"The Virtuous Woman uses her time wisely. She works diligently to complete her daily tasks. She does not spend time dwelling on those things that do not please the Lord." (from 10 Virtues of the Proverbs 31 Woman - http://avirtuouswoman.org)
For past several weeks I looked at how I had been spending my time. What I found was that when I was not focused and not organized, I didn't utilize my time very well. It's not that I was doing things I shouldn't have been doing, but that I was not really doing things very efficiently or timely. I also found I was not very passionate about doing "work" and my daily tasks felt like a burden instead of a joy. I know that this all probably had to do with me not feeling like I had anything big to be working for - no real goals. The Proverbs 31 Woman changed my mind and heart though. I believe that the Proverbs 31 woman was constantly focussed on her goals in life - goals that are based on how God wanted her to live. She was diligent about completing tasks and she maximized her time in reaching those goals. She is the reason for my new motivation and direction, and now it is time for me to act.
To come up with my action plan, I gleaned back to my time management training and my old Franklin Covey Plan. Through those exercises I learned some fantastic methods of setting goals and prioritizing tasks in 5 simple steps. In the past my goal setting sessions mostly focussed on achieving work-related and company goals, but now I have a different job as mom and wife and it is time to get personal. Personal goals and priorities often change as the seasons of our lives change like when we get married, have children, lose a loved one or friend, move, change jobs, and so on. As I shared before, since our big move back from overseas I've been a little lost. Going through this exercise has definitely gotten me back on track.
Here are the five steps I went through in my exercise. Take a look at then yourselves and you can see how I responded to each later on. I do encourage you to try this out for yourselves...it's pretty interesting what you'll find out about yourselves.
Step 1 - List Out Your Values
First, let's define what are values. Values are things that you think are important to the way you live and work. When you feel good about doing certain things or feel comfortable behaving a certain way, these define your values. If your world feels all messed up and what you are doing feels wrong, then you aren't aligned with your values. So how do you define what your values are? Simply ask yourself these questions and write down your responses: 1) What makes you happy? 2)What makes you proud? 3)When do you feel fulfilled and satisfied? After you make a list of these people, events, and whatever, then start looking for similarities and group them together. Pick the top ones that you feel best define who you really are especially the ones you wouldn't be afraid to share with the world (as I am going to do with you all).
Step 2 - List Out Your Goals Based on Your Values
Goals are simply things you'd like to do or achieve. Now goals that align with your values seem to be very powerful because you can be very passionate about them. I actually like to write down my goals because there is something about physically writing or typing them that makes them more real. Technically speaking when writing goals you want to make sure they are SMART - specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely. That's a mouth full, but you want to make sure that they aren't too general, that you can measure how you are doing, they are realistic so that you can actually achieve them, and you need to set a time limit on them.
Step 3: List out activities and tasks to achieve those goals
Start making your "to do" lists. These are things you could be doing on a daily basis or certain time of the month or year. For now just list out all the things you think you need to do to accomplish your goal. Often these might need to be listed out in chronological order as certain tasks my depend on something else getting completed.
Step 4 - Priorities those activities and tasks
I am the "queen of making lists" and I know I can get out of hand when comes to listing out all the tasks and activities I could do to accomplish my goals. But I remembered something from my Franklin Covey training called The Pareto Principle that states "20% of our tasks will account for 80% of our success." Ultimately you will need to prioritize and pick those few things that will have the biggest impact on achieving what you want to do. Prioritizing also helps when planning out when you can do line up those tasks/activities in your schedule.
Step 5 - Set up blocks of time during your week to accomplish those tasks
This next step requires some planning. You need to be able to plan out slots of time each week for activities/tasks that you want to do to work towards your goals. It's kind of like the story of filling up your "life" bucket up with the big stones (your biggest priorities) then the little stones (day-to-day gotta do stuff), then sand and water fill in the rest.
Pick a date and time to visit with that friend you've been missing, pick a two hour slot on one day to work on decluttering that closet you've been wanting to do forever, get that date night with your spouse marked on the calendar in bright red letters, whatever is important to you, plan some time for it.
I do want to thank everyone who took part in my survey about how you plan out your time. No matter how you answered I do feel that a little planning can help us all out. If you just go with the flow and let all the little stuff fill up your time, you may not ever feel like you have the time to do things that you think are truly important. And honestly it doesn't take that much time to plan out the big things for your week. It take as little as 30 minutes at the beginning of each week to plan some direction for the next 10,080 minutes to follow in the rest of the week!
Now after looking at the how I went through my exercise, this is what I came up with for my values, my goals, and the process I'm working on to implement my plan.
What Are My Top Values?
- My faith in God
- My family
- My marriage
- Relationships with friends and family
- Serving others
- Personal time to be creative
- My health
My Goals :
(I have listed a few activities/task under some of my goals on how I want to accomplish them. Over the next few months I'll share with you some more in depth things I have done and plan to do for each.)
