Working on Your Goals When You Don’t Have Time to Work On Your Goals
Finding Time to Make it all Happen
Today: Identify the little spots of time you have right now to make progress on your goals.
How to Waste Time on Your Laptop – an Expert’s Guide (or, My Real Life Strategy for Getting Things Done.) Don’t you just love your computer?!?! It is such a time saving device. I can do my banking, order groceries, talk to my agent, invite friends over via evite.com, and design my next newsletter anywhere in the world that has a Verizon tower nearby. It is amazing all the tasks I can get completed the aid of a power outlet.
So why have I spent a large part of my summer playing Free Cell?
I have just hit some major deadlines in my life after 18 months of running at full steam ahead. I realized just this last week apparently I am not capable of work unless I am under tremendous pressure and have a sense of overwhelming guilt. I just kind of sat there thinking, “I know I have things to do, but I don’t want to do any of them.” Real mature attitude – yes?
So I have got to go back to giving myself some rules and boundaries when it comes to my time on the computer.
Here are some of the rules that I am now abiding by when it comes to time wasters:
1. No More than 20 minutes on Facebook a day. I have to tell you, I loves me some Facebook. I love seeing what old friends are up to. I love hearing about the little things in my niece’s life that my brother probably wouldn’t call to tell me, (“Elsa said A-B-C today. We have started the Harvard Fund.”) Love hearing the latest industry buzz and reading what my favorite authors and readers are up to. Love Love Love.
And that is where the trouble begins.
I love checking out what everyone else is up to, and can get super caught up in commenting on people’s status. That is fine when I am standing in line at Safeway. But when I should be writing my next chapter on time management? Not so much. So when I am at home, I am keeping my Facebook addiction down to 20 minutes.
2. Clear out my inbox once a week. I will do anything to avoid answering unpleasant or complicated e-mails (see my Free Cell reference above.) So I have been giving myself a weekly inbox dump where everything must be dealt with (and then I reward myself with an episode of Top Chef – hey, it’s better than chocolate chip cookies.)
3. Turn the Wireless Off for a Chunk of Time – Every Single Day Twitter and Facebook and E-mail – Oh My! I have several ways to keep myself entertained on my computer. I love hitting the reload button on my Outlook to see what new mail I have sitting there (yes, we have already established I have a problem. Now let’s move on, shall we?)
So, for about 3 hours every day, I turn off my wireless and concentrate on just working. Whether it is writing a blog post, writing a chapter, brainstorming a new speaking topic or having a conversation with a client, I focus completely on the task at hand and not on the e-mail that I am waiting for.
I call this my “Cave Time” and it is the only portion of the day that I can trust myself to do anything that involves numbers or creativity (which for me, both require super-human concentration.) Now don’t get me wrong – a little Free Cell every once in a while is a good thing. But I want my computer to be a tool to get more things done, instead of a distraction that keeps me from getting things done. (I can watch all the cute cats on You Tube I want once my speech is written!)
Maybe wasting time on your computer is not your vice. When I asked a group of women what their secret (or not-so-secret) time sucker were, here is a list of what they came up with:
• Celebrity Gossip
• Phone time with friends
• Glamour Magazine
• Shopping (for self and kids)
• Looking for recipes
• “Stupid” TV
• Twitter and Facebook
All of these things, in moderation, are fine for most of us. But, I know that I have let an hour of writing time turn into “Just checking out a few LOLCATS pics. Gulp.
Fear of Success Sometimes, it can be a bit scary to start working on things we are passionate about. If we never get started, we never get disillusioned. It is a lot easier to give up on a game of Spider Solitaire or watch Entertainment tonight than to get frustrated by bumping up against obstacles while working toward your goals.
I have to set up rules for myself when it comes to computer time. Is there an area of your life that you need to get in control of, time-wise, in order to get stuff done? How will you do it – set time controls on your computer? Have a friend hold you accountable?
I have given myself a not so subtle reminder. Whenever I open up my computer, there is a quote that pops up to remind me how I need to choose to spend my time…
“Lost time is never found again.” – Benjamin Franklin
Today: Schedule in times of real rest in your day, week and month as you are working toward your goals.
