I have a lot of goals. I’ve always been one to make bucket lists, New Year’s lists, to-do lists, constantly keeping an eye on the short and long-term.
So often, I’ve look at other people who see to be moving towards their dreams and would ask, “How do you it all?”
For years I felt like I was living a double-life: I wrote three books in six years, all while working 35 hours a week on top of it. It definitely wasn’t easy, because of course I didn’t just have work and writing to focus on.
I also had to take care of myself with the small things – groceries, laundry, errands – and maintain my relationships, and find some down time here and there.
But I’ve learned a lot about prioritizing, staying focused, and being realistic about my needs vs. my ideals.
These days, there is one thing I do to make sure I keep moving towards my goals on a daily basis:
Before I get ready to go to bed, I write down my three most important things to do the next day.
Sometimes these priorities will be things that have a deadline, like creating a tarot spread for a client. Other times, these priorities might be to write a new blog post or a new chapter in my novel.
Whatever they are, they all need to support my highest goals and visions. And whatever ends up on my list, I always make sure that my three top priorities get my main focus.
Why three? Because I’ve found that anything more than that, and you’ll either feel rushed, or you’ll end up working way later than you should. (What good are you if you’re burning yourself out? Trust me, I’ve been there, too.)
Writing down my Top 3 also helps to wake up with a clear, focused plan. That way, there’s less overwhelm and less potential for distraction, because I know exactly what’s on my plate for the day.
And depending on where you’re at, or how much you have going on, you could even just start with writing down your one top priority for each day and promising yourself that you will get it done. Every step you take counts.
I’ve also used a lot of other little tricks throughout the years to make sure I can keep crossing off my to-do lists. One rule I lived by for years was, “before you do anything, make sure you start the day having done something for yourself.”
This developed a few years ago, when I was writing my first novel. I started getting up an hour earlier and I would work on my book before going to work. That way, no matter what happened to me throughout the day, I could feel confident that I’d already done what I felt was most important to me. I wrote two books this way.
Another trick I tried out was to limit my social life. This definitely isn’t for everyone – I’m an introvert, so I need to maintain a balance between being out and staying in as it is. I had decided that I would only allow myself to say yes to three invitations a week, max, leaving me with four nights to myself where I could work on my own projects. If I felt like I wasn’t getting enough done, I would adjust my schedule as needed.
And finally, another trick I used to was to track just how I was spending my time, and then I found ways to live more efficiently. For example, if I was spending two hours running errands to buy the same things every week, I looked at how much I could buy in one big trip, trying to get a month’s worth of my regular needs.
Or, if there was anything I could take care of on a lunch break instead of on the weekend, then I would take care of it during my workday instead. This way I gained back previously lost hours, and also took a lot of stress off my back knowing that a lot of the little things were taken care of well in advance.
Being committed to a goal is the start of any solid plan. Once you decide that you are working towards something, no matter what it is, the next step is to make sure you build time into your schedule so that you are taking steps toward that goal as often as possible.
Of course, it’s important to be realistic about our own expectations and abilities, too. We all need downtime. We also need wiggle room for regular life to unfold.
You need to be the one to decide where and how you need to push yourself, and when you might need to pull back.
Whatever you do, make sure you’re doing something that’s going to bring you closer to where you want to be.