tutorial thursday

Did you enjoy yesterday's post? I hope so.

Today I want to talk about goals. One of the suggestions on the 50 Ways to Cope With Stress document from yesterday was to "Have goals for yourself...and don't put a time limit on them." The first part was from the original list, but I added the second half. There's a very important reason for that addition. Goals with deadlines create stress, and in some cases punishment.

I used to make lists of goals. Each one had an expiration date, like "Things I'm going to do by the time I'm 21", or "Things I'm going to do by the time I'm 25"...I know...creative, huh? I'm sure you can guess how many things on those lists were actually checked off as complete. About 5 on each list of about 30 goals. While I should have been proud of those 5 things, as they were often the most important to me, I felt extremely disappointed when I would find the list buried somewhere in my stuff (usually way after the deadline) and see only a small portion completed.

One day I started to make another list, but when I went to assign a timeline I cringed. It was time to start celebrating my accomplishments no matter how many (or few) I could check off each year. The other thing about goal lists is that they can seem so overwhelming. While I believe that everyone should have a list of goals that never runs dry (because goals can be as small as taking a vitamin every morning to renovating an old house) I am definitely someone that can feel the need to take on too much all at once. To solve these two issues I modified the natural form of the list.

Behold...The 3x5 Card

ink on 3x5 card art by JonHiokiArt

Why not break the mega goal list into bite sized pieces (Hmmm....wasn't that in the Stress Doc too?) and pick and choose what to pay attention too next?

To help alleviate the stress of a long goal list and my tendency to beat myself up over unfinished projects, I decided to write single goals on single 3x5 cards and focus on just one or two at a time.
Once I had written each goal on the blank side of the 3x5, I turned them over and wrote the steps I would need to complete to fully accomplish that goal. That way, I would have the choice to take baby steps or go all out once I was ready to tackle that item. Next, I sorted the cards into two stacks: Long-term goals and Short-term goals...and sorted each stack into order of which could be completed now and which needed time, planning, or additional resources.

Once all the sorting was complete, I drew two goals...one from each pile...that I could start working on. Since the first two were somewhat in the works, I started with the top 3 short-term goals and the top long-term goal and hung all four on the inside of my front door. Every day as I left the house I was reminded of what I was working on. Instead of finding an unfinished list that had buried a long time ago, I was reminded daily of what was important to me.

Today, I have accomplished over half of the stack and I have 2 goals hanging on the back of my door. One is "Clear out the Clutter" and the other is "Achieve A's in all my classes and master each subject". With one year left of college courses, I can't wait to take that second one down and rip it to shreds! Some of them I keep to remind myself of what I have gotten done, but that one...THAT one will be symbolically destroyed in celebration.

Do you have a goal accomplishing plan that works for you? I'd love to hear about it! If not, I hope you will consider this little project and let me know how it goes.


  1. A goal without a deadline?! Perhaps that is just a dream! It is that stress from knowing something is due that we can embrace and use to accomplish the goal. Procrastination causes hunger, and it is a hunger that can only be truly fed by a sense of accomplishment.

  2. I see what you are saying and I agree in some cases, but usually goals that require a deadline are something that you need to do sooner rather than later. A goal like traveling to a foreign country or learning to play the guitar don't necessarily require a deadline. In some cases the stress of a deadline is good, but not in the sense that you feel bad about yourself if you miss the deadline. That is what happens to me and why I chose this way of goal tracking. To each their own right?

  3. I would tend to agree. It is not important how we track our goals, but perhaps more important that we have goals to track to begin with, and the means to look back at our progress, and to say to ourselves, "Look at what I have accomplished!"

  4. Yes! Everyone should find what works for them. If you tend to procrastinate and thrive on the pressure (stress) of getting it done, which I do sometimes, that may be the best solution. At the same time, things that I plan to do a "some time in my life" always go unfinished because I say..."oh I don't have time" or I just simply forget for months at a time. With this goal list format I have been able to accomplish more of those things. That said, I do thrive on the pressure when something I want to do does have a deadline...because sometimes the deadlines are out of our control.

  5. BTW...I love these comments! This shows how different each person can be. We all function optimally in our own way. Designing a goal list (or even a to do list) in the way that works best for you is one of the most important steps in accomplishment.

  6. Goals and objectives are good. Too often those things are set by an employer, with a deadline. We often set timetables for ourselves and those tend to be more fluid and things change with the dynamics of life. Personnel accomplishments seem to be so much more rewarding. Writing it down can be a good tracking method given all of the distractions in life.