I sigh as my husband Roger and I are driving over highway 17 heading towards Santa Cruz. Driving over the mountains toward the beach and the boardwalk, surrounded by redwoods and local farms and state parks. “Do you realize how blessed we are to live where we do?” “Yes.” Roger replied. “And if I didn’t, you saying it every day of our marriage would remind me.” I didn’t realize how deep my love for the Bay Area ran until Roger pointed out that I commented on it every single day. (He should be doubly grateful – I was born in Northern California – he moved here from Indiana where digging his car out snow before driving it during the winter was a common occurrence.) But how can you blame me? We live less than a half a day’s drive almost anything you can think of: the beach during the summer, the mountains during ski season, San Francisco when there is a musical coming through, great ethnic restaurants, and not once have I had to dig my car out a blanket of snow. There is only one thing missing from our little corner of paradise – a Chick-fil-a.
If you have not experienced the perfection that is the Chick-fil-a Chicken Sandwich, let me describe it for you. It is a chicken patty that is breaded and then deep friend in peanut oil (trust me, it works) it is served on a buttered bun with two pickle slices (they say that you can add tomatoes and lettuce, but why ruin it with healthy stuff.) Chick-fil-a also has a healthy menu. Whatever.
I love Chick-fil-a and what they stand for and their chicken sandwiches so much, that at one point, I had a Google alert for articles about how they run their business. (I’m not just a fan, I’m a super fan.) As I started to read more and more about how they run their business and the values that they have, I fell in love with them for more than their deep-fried chicken breast. This is an amazing company that values their employees and customers. Chick-fil-a is very selective about who gets to sling that chicken. “It’s easier to get a job in the CIA than to own a Chick-fil-A franchise,” is a favorite saying at the corporate office. They have one of the highest employee retention rates in any service industry. Part of that is the careful screening they do before hiring someone. Another reason? No Chick-fil-a is open on Sunday.
While visiting our friends Steve and Shannon in Colorado Springs, they introduced us to Chick-fil-a and then told us the closed on Sunday policy. I know that Steve and Shannon are intelligent people, but I honestly believed that they had to be mistaken. Fast food restaurants are not closed for a whole day. I had worked in the service industry enough to know that Sunday was a major money-making day. Industry experts were baffled as well. But listen to this response that Dan Cathy, president and Chief Operations Officer of Chick-fil-a, gave to talk show host Dave Ramsey when Dave asked the question about the business sense of closing on Sundays. “My younger brother and sister and I signed a covenant of agreement that we gave our parents about five years ago that said that long after they’re gone, assuming that we survive them, that we’re going to continue to be closed on Sunday. To be honest with you our corporate purpose is to glorify God by being the faithful steward of all He has entrusted to us and have a positive influence on people.
But I would share with you that as a business person it really does work for us. It makes a difference. We are more rested on Monday because you’ve been able to take the day off to rest and renew ourselves. Our smiles are bigger and I think even our Drive-thrus run a little faster on Monday because we had Sunday off.
We are not built 24-7. God built our body to have eight hours of sleep and to take some time off. And we found that we pick up on that productivity. Any business we lose on Sunday we more than make up for a better service and better atmosphere on Monday.”
Sabbath – Not Just for Old Testament Folks
OK there is some stuff in the Bible that doesn’t make a whole bunch of sense to me:
Don’t let cattle graze with other kinds of Cattle
Don’t have a variety of crops on the same field
Don’t wear clothes made of more than one fabric And I have to admit, that observing a Sabbath was one of those rules that felt a lot like the instructions not to mix a cotton-weave with a poly-blend – a bit antiquated. Observing a Sunday off is a hard thing. I was talking about the concept of a Sabbath with my agent, Rachelle. She said, “If I want to observe a Sabbath, I need to prepare for six hours on Saturday to be able to rest on Sunday. If my husband wants to observe Sabbath, he takes a nap.”
But the more that Roger and I were intentional about having a day to rest, a day to put away our computers, not plan work, and focus on God, our family and restoring ourselves physically, emotionally and spiritually, the more we feel we are able to slide back into work having taken our stress down a level or two.
