How to Plan and Dominate 2016

This site is about the pleasure that comes from putting in hard work and focusing on leaving a legacy.

This journey isn’t for most people. It’s one I find myself continually struggling with: the ease of comfort instead of the worthwhile journey of effort.

2015 is over. You can’t go back. Spend zero time feeling bad about any unaccomplished goals and instead focus on the year ahead.

After browsing around the internet, I realized that most of the conversation about the new year has a thick layer of sarcasm about setting goals. People say that the only thing that changed is the date on the calendar. I disagree.

At any point in time, you can choose a different life. You can quit that bad habit, start going to the gym, get organized, get off the couch, donate your tv, start dressing better, laugh more, delete people from your life, change your sleeping schedule… Anything you want as long as you decide and commit.

Success is as simple as a decision.

Every “guru” out there wants you to believe you can’t simply change your life with a decision. You need the new gadget, a perfect plan, their program, their book, or whatever else the world is constantly trying to sell you.

If you could kick the person in the pants responsible for most of your trouble, you wouldn’t sit for a month. – Theodore Roosevelt

All you need is the right frame of mind, some goals, and a strategic plan.

From there, it’s the values of discipline and tenacity that will make them come true.

This year will be your best year if you decide it will be. When you put in the hard work day in and day out, you’ll find yourself closer to your goals at every step.

Most people want the success now, even though they were lazy all throughout 2015. Success comes after you’ve put in the hard work, not any time sooner.

This is why I’m dedicating 2016 to insanely hard, focused work so 2017 can be a better year. I’m mentally preparing myself for the grueling work of long days, focused effort, and staying consistent. I’m aware I do not have the accomplishments I desire now because I fell of the bandwagon constantly in 2015. That’s why I’m in the same place living the same life.

I’m not going to coddle myself and say that hard work is easy and that everything comes to me if I just visualize, I’m going to understand that it’s going to take struggle. (Just to note: I do believe in the power of visualization, but it must be paired with focused effort.)

Doing what needs to be done isn’t always fun. Even when I added 14 lbs. of muscle on my body, there were days where I didn’t want to do it, but I knew the end result would be worth the struggle.

That’s all I’m asking from myself and from you this year: Know that it won’t always be sunshine and rainbows, but it will be worth it in the end.

Here’s a behind the scenes look at my own planning process:

1. Write out all the categories.

While it can be good to focus on three main areas of life, I tend to go a little overboard to keep all the areas of my life in balance.

In the past when I focused only on three things, I found myself out of balance because other areas were neglected.

Here are some of the areas I have listed:

  • Financial
  • Fitness/Health
  • All of the websites I write for (broken into separate categories)
  • My job as a CMO
  • Freelance writing and clients
  • Writing (passion projects)
  • My dog
  • Fun and travel
  • Business
  • Family, friends, social
  • Personal development
  • Home
  • Service to others

It might seem like a lot, but keeping all of these continually moving forward and not letting them slip through the cracks removes about 99% of useless stress.

I carry a small notebook with me everywhere, and at the end of each day I filter my “to-do’s” and ideas into each category in my Trello account. Here is my Trello home page:

Screen Shot 2016-01-04 at 11.40.10 AM

For some people, that’s insanely chaotic. For me, it’s incredible and I rarely miss anything I have to do. When I need to plan something out or remember it, I know exactly where to put it.

I used to have general areas, but then I would miss really important events and things in my life. This way, I have a handle on everything.

There is no such thing as a perfect system for everyone. Do what works best for you.

Your categories will be different, but feel free to test my system to see if it works for you.

2. Set goals for each category.

You might not have goals for every single category, and that’s perfectly fine.

Here’s a huge secret to goal setting: Set goals that focus on your own effort instead of a goal outside of your control. If you want a six-pack, focus on going to the gym 300 out of the 365 days this year.

Too many people set goals that depend on outside circumstances such as landing a book deal, finding a relationship, or buying a house instead of focusing on their own efforts.

For example, when I was a full-time freelance writer, I always wrote down that I wanted to hit certain financial goals each month.

However, in the world of freelancing some months are awesome, some months are horrible. I’d be hard on myself when I didn’t hit my goals even though I was working relentlessly to make it happen. Instead, if I had focused on sending out a certain number of pitches, I could focus on my own efforts day in and day out instead of feeling like a failure constantly. Putting my feelings of accomplishments into other people’s hands and waiting for their “approval” was a bad idea.

