I know it’s nearly a whole week into the new year, but that’s not too late to talk about resolutions, right? 2014 is so young, it’s practically still crowning. Last week I wrote about my “philosophy” on resolutions, which is basically that every day should be treated as an opportunity to be further transformed into the individuals that God created us to be. At the same time [and I mentioned this in that post], I think that can be much better accomplished when you take the time to analyze your past year, cast your vision for the next, and map out what it will take to get from today to your goals.
Making the most of each day’s potential becomes more effective when you have specific long-term objectives in your focus and tangible action plans into which you can channel your efforts. I spent the better part of the day on Sunday writing out the major changes and improvements I plan to make over the next 12 months, and the specific steps [daily, weekly, and monthly] that I will do in order to achieve them. I’ve even started creating digital and physical “vision boards” that serve as a visual representation of those goals and accompanying action plans. To be fair, my nerdiness runs deep: When I was 8, after finishing a school project more than a week ahead of time, my parents expressed their admiration for my efficiency and initiative. I clearly remember pointing my finger in the air and exclaiming, “Time management is the key to success!” And no, I did not have many friends at the time.
Here’s a brief example of the kind of multi-step planning that our goals deserve. Say that someone set a goal for 2014 to increase his financial stability…His plan of attack might look like this, assuming he already has steady full-time employment [clearly, I’m not Dave Ramsey, so take this hypothetical plan for what you will]:
2014 Financial Objective: Become financial stable with steadily accruing savings.
Part 1 – Consistently keep a conservative budget.
- Create a budget, taking into consideration all known and potential expenditures for the weeks, months, and year.
- Track all income and expenditures.
- Analyze budget and spending, and curb unnecessary spending so that more funds can be directed towards achieving financial goal.
Part 2 – Build emergency and retirement funds, and investment portfolio.
- Contribute 10% of monthly income to emergency fund [savings account], and 10% to retirement fund [savings or well-planned investments].
- Research available stocks, mutual funds, shares, etc. and determine which are most desirable given the market trends, the capital he can contribute, etc.
- Begin investments, monitor carefully, and add to/adjust/move as necessary.
Part 3 – Eliminate debt.
- Prioritize monthly credit card and loan payments over expenditures that can be trimmed or delayed.
- Pay more than the minimum payment whenever possible.
- Analyze budget for items/categories that can be at least temporarily eliminated in order to allow even more funds to be directed to paying off debt as quickly as possible.
- Considering major upcoming expenses or purchases and create a savings plan so that those can be accomplished without going into [or further into] debt and without compromising the emergency or retirement funds.
Clearly, everyone has their particular learning and working style, so maybe a written outline and vision boards won’t be the tools you use to accomplish your goals. But I would urge you to at least consider putting some serious thought into your intentions for the coming year. A general doesn’t go into a war without a thorough consideration of the obstacles facing him, the strengths and weaknesses of his troops, and a meticulous plan for the battles ahead. While 2014 is laden with the rich soil of opportunity, that doesn’t change the fact that any achievement or project you set out to tackle will come with it’s own set of challenges. I’m all for going after your goals with passion and drive – in fact, I think that’s often necessary – but you need to direct that passion and determination into concrete action.
I don’t know about yall, but planning this stuff gets me excited. I love the idea of having an entire year, neatly mapped out on the calendar, in which to attack my obstacles and turn my hopes and ambitions into reality. In case you are also inclined to construct your own battle plan for the coming year, I’d suggest checking out the following resources:
11 Questions to Ask Yourself at the Start of a New Year [from Mark’s Daily Apple – while I don’t necessarily agree with all the tenets of the “paleo lifestyle” that this site promotes, these questions are fantastic and should be applied not only to fitness/health but to all arenas of life.]
Donloree Hoffman [Donloree is a life coach with some tremendous posts on goal-setting, creating action plans, prioritizing, and living well while achieving much. I have yet to read one of her articles and come away less than inspired.]
How to Make Student Loans Your…Butler [Katrina is hilarious, and she also has an impressive financial history; in this particular article, she shares the strategies she use to pay off her student loans lickety split. For recent grads like me and even current students, this is especially helpful!]
So tell me…what are your major objectives for 2014? Do you neurotically plan out your achievements for the year, too? [Tell me I’m not the only one!]