I have definitely discovered in my own life that when I indulge in the false economy of trying to get more done by work seven days a week, not only do I suffer, but my goals suffer. That is why I want you to rest your way to success.
• Make sure you have some “down time” every week where your focus is not getting things done, but getting deeper with God and with community, and getting rest.
• Make sure you have a beginning and an end to each week.
• Make sure you have a beginning and an end to each work day. (No spreading work from eight in the morning until ten at night). I know the last project you would expect is for me to say work less. But I do want you to make sure that you don’t burn out. I want you to be living a life that is full of God-adventure for years to come.
So tell me in the comments below below – when are you going to rest.
Getting a Couple of People to Hold You Accountable
Today: Find a couple of women to hold you accountable for your goal. I could be the women you are already working this book with, or it could be women who have the same goals as you do.
The Goal Girls started six years ago when every area of my life was in transition. My marriage was falling apart and I found myself back in the job market to support myself and my kids. On top of all that, I needed to find a new place to live. I felt like everything was spinning out of control.
I knew that I also needed to makes some changes in other areas of my life. Spending time with God had become a faint memory for me. I wanted to reconnect in a real way, but I was having trouble being committed to my day-to-day relationship with Him.
I needed support that was more than a once-a-week Bible study. I needed people around me to love and guide me through this hurtful time in my life.
At the same time, my friend Vikki, a 30 year-old wife and mother, was just plain overwhelmed. With her two active kids, and another on the way, she was feeling the pressures of keeping it all together. In addition to taking care of her family, Vikki worked outside the home several nights a month, and was the women’s ministry leader at our growing church. The fast pace of Vikki’s life was threatening to swallow her up if she didn’t makes some changes immediately.
Another friend, Angela, young and vibrant at 34, had an even more desperate situation. Complicating her busy life caring for her two small girls, her health was in serious jeopardy and she knew that she had to take some radical steps including losing weight and exercising in order to start restoring herself physically so that she could lead a normal life.
All of us were longing for change. We wanted to live healthier lives, not just physically, but also emotionally and spiritually. Each of us needed help figuring out what God designed us to do, but we also needed a way of making sure that we stayed on track- someone to hold our feet to the fire.
I asked Angela and Vikki if they would be interested in trying an accountability group. I was honest and upfront,” I had no idea how it would work, but I am so frustrated and scared that I am willing to try just about anything. I guess we can just make it up as we go along?” Apparently, they were just as desperate and we decided to meet the next week.
That was eight years ago, and we are still supporting each other, praying for each other and holding each other in godly accountability.
What is Accountability?
Accountability is simply having to report to someone the progress you are making on an activity. When you work in an office, you’re accountable to a boss for the work that she assigns you. Even if you are a self-starter, most of us need that little bit of outside pressure to get our jobs done well and on time. What do you do when you‘re running a household, your own business, and your own life, and there is no “boss” to answer to? Asking other women to hold you accountable is a great way to have a little bit of that outside pressure to help you stay on track. Vikki, Angela and I sacrifice time from our overcrowded lives to stay accountable to one another because it is biblical and it works. Proverbs 27:17 says “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” Being with one other and holding one another accountable keeps us focused and on task.
How is accountability different than a support group?
Generally support groups include organizations that focus either on a stage of life (including mom’s groups or after divorce groups), or a specific area to overcome (Overeaters Anonyms or Alcoholics Anonyms.) Generally these groups have up to dozens of members at each meeting. While support groups offer an environment to meet with others who are in your situation and the opportunity to learn and be encouraged, there is generally a lower level of follow up for individual members.
Accountability groups offer the chance to meet with one or two other people in order to stay focused on whatever area of their life they are trying to grow in at that time. While neither Angela nor Vikki are writers or step-mothers, they are able to hold me accountable in those areas by following-up on the goals I have set for myself and shared with them at past gatherings.
