How to Plan When You Don't Know Where to Start

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I wanted to write a simple post on how to plan when you don’t know where to start to help those of you who just want more time in your day.

It can be difficult to separate ‘how to plan’ from ‘how to set goals’ because planning is essentially for goals. Your plan is your blueprints. It is your direction, your compass. Your goal is the tangible outcome or result. In order to have a plan, you need to have somewhere to go. You need a goal. But your goal doesn’t need to be something big like starting a business or writing a book.

Your goal can be as simple as having 2 hours of uninterrupted me time everyday. Today I want to teach you how to know where you want to end up so that you can begin to plan.

Step one: Identify Your values

The first thing you need to do before you even begin planning is to understand what your values + beliefs are. You have to know what you value because you want to be sure that what you’re going after is aligned with your beliefs. If you don’t believe in it, you won’t want to work towards it.

Step two: Find Your Beginning

The easiest way to begin planning is to score yourself in the different life areas. This allows you to see where it would be beneficial for you to focus your efforts. Click the score card below for a printable version.

Another extremely effective way to get started is to do a thought download. This is something I have learned from Brooke Castillo. Here’s what you do:

  1. Set aside time in your day to focus on yourself without interruptions.
  2. Have pen + paper because this involves writing.
  3. Ask yourself what you want to be doing with your life.
  4. Journal it. Write everything down.
  5. Do not judge yourself, just listen to yourself.
  6. Feel comfortable with your words. This is where you want to go. This is who you want to be.

Step Three: Pick One Area to Focus On

Of course, I think that all areas of our life are important. In fact, one of my favorite quotes states that ‘everyone is a house with four rooms, a physical, a mental, an emotional and a spiritual. Most of us tend to live in one room most of the time but, unless we go into every room every day, even if only to keep it aired, we are not a complete person.’ That being said, I think that if you really want to improve an area of your life or if you have a goal that you are working towards, it is important to really allow yourself to focus on that goal.

This means picking one thing and taking action until that thing is accomplished. So if you opted to just score yourself (and skipped the journaling) and you have three areas that are less than 5, choose only one of those areas to focus on. You can’t do everything at once. It is hard + overwhelming. I know it might seem like it would be faster, but I haven’t found that to be the case. Pick one goal, and commit to it. Before you know it, you will be onto your next goal.

So, what about going into all those other 'rooms'? I think just being mindful is enough. I think that when you put your thoughts to those areas, you are 'airing' those categories.

Step Four: Dream Big

Whatever your goal is, or whatever the area of life you're choosing to focus on, think big. Think about how your life will be when it is achieved. What will your ideal day be like? Write about it in detail, in first person. Don’t worry about how you will get there. Just write about what life will be like when you are there.

Step Five: Start Listing Steps

When you can clearly envision yourself at your end result you can start listing the steps you need to take to get there. Work backwards when you do this. If you want two hours of alone time, when will you have those hours? If you already had them right now, when would they be? If they’re in the evening, what do you need to do to make sure everything is cleared off your schedule at that time? And when you move those things that are there right now, when will they happen? Keep working backwards + listing the steps.

When you come against problems or doubt or fear, think about how you would handle the situation when your goal is achieved. If you're wondering how you could ever get the kids in bed by 8, think about what you would do if it was normal for you to do your own thing from 8-10. If it's normal for you, it's normal for everyone else in your house. What are you willing to do to succeed?

Step Six: Set Deadlines

Before you even start, make it clear when you want your goal to be accomplished. If you give yourself 3 months to do it and you have 12 steps, you need to make sure you do at least 4 steps every month. Make sure it is do-able. Make it realistic, but also make it something that you have to reach for. Part of feeling so good about achieving something comes from the effort we put into getting it.

Step Seven: Eliminate Excuses

You know yourself better than anyone. Set yourself up for success by eliminating excuses. If you have to get up at 5am to work on your goal when everyone else is asleep, what are you going to do to make it easy to get up? If you are going to the gym because you want to tone up your tummy, how many times are you going to show up before you even start to see results? Most goals require so much work before we ever start to see anything. What’s going to make you want to quit? Hash out those excuses before you even get started. How committed are you? Know why you are going after your goal in the first place. If you have a good enough reason why, you can do anything.

Step Eight: Take Action

By now you know what you want, you know why you want it, and when you want to have it. It’s time to take action. Take your first step and, keeping in mind how long you have to get through step one, break it down into baby steps. Do everything you can to be a success. If the first thing you try doesn’t work, try something else. It’s only a failure if you quit when you still want it. Go out there and get it.

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Knowing where to start comes from knowing where you want to end up. Begin with the end in mind is Stephen Covey’s second habit of highly effective people. The first habit is to be proactive. I think you will find that the more proactive you are, the easier it is to see where you want to be. Follow these steps to create your plan and you will be on your way to what success looks like to you.

Here's the score card again.

Tell me in the comments, where do you want to end up?