Do not overlook the importance of feeling good with your hard work. Hating yourself for not achieving your goals means you’ve set the wrong goals, not that there’s something wrong with you. You should go to bed with satisfaction knowing you put everything you have into your day instead of with bad feelings because the world didn’t give you what you want.

Do what you need to do, and pay no mind to if the world responds.

A strange phenomenon usually happens when you focus on your own efforts: the world responds accordingly. You will be pleasantly surprised, but only if you stay focused on your work and feeling positive.

The world might not cooperate with the goals you have for yourself, but you can always put forth your own effort.

Devote yourself to the PROCESS, to the hard work, instead of the outside circumstances.

A study done at the University of California found that people were 42% more likely to achieve their goals when they wrote them down. Take the time to go through each area of your life and write down what you want.

Also, the stronger reason “why” you can tie to each goal, the greater chances of it happening.

3. Break those goals down.

Take each goal and break it down by quarter or month.

What is vital to the overall goal?
What has to be set in motion over the next one to three months?
Which goals can wait?

From there, break everything down by week.

Weekly planning is HUGE, by the way. Out of all the things you do, investing an hour or two on Sunday to mapping out the week ahead will change your life if you haven’t started this practice already.

It’s up to you how detailed you want your break down to become. Personally, I break goals down by: 3 years, 1 year, quarterly, and monthly. Then, I have a monthly planning session each month to see where I’m at and break it down by week.

There is no doubt it’s a lot of work, but even doing this for one area of your life you care about the most will change everything.

4. Set a schedule and reminders.

Look at your goals and get right into your planner.

Dreaming is great, but doing is where the magic happens. Write down when and where you will accomplish your tasks throughout the week.

It’s up to you how detailed you want your schedule to become and how you choose to map it all out. Some people use digital planners, some use paper, some just use one sheet of paper… Feel free to try a wide variety of options and see what works best for you.

However, do not jump from one to another at lightning speed. Too many people are addicted to trying the newest planning software. Stick with one for at least a month to see if it works for you.

Never forget that it’s more about getting the important things done than having the fanciest system. Theodore Roosevelt accomplished more than 99% of people and he did not have an iPhone or the internet. He focused on getting things DONE.

Although I use digital trackers like Trello to keep all my paperwork and to-do’s in order, for my day to day planning I still use a paper planner. I’ve had far too many times where technology failed me and I couldn’t access my task lists, so I still have my paper planner. Crossing through something on paper seems to also be more satisfying than clicking a button.

Commit every single morning to your goals and your mission. Create a morning and evening routine that get you set up and focused for the day.

5. Set yourself up to succeed.

I mentioned earlier that achieving goals requires discipline and tenacity. Understand that life will get in the way. Understand that you will be challenged. Understand that it takes time to build willpower.

One tip to combatting these outside forces is to be BRUTALLY honest about what distracts you. For example, I know I’m a GIANT sucker for ice cream. Few things ruin my willpower like ice cream. My solution? I never, ever buy any unless it’s for a cheat day.

Studies have shown time and time again that willpower is a depleting force throughout the day. Even the strongest people can crack after a tough day.

Go through all your goals and list the possible things that will knock you off track of your goals, then make a list of what you will do to combat these forces.

When generals plan to go to war, they don’t just say, “This plan will go perfect and nothing will happen.” NO. They say, “Here’s our plan, but if the enemy does x, y, and z, we will do this to combat that.”

Plan your life the same way. Adjust as you go. Every day start fresh no matter what happened the day before and if you fell off the wagon. Just keep on keeping on.

Another idea is to also plan in fun. My working day has had much better success by scheduling in the internet browsing for fun. Instead of feeling like I’m missing out on good YouTube videos, I know I’ll have time to binge this afternoon after I come home from the gym.

Don’t completely deprive yourself of what you enjoy, just put it in the schedule at the right time instead of letting it distract you from what you need to focus on right now.

That’s my planning system, and I’d love to hear about any goals you have this year. Leave a comment below or Tweet me: @SLManifesto!

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4 thoughts on “How to Plan and Dominate 2016

  1. Pingback: 2016 Fitness Goals – Writers Lift Too

  2. Pingback: What Deserves Your Attention? | The Strenuous Life Manifesto

  3. Pingback: How to Set Goals for Fitness and Life – Writers Lift Too

  4. Pingback: For A Successful 2017, Audit Yourself And Find A Purpose | The Strenuous Life Manifesto

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