What it looks like for us
We came to our once a month meetings prepared with our goals already written out. I dedicate one sheet of paper to each area of my life. There is a page dedicated to health, another for important relationships in my life, one for household management, and so on. Sometimes my goal list will be much longer in one area than another. When one of my kids needs special attention, or I have good friend who is going through a tough time, I may have several goals on my “Relational” page, but almost none in another area. Along with each goal, we set a target date that we want to see the goal completed by. For instance, on my “Spiritual” goal sheet, I might write: Goal Date of Completion Join Bible study September 15th
When we write out our goals, we try to be specific and realistic. Instead of setting a goal of get better at cooking, I might write “Try three new main courses from the new Greek Cookbook”, or “Sign up for the Asian cooking class at the community center.” When I started to focus more on spending time with God, Angela reminded me to be specific and realistic. At first, I had written the goal down as “Spend 45 minutes every day in prayer and quiet time.” Angela graciously but firmly challenged me on my completely unrealistic goal. “Kath, how are you going to go from 0 to 45 minutes? Why don’t you start with five minutes a day and build on that.” From that five minute block of time, I have grown into having a meaningful and significant quiet time every day.
When we first started meeting eight years ago, we were in for a reality check. Over the first few months of sharing, we learned to gently say to each other, “Wow, that looks like a lot to accomplish with two kids and everything else going on in your life. Is it realistic? Is there something that you could give up or move to another month?” We have learned to protect each other from overextending ourselves, and in turn, have learned to take care of our own schedules and bodies.
The next time we get together, we give each person 40 minutes to go over last month’s goals and set out her vision for the next month. We make copies of our goals that we can pass out to the other two. That way, we have an easier time checking in with each other.
Between each meeting, we stay up to date on where each of us is in meeting our goals set out at the last meeting, as well as asking for additional support when we need it. For example, the weeks before I moved to a different city, I needed more support, what we lovingly call “kick-butt accountability”, in staying focused and on track with getting my house packed up and ready to be sold. During those pressure-filled weeks, I would receive several phone calls a day asking how my plan was going. Just knowing that Vikki or Angela could be calling at any moment gave me the extra push I needed to stay on track and tackle what had to be done.
Your accountability group can also be focused on one specific area of your life. I have separate groups for more complex goals I am currently on: health and writing. These groups give me the special support I need to accomplish bigger projects in those areas.
The Benefits of Accountability
Our group has gotten the three of us through life together. Angela and Vikki have prayed and held me accountable through the hardest time of my life. During the rough days, it was a huge comfort to know that I had two godly women who knew what I was going through and could remind me that God had designed me for a greater purpose than what I felt like at the moment.
Following my divorce, I really wrestled with the question of where God was in my life. I felt abandoned and unloved. It was Vikki and Angela who reminded me of all that God had brought me through, and pointed out all the ways that God continued to care for me even when I couldn’t feel his presence.
Getting through rough times is a blessing, but the most thrilling part of accountability is seeing the progress in each other’s lives. It’s been an honor to stand with Angela and Vikki as I’ve seen them accomplish goals that none of us would have dreamed possible just a few short years ago. From keeping our houses clean, to losing weight to opening a small business to walking a half marathon–no goal is too big to not be supported. On the flip side, no goal is too small that it is not celebrated when it is reached. Plus, the biggest honor was to have these two ladies celebrate with me as bridesmaids at my wedding to Roger. While people who attended the wedding were excited to celebrate our new lives together, Angela and Vikki were two of the people who had walked me back to a place of loving and growing in God – a place of health and healing. These women were not only celebrating the future I had with Roger, but the past that they had walked me though to get to the place where I could be part of a healthy marriage.
Today: Check in with God with some concentrated prayer and meditation. (Talking to God, and then listening to Him.) Even if it is just for 10 minutes, get quite with God listen for His direction when it comes to your goal.
My husband Roger and I had just landed at Tampa International Airport. While the purpose of our travel was to visit Roger’s parents, we decided to sneak in some “couple’s time” before heading to the family reunion.
Roger had booked a romantic hotel on the beach only two miles from the airport. Since airlines do not provide meals anymore, our combined food intake for the cross-country journey from California consisted of three bags of peanuts and a half a box of Altoids I rescued from the bottom of my bag. We were anxious to stow our suitcases at the hotel and head out for our beach-side dinner.
