goal_setting2017Can you feel the anticipation a New Year brings? The blank pages of my calendar are loaded with days just waiting for a taste of the adventure 2017 holds. And if you’ve spent any time reading my blog at all, you know that I am big on goal setting so that those days get filled with meaningful activities that bring me closer to my Big Picture Dream. Because while I might not hit the target or reach the destination, having goals keeps my eyes focused on the things that matter the most. Not to mention, it sure beats wandering around aimlessly for months wondering if I should be doing something!

Of course, I spent last week in serious reflection about 2016’s goals and took an honest measurement in how I did. You can read about my 2016 goals here, but here’s the short version. I determined that I was going to “FOCUS” on five areas of my life: Faith, Family, Fiction, Fitness, and Finances with a few smaller goals in each area.

Some areas were harder to measure, but I believe we successfully launched my oldest son from high school into his first year of college. I found outlets of service at our church and we transitioned away from using a credit card to actually having an emergency fund in our savings account. I walked what felt like a gazillion miles (even if Fitbit would disagree) and found a writing rhythm as I completed two new manuscripts, launched my second novel, and signed a contract for the third. Focus was certainly needed, especially when I found myself rising before dawn to write (a.k.a. Turtle Power), but I also struggled to maintain a healthy balance between life and my self-imposed deadlines.

Which brings me to my goal setting plan for 2017.

I feel like God is telling me that my word for the year is “ABIDE” where I learn to stay intimately connected to Jesus and let His life flow through me to bear fruit. There may be storms on the horizon as well as new opportunities, but the only way to remain unshaken and deeply-rooted is to learn how to abide.

In keeping with the vine-branch-root analogy, I can also see my life as a tree with six big branches: Faith, Family, Fiction, Fitness, Finances, and Friends. (I added that last one mid-way through 2016 when I realized that I had let my priorities slide and was losing touch with the real people in my life and replacing them with online writing connections and fictional characters.) Within each area, I have created a mini-list of things I’d like to change, improve upon, or do in the coming year. Those include everything from exercise goals and financial numbers to speaking opportunities and book releases.

Rather than spell them all out, I’d like to share a new strategy I’m using to design my days and weeks for the most impact in using my gifts and calling to reach my Dream.  (Check out Tracy Higley’s Impactivity series for more of what I’m talking about.) By setting up an electronic task system, I’ve moved most of my to-do list and scribbled notes about future ideas into an organized structure that will trickle them out when I need to do them but also assure that they won’t get lost. I’ve also determined to de-clutter my physical spaces and email inbox to create the white space necessary for creativity. Using another one of her ideas, I’ve built more into my existing morning and afternoon routines (“habit chains”) in order to get most of my daily tasks done without much thought.

Why? To free up the mental and emotional energy I need to spend on the projects that matter most. The projects that use my unique gifts and callings to impact the world. It’s not about getting more done, but rather about finding joy as I make continued progress toward the Dream of telling stories of Faith, Hope, and Love that encourage others in their life journey and point to God as the source of all I could ever need.

What does that look like? An early hour of writing where I can romp creatively through the ideas tickling the back of my mind. A couple hours of morning routine as I get the kids out the door, laundry done, cleaning chore done, supper planned and thawing, etc. followed by my personal devotional time as soon as the house is quiet. The rest of the morning is dedicated to a focused chunk of time where I work on the next project on my dream list or knock out a batch of marketing tasks on Mondays. Noon brings a “power hour” to clear emails and make phone calls in addition to lunch. Thanks to my past health issues, I need a nap and some recharging time before my kids get home. The afternoon is devoted to family tasks like carpools, sports, going on a walk, homework, a craft project, de-cluttering a shelf, and fixing supper with the evenings reserved for reading a book or crocheting (or if I’m on a deadline, another focused work period) before bedtime.

Of course, I’ll let you know how this plan works in the real world, but I can already see the healthy balance between personal care, family time, household tasks, spiritual feeding, busy-work, marketing, and blocks of time for creativity along with times to recharge. And within those focused times to write, I’ve got a prioritized list to work down…but no deadlines to create extra stress or guilt. Can you just feel the weight lift off and the joy return?

So that’s my goal setting plan for 2017. What about you? Do you pick a word for the year and let that influence every area of your life? Do you make a long list of goals or stick to a few you can count on one hand? Do you have a plan to get it all done or expect to burn-out in the first month of effort?

Goal Setting 2017 Style
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