…and we might just improve communication in your relationship while we are at it.
Am I the only one that gets the same urge as one year wraps up and the next unfolds to take stock of what was accomplished, what wasn't, and how to make the next year the best yet? Call this a year in review, goal setting, or family planning. It is as cliché as it can be beneficial for your personal satisfaction, actual #accomplishments, and even strengthen your relationship - if done right and carried through effectively. And the latter is the trickiest part. But the last couple years my wife and I have found success with a particular approach I am sharing with you here.
Find a partner and go set goals
Setting #goals, as so many prescribe, is one thing, but sticking with them throughout the year is very difficult. In fact, as it is already the middle for February when this was posted you may have lost track of your goals you set just a month ago. I intentionally published this post in February to see that we get those goals of yours back on track.
Focusing on what you want to do or learning to want what you need to do is easier said than done; especially if you have some really important, but undesirable things to address in your life - eliminating debt is a great example. Having a #partner for accountability, support, creative thinking, and problem solving can certainly help. Working together to build discipline takes time and effort, and most importantly commitment. Having goals you want to accomplish certainly helps with making commitment easier.
If you don't have a trusted person you can count on for #accountability, support, or a sounding board perhaps that is a good place to start for the reasons just mentioned. If you are single consider a family member or a close friend. Who knows, if you go out on a limb and ask someone with whom you feel comfortable you just might find out they are struggling with similar challenges or are pursuing a similar approach and are thankful you reached out as they could benefit from a partner as well.
Once you have a partner in mind and have reached out to them to engage in this activity, you need to meet. Before you meet it might help to keep reading this post, and even consider sending them the link so you can both be on the same page going into the conversation. And don’t forget to set your next meeting time before you finish this first meeting. In fact, you may want to set a standing time to meet. As I often say, if it isn’t scheduled it isn’t getting done. And standing meetings make sure the cadence is in place so momentum can build and accomplishments can be achieved.
Define the focal points in your life
Once you have found a partner and at a minimum found a standing time to review your goals for the year, you’re ready to begin charting your course. The first step you might want to consider taking is to think back on the last year and consider:
What went well?
What was a challenge?
What did you feel proud of?
What worried you?
As you think through these questions jot down the thoughts that come to mind. Now take a moment to look at what you wrote down, are there any themes? Do any of the items remain relevant for you this year?
The next helpful step might be to take inventory of the focal points of your life, or how your financial priorities stack up. The last couple years my wife and I have examined our life together in the following areas. We have a quick worksheet you can use to map out yours into a handy pyramid. Here are some examples you could consider including:
Your Faith or principles
Your Marriage or primary relationship
Your Family (immediate and extended)
Your Work/career aspirations
Your hobbies/personal/time with friends
Your Travel Goals
Think about your prior year while considering the categories of your life that are your primary focal points going forward. How well aligned are your priorities to what happened last year? Did any of your priorities not line up well with what you were worrying about, or vice versa? If you’ve been tracking along with what has been covered in this post you’ve made great progress and should have some improved clarity about what matters most to you and how to live this out. Let’s keep this momentum going as we are almost finished.
Map out how you’re going to make this a great year
Now that you know how your financial priorities stack up and you’ve reflected on how the last year went, it’s time to map out how you’re going to make this a great year. Take your list of financial priorities and think through for each one what you’d like to say you accomplished as you wrap up this year? As you brainstorm, write down 1-3 items you would like to focus on. Make these statements crisp and clear actions that are realistic but enough of a challenge they are worth pursuing for the accomplishment they will offer.
After compiling your list of focal points and a couple goals for each one make sure you don’t have more than 3 tasks or actions for any of the focal areas. There is only so much you can accomplish this year let alone remember during the year. Besides, having too many goals would not be very S.M.A.R.T. Now for each of the tasks in any of your focal points, prioritize them in rank order with the one you would like to accomplish most or the one that needs the most attention at the top of each section.
With your areas of focus and a couple crisply written and prioritized goals on a list in front of you, begin identifying the next action you should take to approach each of those goals. These actions should be singular tasks not necessarily a massive project as the goal itself would be considered the project. You don’t just have to think of these next actions as tasks, depending on your goal you may want to consider stating a decision you have to make. While you’re at it, you might as well make a rough estimate of how much a particular goal might cost or put more positively, how much you’re willing to invest in the goal. And no goal or objective would be complete without assigning a key resource or person to help while also setting a deadline to strive towards.
Your list of focal areas and goals should now be accompanied by a clear set of actions that can be accomplished in short order to begin making headway towards your desired accomplishments. Presuming you don’t have a list like this from last year, there’s no better time to put one together than right now. In fact, I have saved you some time, if you like the idea of a handy worksheet to help you work through this brainstorming, you can download one we created that you can use to get a head start on your list. And the worksheet I’ve offered is print ready and can be displayed where you will see it like the refrigerator or the bathroom mirror.
"WOLO" We Only Live Once so We Oughta Look Often
You’ve done a great job really thinking through your priorities, what you want to accomplish, and have a clear set of actions you can take in short order to step forward. Now it’s important to review this list often. In fact, we call this list the WOLO Plan, as in We Only Live Once. Instead of “You” the emphasis is directed at ourselves and acknowledges that living life is better together. But WOLO could also stand for We Oughta Look Often. If a goal is worth pursuing it is important to keep it top of mind and review your progress regularly. Before we wrap up one meeting to review our WOLO Plan, we set the next day and time we will meet and mark it on our calendar. With your significant other or accountability partner create a routine time to review the list, your progress and might as well add in a pinch of celebration when actions are achieved towards your goal. And take note of your progress so you can visually see your advancement towards your goals.
As I mentioned in the beginning creating the discipline to work at your goals is easier said than done. Perhaps you didn’t really think them through or didn’t structure the goals and actions in line with what is important to you. Don’t fret, you’re much better equipped now with a structured outline of how you will make this year great.
We've created two very quick worksheets in .pdf format that are very easy to use and can be customized to fit your life and priorities. We hope you will consider downloading them and discussing this material with your significant other or accountability partner.
Thank you for reading,