As we picked up our rental car, I was eager to try out the new navigational system Roger just bought me. You see, I have a tendency to get lost while I am driving… even in areas I have been to several times. Roger said he bought the new GPS system for my safety. Really, I think he got tired of guiding me in like an air traffic controller every time I was more than three miles from the house.
I love my new mapping device – with one tiny exception. When you first turn on the display, Maggie (our pet-name for our electronic guide) needs about 15 seconds to figure out where the satellite is. This process goes much faster if you stay put. If you start to drive, it could take up to whole two minutes for her to figure out where you are.
I have never been known as a patient woman. Even 15 seconds is about 14 seconds too long. Growing weary of waiting I asked Roger, “Can’t we just get going and it will catch up with us.” Roger knew the general direction of the hotel, so we hit the road. Our destination was only a couple of miles away. What could go wrong?
After a few minutes, and a turn on to an onramp, Maggie, finally came blinking to life with directions and distance … 22.2 miles!
How did our “couple of miles away” hotel turn into a 22 mile trek? That is when I discovered something I had never experienced in California called a “causeway.”
A causeway is a road that goes over a body of water. Like the body of water between the Tampa International Airport and St. Petersburg, Florida. Because there tends not to be a convenient place to turn around while traveling over water, and the fact our car was not Herbie the Love Bug with the ability to float, we were stuck going the whole distance over the causeway. And back – 22.2 miles round trip.
If we had only taken the 14 extra seconds to wait for directions – instead of going off on our own – we would have saved time, aggravation and grief.
Soon after our ill-fated trip, I was doing my morning devotionals and this verse popped out at me: It is not good to have zeal without knowledge, nor to be hasty and miss the way. – Proverbs 19:2
Who says God doesn’t have a sense of humor?
Traveling with Maggie is a lot like figuring out the path God wants you to follow for your life and for your goals. The parallels show up for me almost every time I get lost. OK, almost every time I leave the house.
Gifts of the Maggie #1 You will be much better off if you wait for directions.
Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and your plans will succeed. – Proverbs 16:3
As women, we don’t have an excess of time or energy to be heading off in the wrong direction while chasing after our dreams. We need a much simpler, direct route. Time and commitment spent up-front praying and listening to God for direction will always be rewarded down the road.
Sometimes in my enthusiasm to get closer to my goals, I have an “Act Now, Pray Later” attitude. I get impatient and want to get going with all the plans and dreams I have for my life – now. When I act out of desire, enthusiasm, or trying to simply check things off my list, I usually end up wasting time, energy and emotion.
Like Maggie, God has a lot of rewards for those who wait on direction from Him. When I pray before I act, I may not have clear direction all at once. What I can be sure of is the fact that I have put my plans before God. I am honoring Him first in everything I do, every plan I make.
Gifts of the Maggie #2 You don’t need to know every turn that is coming up – you just need to know what your next step is.
Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. – Matthew 6:34 Don’t ever try to give me directions over the phone. I am good for about two turns and then my brain starts to think about the Discovery Channel special I saw last night, or tries to figure out when the cute pink bag I saw at the mall might go on sale. When I get directions all at once, trying to hold everything in my head about the next eight turns I need to make it is almost always a guarantee I am going to get hopelessly lost, confused, frustrated and off-track. The beauty of Maggie is that she only gives you the next turn you have to make.
As busy women, we can get bogged down by the magnitude of all we have to do. If we start to look too closely at all is involved in having a rewarding career or raising great kids and pursuing our dream, it would be very easy to get completely overwhelmed.
A better approach is to take each day as it comes. Planning for the future is great. Worrying about it will get you nowhere. Keep your final destination in mind, and concern yourself with the turn just ahead of you. God is the only one who can see around the corner.
The other benefit of just focusing on the turn right in front of you, and not worrying about the next seven that are coming up, is getting to enjoy the ride. When you have a dream that is bigger than yourself, there are many opportunities to step out in faith and see God’s hand working in your life.
I tend to miss the miracles in the moment when I am worrying about what has to happen next month. Just concentrate on the next turn and enjoy the ride.
