article. Then which deserves more of my limited time and energy? First, I’ll look at how many minor focus areas each project falls under. The newspaper column would fall under Marketing,  and possibly income (a lot of very small newspapers can’t pay column writers).  The magazine article would fall under Marketing and Income.  In this case, even though the column is the better marketing avenue (because it’s local, the people reading the column probably know me, or know someone who knows me), the magazine article meets or contributes to more than one minor focus area. So, it must take priority over the column.

On the other hand, the msquill newsletter would take equal priority with the magazine article because the  newsletter is a much better marketing tool than a magazine article. People who receive my newsletter have shown a direct interest in my herbal projects and activities by signing up for the newsletter. Newsletter readers tend to be what I call “active readers”, while people reading an article in a newspaper are more likely to be “passive readers.”

I’m hoping that if I put this system in place it will help me stay organized and focused so that I don’t feel like I’m spinning my wheels. I have to focus my energy or I end up exhausting myself, and then I can’t get anything done.

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