1) Increase my knowledge and studying time of the Bible over the next year
- Read from the Bible daily
- Find a good devotional book to help me relate scriptures to everyday life
- Participate in a group Bible study or Christian book study on a quarterly basis
- Take notes during weekly sermons and use for further study
2) Work with my husband to develop a set of short and long term "family" goals and for us as a couple
- Set aside at least 1 hour a week to talk specifically about our goals and activities to achieve those goals - family trips, service projects, finances, house management
- Set up a "date-night" at least once every two weeks - staying in or going out
3) Diligently teach my children about God and His ways and making Him part of our daily experiences
- Find books with stories from the Bible to read on a daily basis
- Read from the Bible to the children on a daily basis - starting with Proverbs
- Find a verse a week to start learning and memorizing
5) Develop a template for organizing my household duties within the next three months
- Set up a weekly/monthly whole house cleaning schedule
- Implement a weekly decluttering mission somewhere within the house
- Do weekly pantry and fridge/freezer inventory, research grocery ads, and develop weekly meal plans to create weekly grocery shopping list
- Create chore list for children to start helping out with daily cleaning
7) Identify needs for new house and develop budget needed to make or buy items along with timing for purchases needed by end of August 2011
8) Evaluate family finances and work with my husband to identify key areas I can help us save or invest money over the next year
- Identify possible profitable investment opportunities to benefit the family
- Identify and implement cost savings techniques - make our own vs store bought purchases
9) Develop a healthy meal planning method and learn new meal preparation methods to meet nutritional and health needs of my family over the next year
10) Implement an exercise plan and plan physical activities to help attain and maintain a healthy weight and physical condition for whole family for the next year
11) Maintain and grow my relationships with friends and extended family (forever)
- Set up times to meet friends in person - try to meet with at least 1 person/week
- Host events for friends to attend at my home or away at least every other month
- Line up regular sessions to talk on Skype with friends far away (monthly or weekly)
- Send personal messages via email or Facebook messages at least monthly
- Keep personal blog updated each month for others to follow us
- Get a comprehensive calendar of birthdays, anniversaries, holidays, etc to help get cards/presents out on a timely basis (I am soooo horrible at this right now)
12) Make new friends in the next year
- Reach out to new people at school, church and neighborhood by inviting people over for play dates, coffees, parties once the school year starts back up.
13) Identify at least a monthly service project for my whole family to take part in with in the next six months
14) Develop the "Making Something of Myself" series on "Things I Like to Make" blog as my service project to my followers
My BIG Long-term S-T-R-E-T-C-H goals:
- Develop my "Things I Like to Make" blog into a full fledged website and gain sponsorship to help with server hosting costs have thousands of regular followers
- Set up a "shop" on etsy.com to sell homemade crafts and sewing projects to others
- Set up a mini catering/party planning business for small events
- Create a book with all my favorite "Things I Like to Make"
(Obviously my stretch goals are way out there, but you've got to have them. They are the dreams we have and keep us going.)
How I Am Planning Out My Time
I've been trying this method for a couple weeks now, but on Sunday nights after kids have gone to bed I take a little time to plan out my week. I sit down with my "weekly" calendar and plan out our meals, make note of some key activities going on that week and form a "to do list" for certain days.
I don't try to overload any particular day as I need to be flexible, but by writing down my top priority activities I have a constant reminder that those are things I need to make time for. Of course as little things come along each day, I do add to my to do lists, but they flow in around my big tasks.
I made my own "weekly" calender out of card stock and they laminated it with contact paper. You could buy a nice dry erase calender at an office store or if you have a nice desk calendar that would work as well. On mine the lines and side categories and days of the week are permanently on the paper, but I use a dry erase marker write on it each week. I have it hanging on the side of our fridge along with a monthly calendar so we can see what's coming up in later weeks and a magnetic list pad hanging up to keep a grocery list. Throughout the week as we run out of things I add to the list, but after I get my meals planned I fill in the rest of my grocery list.
Ultimately I would like to lay things out on a yearly and monthly calendar to refer to as well when I do my weekly calendar. Soon I will have my goals printed out and stuck next to my calendar as a daily reminder of what I am trying to accomplish and have on hand during my weekly planning session. For now, this calendar along with a small pocket calendar that I carry in my handbag is how I am trying to stay organized.
I know that this all may seem fairly ambitious of me, but I think you've got to start somewhere and think big picture. But all of these goals are in line with my values so I am passionate about achieving them. Also these are things that pretty much encompass everything I would already be doing in a day but it gives me some direction and sense of accomplishment.
Over the next several months I'll be sharing with you how I'm doing with my goals and pass on knowledge I gain while working on them...hope you are as excited as me for this adventure. Please let me know what you think about this goal-setting process and if you are trying it yourself. I would love to hear comments from you so that we can help each other out.