Gifts of the Maggie #3 Trust the directions- even if they are different than what you expect. Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.” – Isaiah 30:21
Sometimes for fun, I will check out Maggie’s directions to a familiar place, just to see if she has a different way of getting there. Often times, she will have a shortcut I didn’t know about, or there is a new road I had yet to discover. I have learned a lot by going in different directions than I originally thought.
Today, I just want you to spend some time checking in with God. Am I going in the right direction? Do you want me to press forward on something, or wait? Learning to be sensitive to God’s leading is a skill we can develop. Tell us in the comments below how you are going to stop and spend time with God today and everyday. Is it a coffe date alone, during the kids nap time, getting up earlier, or during a lunch break? If you feel led to do so share with me what God is directing you to do, press on, wait or be still.
What do you want from me? Knowing God’s Will for all the parts of your life
Today: Spend time reflecting on the ways you have sensed God’s direction pursuing your goal. Your project for today is to write down all the ways that God has confirmed you working on this particular goal.
Whether it’s cleaning out a closet or walking a 10K for clean water in Africa, you have been nudged to put this goal “out there”. For me, the exercising 5x a week is easy – I want to finally figure out how to honor this body God gave me.
Maybe yours is simply wanting to bring order to your life. There was no big flash from the clouds, you are just longing for peace. Whatever it is, get a notebook and write it down.
Here are just some of the ways that God may be confirming this goal for you:
Other people you respect have told you to pursue it
You feel peace as you give up other activities in order to work on this goal.
Other people recognize this talent in you and want you to use it.
You everyday you have the same sense of wanting a change in this area.
You start to see “divine appointments” show up in your life. Meeting a friend of a friend who is looking for an apprentice in the field you are exploring. Just when you need a certain piece of equipment, your friend posts on your homeschooling loop that they are getting rid of said piece of equipment.
As you do your regular bible study, God keeps whacking you over the head with verses that support what you have been praying about.
Here is where I want you to spend just a few minutes writing down all the ways that God has used your past, your present, your friends, your family, your prayers and His word in order to confirm this goal: If you don’t believe you have received confirmation stop working and start praying.
Keep your notebook in your purse or on your cell phone and when confirmation comes along write it down.
What does confirmation look like for you? I asked my friend, Katie what that confirmation, that leading, looked like for her as decided to do a year-long mission to a war-torn country in 2004. Here are some of the steps that led her from a safe day-to-day job as a nurse practitioner in San Jose, CA, to traveling a world away working in a Muslim country doing relief work and church planting:
1. The seed of a thought is planted – Katie attended Urbana 2000, a mission’s conference in Urbana Illinois. At that conference she heard a missionary speak about evangelizing to the Muslim community. Until that point, Katie had always considered Muslim society closed to the thought of Christianity.
2. Paying Attention – Katie had always been interested in missions, but didn’t know what her next move should be. I love the advice that one of her friends gave her about sensing God’s direction: “Pay attention to the things you’re noticing because that is often how God speaks.”
Katie started to notice that more and more, the Muslim world stated to collide with Katie’s world. Between missionary’s letter home to the evening news, Katie couldn’t turn around without noticing her heart growing more tender toward the Muslim people.
3. Holy Curiosity – Katie said, “It was at that point I developed a holy curiosity,” I love that. She knew it was more than a coincidence – she knew that God was steering her in a certain direction and that she better pay attention.
4. Making the First Step – Katie attended a conference in Indiana in 2003 that was focused on evangelizing to Muslims.
5. Making the Decision – When Katie received a forward e-mail from a friend about the opportunity to serve overseas for a year, she was prepared. She had followed God’s leading all along the way and she was ready to take on that adventure with Him.
Most of you are not making such a long distance decision. But even those little decisions can lead to HUGE life change. Committing to family dinners three times a week can change the course of your family. Organizing your paperwork can lead to financial freedom. Don’t take lightly the “small” things that God is asking you to tend to. Those small things are the stepping stones to the big things He is preparing us for.
Oh – and for just a little more motivation, I love a good, printable calendar to dream on, and these from TomKat Studios are just gorgeous!!!
Tell us in the comments below one way that you have felt confirmed or recognized that God’s opened a door about this goal. You could win Ten Prayers God Always Says Yes To
When it comes to your home, peace is possible…
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