Your Roadmap for the Best, Most Productive Year

Plan for Tomorrow, Shape Your Legacy
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As stated in my earlier post, 6 Reasons It’s Fantastic to be a Woman Over 50, one of the great things for women at this stage of life is having a sure and certain knowledge about how quickly time goes by. That translates into a genuine enthusiasm and urgency to make every moment count. In short – we’re in a hurry.

And we should be!

Anybody who has attended the wedding or graduation of a beloved child who went from babyhood to bride in the blink of an eye understands how incredibly quickly time passes. And anybody who has ever sat down to check their Facebook page for few minutes and suddenly realized they spent two hours playing Candy Crush knows how easy it is to waste that precious time.

Looking back on my own life, I can see that in some years I accomplished so much – helped others, fulfilled dreams, wrote books, made a difference. And in other years…? Well, not so much.

But now, at the start of every year, I set aside time to sort through my priorities and decide what I most want to accomplish in the next twelve months, taking a good, honest look at where I am now and figure out where I want to be a year from now.

Okay, I can already hear some of you rolling your eyes. Believe me, I get it.

How many times have you made New Year’s resolutions only to see them crumble and fall to the wayside in a few weeks or even a few days? If you’re like me, the answer is more times than I’d care to admit.

But if you’re serious about reaching your goals, building a life and legacy you can be proud of, and making every moment of the coming year count, I’ve got an incredibly simple secret that can help turn your resolutions into reality.

Write them down.

I know, I know. It sounds too simple. But trust me, it works. Or, if you don’t trust me, trust the 2014 study conducted by Dr. Gail Matthews, a professor at Dominican University in California, which showed that people who write down their goals are 42 percent more likely to achieve those goals.

42 percent! Just by writing down your goals!

Those are odds you’ve got to like! And if you really want to tilt the field in your favor, take the next step to think out and write down specific, achievable, measureable, and time-limited steps toward reaching their goals. I’ve been doing this for years and I can tell you from experience that it makes a huge difference.

At the beginning of each year, I look at the different aspects of my life – professional, familial, spiritual, physical, relational, financial, intellectual, and recreational – and jot down everything I might want to accomplish or work toward in the coming year. There are always more goals than time to complete them, so I narrow the list down to three in each area, choosing just one as my top priority.

Some of my goals might be big and challenging – such as completing a new book or completing a triathlon. Others are far less arduous, even pleasurable – perhaps taking a trip with my husband or reading a certain number of books. Once my list is complete, I choose one goal that I most want to reach, my number one priority for the coming year. By the time I’m done, I have a pretty clear idea my destination, the place I’d like to be standing in a year’s time.

That’s a good beginning but it’s only a beginning. A destination’s not much good without a roadmap to reach it.

I’ve always been an avid list maker. It’s a trait that comes in handy when you’re setting goals. Even so, I’ve found it helps a lot to have an organized system to think out and keep track of the small, concrete, measureable steps by the month, week, and day. A good, user-friendly planner makes it a lot easier.

Over the years, I’ve used a lot different agendas, calendars, and planning systems. Some were better than others but all of them missed the mark in some way or other.

Last year, I found what I consider a nearly perfect system of mapping out my yearly, monthly, weekly, and daily goals – the Living Well Planner.

This pretty, 280-page planner opens with a section devoted to helping you establish your long-term goals for the year, with room to list important days and events by month. Following that, you’ll find twelve color-tabbed sections (the Living Well Planner lets you fill in the names of the month on your own, so you can start at anytime) prompts and forms you can fill in to establish your most important goals and create action plans that will help you crush them!

Each monthly section includes space to map out your week and day, goal by goal and hour by hour, with space to track budgets, expenses, and plan meals. It even has a section titled “Thoughts and Thanks”, where you can record and remember things you’re grateful for. Love that!

I also love the Living Well Planner’s spiral bound pages. They lay completely flat to make writing easy. The bright, cheerful colors on the cover and interior page make using this planner a pleasure. The more I use my planner, the more likely it is I’ll stick to my plan.

Speaking of sticking – I’m also a big fan of the Daily Focus Sheets.

Like the Living Well Planner, these sheets help me divide my day into things I must do, should do, and would like to do, along with a place to organize my daily activities into 60 to 90 minute time blocks. The sticky notes are really convenient to use. I fill one out every evening, then stick it next to the coffee pot (where I’m SURE to see it!) so I can hit the ground running the next morning.

These time management tools have made a big difference in helping me reach my goals, using them has helped me set achievable daily priorities and find time I didn’t know I had. Without it, I’m not sure I would have taken on the challenge of writing this blog.

But whatever system you use, the most important thing you can do to help achieve your goals is to write them down.

Writer Dennis Adonis said, “Life is a journey that gives you liberty to draw your own map, choose your own route.”

If you want to make this year one that really counts, pick up a pen. Choose your destination wisely, draw your map carefully, follow the path daily, and prepare to be blown away by the distance you travel.

It’s going to be an amazing year!

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