Why can’t I ever stick to a plan….
I haven’t achieved any of my goals…
I haven’t stuck to any of my New Year’s resolutions…
I spend ages coming up with a plan and then life takes over ….
… are just some of the things clients have said to me already this year.
To be honest, it’s the same every January and September, the two key months for planning, goal setting and trying to make changes.
I’ve been coaching for almost 11 years now. Here’s what I think goes wrong, and what you can do about it.
- Planning is not a one size fits all activity. There’s no magic formula.
Some people love detailed plans. I used to know a guy who had every minute of every day mapped out down to his pee breaks. He had the discipline to stick to it, and a bladder of steel. But he was very inflexible and got really stressed if life took over and he had to change his schedule. In general, he got things done and felt everything was under control and on track. If you’re like Jim, you can probably stop reading now!
Other people hate plans and like to do whatever they feel like on a given day. They take life as it comes. That’s great, but they can easily let things drift and their spontaneity can drive colleagues crazy. If this is you, you’ve probably already stopped reading because you just don’t care!
If you’re still with me you’re like most people – somewhere in between the two and so a bit of planning, with some flexibility, works quite well. Think about what works for you. How much spontaneity do you like and need? What is the right balance between detail and flexibility for you?
2. Plans can become too rigid. If you like a longer term plan that’s great but keep it as flexible as possible and make sure you revisit it from time to time. The plan (and you) must be able to adapt to the inevitable changes that will arise over time. You might even change your mind about what you want and that’s OK.
3. Remember, planning and goal setting are not the same thing. It’s a good idea to set the goal and then come up with the plan to achieve it.
4. We not only often choose the wrong goal, but we set too many goals.
We’ll have career or business goals, health and fitness goals, personal goals, learning and development goals. Targets for this, deadlines for that and oh, other things I would quite like to achieve as well.
This is one exhausting list a client came up with, shared with their permission: Get qualified, get a new job, lose 10 kilos, go to the gym 3 times a week, eat more healthily, drink less, phone mum every day, learn Mandarin.
When we drilled down into it here’s what we found:
• The first thing on the list wasn’t one goal, there were at least 6 elements to it.
• The second was contingent on the first, which was at least 18 months away due to exam dates and the need to submit a portfolio after passing the exams. So, it was actually a goal to think about next year.
• Lose 10 kilos was despite a medical condition that made weight loss difficult. The client had actually been advised to maintain a steady weight.
• The nearest gym was a 20 minutes away (statistically the further you have to travel to a gym the less likely you are to go).
• Eat more healthily and drink less – fine but too vague. What would eating more healthily and drinking less actually look like?
• Phone mum every day. OK in principle but calls to mum tended to be at least 30 minutes long and often weren’t positive experiences for my client, or their mum. Both were actually happy with a catch up once a week. Why is this a goal? ‘I feel I should?’
• Learn Mandarin: no discernible talent for languages and no need, now or in future, to be able to speak Mandarin. Why is this a goal? ‘Everyone’s learning Mandarin.’ Eh?
The learn Mandarin and calling mum goals were dropped. We came up with a much smaller 3M set of goals – manageable, measurable and motivational – and a simple plan. It looked like this:
Longer term plan:
Qualify by 30 June 2023. Start to research new job (where, what) on 1 April 2023. Be in new role by 1 January 2024. Why? I’ll earn more money and have a more challenging role in which I can grow and develop.
2022 goals and plan:
Goal: Maintain weight at Xkg so I stay healthy and feel well
Try 3 online fitness programmes (now). Choose and sign up to one by 15 January 2022.
Do 30 minutes of exercise per day (inc walks)
Weigh myself every week and track weight in my fitness app
Eat 5 portions of fruit or veg per day.
Have 2 x veggie days per week, eat fish once a week.
Have 3 alcohol free days per week.
Be hangover free in 2022. (I liked this because it didn’t ban booze altogether but meant my client would limit the number of drinks they had in one session).
Goal: Complete the qualification stages available in 2022 so I’m on track to find a new job with more potential and better pay in 2023
Set aside 5 hours per week for study now
Find a study buddy to help keep me motivated and on track by 31 January 2022
Register for the first set of exams now
Register for the second set of exams or a resit as soon as I know the exam results (June 2022)
Take a complete 4 week break from study after the first set of exams so I feel refreshed and ready for the second set
Set aside 5 hours per week for study (June 2022, specific date tbc)
Find a study buddy to help keep me motivated and on track in June 2022 (specific date tbc nearer the time)
With two clear 3M goals and a straightforward, doable plan my client feels optimistic about their chances of success. We’ll review progress in our coaching sessions and I’ll hold the client accountable. If something isn’t working we’ll find out why and tweak it. And of course things will be added or removed if necessary.
So in short, keep it simple!
• Two or three 3M goals will feel achievable not overwhelming.
• Make sure your goals will help you get something you want.
• A straightforward plan will feel doable and not too much of a stretch. Don’t overcomplicate things.
• Track progress and adjust your goals and plan as necessary.
If you would like to to me about your goals and plans book a quick chat in my diary here.