I spent some time last week talking about the “whys” of goals. Why pregnancy is a great time to set goals, and why they're important throughout motherhood. In reality, goals are and will be important throughout your life. You may say that you don't need goals or even that you don't like them. I'm sure you're thinking of the New Year's resolutions you've never kept, all those things you promised would happen and have never happened, etc.
But regardless of all of that, goals are still good for you. As a mother it is very, very easy to get caught up in life and watch it pass you right by. You need goals. Another way to put this is you need vision, though that could get a little broader than goals.
I know there are things you want in your life. There are things you want to achieve in all aspects of it. You probably think about these things a lot. Or you know that you want something you're just not sure what.
Setting out your goals is going to help you figure out just what you want and how you should do it.
It's not a promise that you'll achieve those goals – that takes additional work on top of setting them out. But you'll have a clear idea of what you'd like to accomplish.
Start with a Solid Time and a Solid Idea
Pick a time frame. You could pick a year. I like to think of things I want to achieve and then decide what I feel is possible for me to work on and achieve soon. I normally pick 3 months. Sometimes I set out goals for the next month. Pick what works for you.
Now set out some concrete goals. When I say “concrete” I mean when you ask yourself “have I completed X goal” you'll be able to answer either “yes, I have” or “no, I haven't.” If you say “umm, maybe” that's not good. It's either yes or no. Don't say “I'd like to plan meals efficiently.” Do say “I'd like to make a meal plan each week with 6 lunches and 6 dinners.” Do you see the difference?
Ok! So now set out some goals. I'll use two of my goals as an example:
I want to have my house organized by the time I'm 36 weeks along with this baby.
I want to implement a new layout for Natural Birth and Baby Care, including the blog, by July 5th 2008.
You probably don't want to be exhaustive and cover every aspect of your life. Think of the things that are most pressing (or aggravating) for you right now. I really want to have a well-organized and less cluttered house by the time the baby is born. And I really want the layouts for the main site and the blog to match! In addition, accomplishing these things will give me a sense of accomplishment and they'll bring me peace.
It might help to define one goal in each area of life right now (in your mothering, housekeeping, being a wife, etc.)
Moving along. Now that you have a few goals set out it's time to figure out how to accomplish them. It's most helpful to take a “big” goal and break it down into steps. I'll use my home organizing goal as an example:
Example: Organize my house by 36 weeks along
Establish a “catch-all” space for misplaced items
Sort all cabinets and drawers in the kitchen
- Go one cabinet/drawer/counter at a time
- Give away things we don't need
- Throw away broken items or items missing irreplaceable parts
- Move things that do not belong in the kitchen out of the kitchen (take to catch-all)
- Put items back into drawers and cabinets according to where I use them
- Evaluate the need for storage shelves/boxes/etc. after cleaning space and seeing what we have
Move through each room in a similar fashion
Sort children's toys
- Ask children what they don't play with
- Help children collect and deliver unneeded toys to charity
Make a list as I go of things I need Scott's help for
Request his help for a couple of items each weekend
Figure out where to fit a freezer in our house
- Take measurements
- Learn freezer sizes and what would probably be practical for our family
- Decide location and size and compare freezer brands/prices
Figure out what furniture needs to be moved (china cabinet!!)
Clean “catch-all” room after all other rooms are finished
Ok so you can see how I took the “overall” goal and I broke it down? I thought about the steps that it would take for me to accomplish my goal. Then I wrote out those steps. Some of them I broke down further. I used the kitchen as my example of a room to clean, then I further broke down how I'll go about getting the kitchen clean.
As I actually work on this goal I'll look at the sheet with my goal and my steps and I'll decide some steps to take each week until I hit 36 weeks in this pregnancy. Then I'll be able to look at my goal and my house and ask myself “did I get my house organized by 36 weeks?”
Some people like to have a very tangible reward. For me the satisfaction of having a clean and organized home will be a huge reward. But a goal that will take awhile like that can end up getting discouraging because you work only little by little. In that case a reward can be good.
My house has a downstairs and an upstairs. I could say that once I'm done with all my downstairs rooms, I'll ask Scott to watch the kids and treat myself to a couple of hours in the bookstore and a new book. You could pick something that would be rewarding to you.
I could say that when I get the job done completely I will get new window dressings and a couple of new accent pieces for one of my rooms. This would enhance the work I've already done.
