Planning is one of the best tools available to help you achieve your life goals. Any man who wants to create an effective plan for the upcoming year needs to invest some time in mapping out goals and strategizing how to reach those goals.
But the thought of sitting down with a blank sheet of paper and hundreds of thoughts bouncing around in your head can feel overwhelming. For many men, it’s tough to plan out the upcoming day or week, let alone an entire year. And goals for a lifetime? Forget it.
So how do you create an effective plan for the upcoming year that helps you stay on track? And how do you set out a plan for this year and the next that ensures you are heading in the right direction for achieving your big life goals?
The answer: plan for how to plan.
Break your planning strategy down into a few easy-to-follow steps. This way when you sit down with the blank page in front of you, you’ll have a way to make it less intimidating.
Getting Started: Planning Life Goals for the Next Year
John Maxwell, an internationally recognized leadership expert, speaker, and author, says breaking your goals down into chunks can help. According to Maxwell, “If you haven’t already broken your big dreams down into small goals, take some time to do that this week. Create manageable steps. Give yourself deadlines. And don’t let discouragement derail your dreams.”
It can also help to reflect on the year behind you if you’re doing this in December or early in the current year. Think about what you accomplished, what you didn’t accomplish, and how you invested your time. Maxwell takes an inventory of what he did each day and each month by reviewing his calendar and then compares how he invested his time versus what his goals were for his life. You can do this in short chunks of time or for the previous year – or a combination of both.
When doing this, ask yourself the following questions:
- What were the things you most enjoyed doing?
- What did you accomplish?
- Were there any things you considered wasted time?
- What were your disappointments?
- Was there a theme to the previous year or months you’re reviewing?
These questions can help you determine where you are and measure how far it is from where you’d like to be.
Big Picture Planning
Now that you have an idea of where you are in life, it’s time to start dreaming. This gives your planning general direction. You can make a list of things you’d like to accomplish, or you can approach your big-picture goals in a more organized manner by listing specific goals in certain categories.
- Health goals
- Relationship goals
- Financial goals
- Career goals
- Spiritual or personal development goals
- Community goals
- Any goals that don’t fit into the above categories
You don’t need to add too much detail when making this list (that will come later). If one of your health goals is to get into better physical shape, you’d simply list “get in better physical shape” as one of your health goals.
Next, you’ll want to take each of your goals and make them SMART goals. This is where you get detailed about the items you listed above. SMART stands for:
This helps you get specific about the broad goals from above. So, to use the same example, “get in better physical shape,” you’d make the goal SMART by detailing what better physical shape means to you.
In this case, we’ll say it means you want to lose 10 lbs. and be able to run three miles without stopping. These are specific things that are measurable and achievable. They are relevant because they are indications you’ve improved your physical health and they are timely because they are things you can begin working on immediately to help you achieve your overall goal.
The Why of Your Goal
Now that you’ve created one or more SMART goals, it’s time to think about the why that’s driving your goal. Some people prefer to do this earlier in the process, but if you’re struggling with planning it can help to have some ideas in mind before working on motivation.
In the case of losing weight and being able to run three miles, your why might be to look better and feel better. Or maybe you want to have more energy for playing with your kids. Or it might be a small part of a larger goal and ultimately you want to lose 50 lbs. and run a half marathon.
The key to establishing a strong why, which serves as your motivation for your goal, is to ask yourself “why?” several times.
You want to be clear on your specific reason for working toward your goals. A lot of times obvious answers come to mind, but they aren’t always what’s really going to be what’s driving you. The key to achieving your goals is having a strong reason why that is specific to you and understanding that reason.
Creating a System
Now that you are clear on your goals and why you want to achieve those goals, it’s time to create systems to help you move toward those goals.
Many people fail at planning and reaching their goals because they jump right to this step without assessing where they are and why they want to get to where they want to be. You’ll be far more successful if you save this step until last.
There are many different systems you can use to reach your goals and some trial and error might be necessary. Some of the most common systems you can use alone or combine include:
- Setting deadlines for goals
- Using a productivity app
- Implementing one thing each day that is intended to help you reach your ultimate goal
- Working with an accountability partner
- Making your desire to achieve your goal public
These are just a few of the tools that can help you reach life goals. The key to success is giving yourself a good foundation with effective planning and then implementing those plans as you move forward.