GTDI2021: The Big Five Goals

Last week, I wrote a post about setting new goals for 2021.

The thing is – during January and February of 2021, I didn’t feel like getting things done. I was in survival mode. We were cooped up inside, I was sick of the winter cold, and I was ready for spring.

Now – it is freaking SPRING, and with it has come the motivation I’ve been missing. The kind of motivation you need to set goals and get things done.

When I started thinking about goals, and getting overwhelmed, I realized that I needed to put my Big Rocks in first, a la Dr. Stephen R. Covey. (Ironically, Dr. Covey is actually the source of this blog’s original theme of balancing heart, soul, mind, and body! Smart dude.) So I wrote a big list of goals. Then I crossed out goals that were less of a priority. Then I reviewed the list, and did it again and again – until I came up with these five goals for myself for 2021.

  1. Finish a draft of a novel.
  2. Run five miles without walking – regularly.
  3. Stop using headphones at bedtime.
  4. Zero input and zero multi-tasking. (Progress not perfection!)
  5. Start regular routines for yoga + strength training.

My rule for this list was that it needed to be short (easy enough to be able to remember all five) and manageable (these are ALL doable, though several – looking at you, 2 and 3! – are daunting). I know I can accomplish these five things – but I also know I will NOT accomplish them unless I make them each a priority.

Cheers to Getting (BIG) Things Done In 2021!

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Getting Things Done In 2021

This April, I’ve been thinking a LOT about goals. Obsessing about it a little, perhaps.

The thing is – it has felt impossible to set concrete goals for a long time. So, now that I am feeling more able to do so, my brain has shifted into overdrive. What do I focus on? What’s most important?

One thing that often trips me up is the distinction between a concrete goal – like, “I want to run five miles, regularly, without walking” – and an intention that I want to stick with daily – such as, “I want to be more present from moment to moment, especially while playing with my kids.”

The other thing that often trips me up is – beyond just writing the goals down here on the blog – how do I keep them in mind and make sure they actually get done?

The OTHER thing that trips me up is prioritizing goals. I have a few goals that are minor – like, reeeeally not a big deal if they don’t get done. For example, I am trying to get better at solving the New York Times crossword puzzle – on a three day streak as of today, say whaaaat! – but this is not a goal that needs to be at the top of my list. It’s also not totally in my control, because sometimes I just don’t know what the five-letter word is for a language written in the Devanagari script. (At this moment, my guess is “Hindi,” but I’m still working on that particular puzzle. You’re welcome for this possibly-incorrect hint, fellow puzzlers!)

So – what do I do to wrap my mind around my goals and actually get some things done in 2021?

This blog has always been a great tool for me to use to organize my thoughts and my life. So, starting today, I’m going to have a series of blog posts devoted to the topic of goals – to Getting Things Done In 2021, or GTDI2021. I wish I could share with you a detailed outline of what’s to come, but this blog is way more fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants than that.

Cheers to the return of hope and motivation in spring 2021 – and cheers to getting things done!

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Wow (Intentions for the Return to Somewhat Normal)

It’s March 16, 2021, as I write this. This week is my first week back in the middle school building where I work in a year.

This week feels big – a huge step toward a return to semi-normalcy. I’ve received the COVID vaccine, as have many of my family members and friends. We’re still wearing masks, and we’re all still being careful to socially distance. But it feels like there’s a light at the end of the tunnel, for sure.

I love being a social worker, but I’m extremely sad to be returning to work. I have loved working remotely and having so much time with the boys. I’ve loved the flexibility of it. The thought of putting on real pants and leaving the house every day is exhausting to me.

That said, this feels like a fresh start – a “new year” at a time that’s not usually a new year’s resolution kind of time. I feel energized by the warm weather and optimistic about nearing (hopefully, hopefully, please) the end of the pandemic. It’s a good time to set a few intentions for myself as I return to semi-normal work life.

  1. Zero multi-tasking. For a year, I’ve been juggling working from home with caring for the boys. I have often felt pulled in several different directions. I love being at home; I don’t love having the lines blurred between work time and non-work time. So one of my intentions for this return to normalcy is to eliminate multi-tasking.
  2. Maintain the good habits. Throughout the pandemic, I’ve maintained several good routines – daily running/walking, three AA meetings a week, and a semi-tidy household. I want to keep up these habits as we shift back into normal mode.
  3. Healthy eating. My pandemic diet has been far from perfect – but, it has been convenient to have my entire kitchen available to me when I’m trying to make a healthy eating choice. Really would like to maintain a healthy-ish diet as I return to semi-normal work life.
  4. Stay grounded. I’ve known this previously, but during the pandemic it’s become even clearer – I am grounded by running, writing, and reading. I need to run (almost) every day, I need to write (almost) every day, and I need a good book within my reach at all times. If I don’t have these three things, I feel off and not like myself.

I’ll add to this if I think of anything new this week – because, really, it’s hard to even remember what intentions I NEED to set, after a year of COVID life! Cheers to the return of semi-normalcy – the good, the less good, and the all of it.