Another way to “reward” yourself is to structure your goal so you enjoy the progress. I actually put my kitchen as the example because it's frustrating to me how cluttered it is with things I don't use or only use every once ina great while. It will be very rewarding to me to have it cleaned up since I am in there cooking three times a day most days of the week.
Next I might choose to clean our office since Scott and I spend much of our evening in the office after the kids are in bed. Hopefully that makes sense. Some goals it's harder to give yourself this kind of “as you go along reward.” With my goal for this website I won't really get “rewarded” until you see the finished product up there functioning 😉
A Note about Research
Yep, you're going to have goals that require some research. I decided to research a little on good organizing techniques before I started my goal of organizing the house by my last month of pregnancy.
But it's easy to get stuck on this. Really easy. I could have gone to the library and checked out every book on organizational technique…and I'd still be reading. Instead I browsed the books the library had to offer and picked one that sounded logical to me. I read that one and I'm going with that system.
Sometimes you might need to research before you can set your goal out. “I want to be a better mother” is not a good goal, for the reasons I outlined above. But that might be your goal! So go to the library and find books on parenting or mothering. Skim those and find one that seems to sound right to you. Then go home and read it and pick something in it to work on. Perhaps upon reading it you decide you're not devoting enough attention to the children. So you set your goal as “I will read a storybook or two to the kids each morning and each afternoon.” Or “I will include one of the children in my supper preparations each night – so I get some “alone time” or “talk time” with each child at least every few days.”
So do the research you need to, but don't get bogged down in it. You may find yourself researching things to death! And that's counter-productive. There's some “ready” in “ready, aim, fire!” – but the “fire” is most important (and you're “aiming” right now, by setting your goals – don't get hung up here either!)
Fitting it In
Ok, so where do you fit these goals in? Hopefully you haven't made too many for yourself. Start slow and identify what is most important to you. But you will probably need some time to work on this stuff!
This is where that nitty gritty, practical little thing called a schedule comes in handy. Remember when I wrote a long diatribe on scheduling the other day? Well this is where you're going to need it. Look at those goals, look at that schedule, and figure out where to fit the goals in.
If you've got a goal like mine, organizing the house, I recommend you do it in small chunks. 30 minutes a day. Maybe an hour at most. This is because a big project will tend to burn you out if you try and tackle too much of it at once. If you do it bit by bit you'll see progress faster than you could have imagined. Just be consistent.
Ongoing goals (like taking a reading time with your kids) will need a regular time in the schedule indefinitely. Some goals (like including a child in meal preparation) just fit into a time slot you already have scheduled.
You may look at your schedule and realize you don't have as much time to work on a goal as you'd like. That's ok. Don't give up. Work on what you can when you can. I have to get this website ready for the redesign in small, regular chunks of time during the week because I don't have big blocks to devote to it. But I made out a clear list of what needed to get done leading up to the “big project” and I'm seeing things on that list get done, slowly and surely. It's not what I'd like, which is to sit down and get it all done now, but the point is it's getting done and I'm seeing progress.
Get to It and Stick to It
You've set the goal, outlined it, fit it into your time frame, and found a place in your schedule to work on it. Now get to your goals. Go at them. Even if it's something hard to do (cleaning the bathroom every Saturday!) go right ahead and do it. You'll be relieved once it's done and you'll look back and realize it didn't really take too much effort. Even if you have a monumental task like organizing my house 😉 once it's done a couple of months later, you'll feel so much better and very accomplished.
Stick to your goals if they're longer term goals. Keep at them. If you're getting burned out try adjusting your schedule so you're not spending so much time every day. Or take a day off to go for a walk or spend time with family. But come back to it. Keep working on it.
If you get off track too much and find yourself falling behind on your goals, stop and re-evaluate. Is your goal realistic for you at this time? If it is go ahead and re-define it. Look at your schedule and time frame again. Adjust those if needed. If your goal isn't realistic decide if you want to put it off, or if it's not something you really want after all.
If a goal is not something you truly want you'll find it very hard to achieve. But sometimes even the things you want the most take discpline
Ok. Wow. This is a mammoth post. But again, I feel it's so important that as mothers, you and I find effectiveness and that starts with knowing what we want and how to go about getting it (for ourselves and for our families.) It helps to feel and truly be accomplishing what we want.