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Optimism + New Calendar

Often one of the hopeful and optimistic things I’ve done in the Januarys of my life has been purchasing a new calendar.

I was sure I must have written a joyful post about this in the past, so I searched my past posts. But all I found was a draft of a post from December 2018 called Calendar. Because, if I remember correctly, I bought myself a calendar, and I was so excited to use it to organize my life.

It didn’t work.

THAT SAID – maybe this year, it will? Tamara and I often have things happening in the evenings lately – usually, some kind of Zoom meeting – and I’d love to have an always visual means for keeping track of that. Additionally, explaining the concept of time passing to my kids boggles my mind, so I need all the visual aids I can get!

The spot where the calendar hangs is a little organizational hub on my kitchen wall. I have a small pad with notes about activities to do with the boys, and their Melissa and Doug calendar hangs right beside our grown-up one. As of mid February, this system is working pretty well. Fingers crossed it continues to help us stay organized and remember what day of the week it is during these crazy COVID times!

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Goal-Setting During COVID Times

Recently, I started listening to a podcast about goal-setting, and it broke my brain.

How does one begin to set goals again in COVID times?

I’ll admit – in March 2020, I was one of the people who set big, huge goals for myself. I thought that working remotely would allow me the time and flexibility to finish a draft of my novel, and it just didn’t happen. It was partly due to the chaos of working from home with the kids here 24/7, and it was partly due to other valuable commitments I took on in 2020. I have a bit of a wistful feeling when I think back to March and April and my writing goals – but I did the best I could, and it is what it is.

Since the spring, I’ve set a few small goals, but nothing major. Life has felt too unpredictable to make big plans, and I’m not just talking COVID. Our boys have had some sleep struggles, so a good night’s sleep is not guaranteed – that really messes with my plans for early morning writing. Tamara’s work schedule has changed a few times. We’re moving forward with plans to adopt a new baby (!!!), and the adoption process is sometimes hard to plan around – there are times when there are a bunch of tasks that need to be completed IMMEDIATELY followed by long periods of continued waiting.

Now, it’s January 2021, and it does feel possible to make plans again. I made a tentative plan to meet a friend’s new baby in August 2021, and that felt radical, to even plan that far ahead. I started a blog post about a spring/summer bucket list. I started a (coming soon) 39 x 39 list. And now – I’m contemplating setting a goal.

I made a resolution, already – to connect and disconnect. It’s a good one. It covers things like sending birthday cards (connect), falling asleep without headphones in my ears (disconnect), attending AA meetings (connect), allowing time for zero input (disconnect), and texting photos of the boys to family and friends (connect).

When I contemplate goals, I mainly consider my three top priorities: family, service, and writing. If I can add one more – and I totally can, they’re my goals – I’d add health.

For me – a Rebel, according to Gretchen Rubin’s Four Tendencies quiz – it’s best if goals flow really naturally. For example: for service, my main focus right now is contributing to legislative work being done via SURJ Baltimore. There’s no need for me to make a schedule or set benchmarks for that goal – I can attend meetings that already on the calendar and part of my routine, and I can jot down tasks and to-do lists in my planner or on our wall calendar as they pop up.

For family, I have a good system in the works as well. My main goal is to keep our household peaceful, playful, and engaged through these tough winter months with limited outdoors time and infrequent socializing. And my main means for doing so is sprinkling little surprises and activities throughout our week. I hung up a small, simple days of the week to-do list pad on the wall, and whenever I think of something we can do – break out the tent and play campout, having an Easter egg hunt with a special snack inside the eggs, do a cool science experiment, make cloud dough – I jot it down on a day for that week. It’s fun for the kids, but more than that, it keeps me feeling creative and engaged as a parent. When I’m working from home, it’s hard to pivot quickly to something fun. But if I’ve done the planning ahead of time, it makes it much easier to execute my plan.

For health – I’ve been running every day, so that’s great. I’d like to add a seven-minute workout for after my runs (Google it), and I’d like to add a few minutes of yoga every day. I’ve actually been putting on Cosmic Kids Yoga videos for me and the kids, so that’s been really doable – it’s another activity for all of us on long winter days. So nothing needs to be scheduled – I just need to remember that this is a priority for me, which should work well. I tend to have better luck with exercise habits than I do in other categories.

And then – there’s writing.

I am slowly getting back on track with early morning writing, but I’ve set zero goals for working on any fiction – and I think I want to. But I also think I’m not quite ready yet. I’d like to get a solid few weeks of early morning writing under my belt, and then evaluate what kind of goal I can set. A strong first step might just be organizing the writing projects that are all whizzing around in my mind. Who knows? I drafted a blog post about writing goals for February 23, and we’ll see how I’m doing when that date arrives.

So, these are great COVID goals – natural, flexible, doable. And they’re really just about leaning into what I’m already doing. Cheers to surviving a cold winter by focusing on what really matters!

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