Thank you so much for sharing all your words and priority lists. It's always to inspiring to see everyone's goals for the new year. What I wanted to focus on today is what happens afterwards. Now that we've picked our words or lists, how do we make sure we are following through. This is where my resolutions often failed. I cannot tell you how many years in a row I've resolved to lose weight. Probably every single year of my life since I was 15. And do you know how many years I've actually lost weight? Maybe two out of the twenty-one since my 15th birthday. The resolutions were nice but they just didn't seem to work. What I started doing instead is creating projects around my goals. And these work like a charm.
Tomorrow and Friday, I will talk about each of my projects specifically but today I wanted to focus on what I believe to be the magic ingredients. The keys to actually achieving my goals for the year. I will break it down by area and tell you a little about why I think each of these matters.
It all starts here. The first thing you need to do is choose projects that line up with your goals for the year. If you want this to be the year you travel more, you need to choose a project where you set yourself up to visit a certain number of places and find a way to document this. Your goals can be general like "travel more" or specific like "get published in Creating Keepsakes magazine." But your projects always have to specific and concrete. These are tangible steps you will take to achieve your goal. These projects are the visual or physical manifestations of your goals.
Here's an example:
During a parent-teacher conference in 2009, my son David's preschool teacher told me how he was one of the few boys who liked to draw and do crafts (as well as the more typical male activities.) I was very excited by this, and so one of the goals I had in 2010 was to ensure I could foster my son's love for the arts. I decided that David and I would do one crafty project each week. So while the over all goal for my year was "foster my son's love for the arts" my project was "do a weekly craft with David." See how the goal is concept-based and vague but the project is very specific?
If you want to achieve your goals, you need to assign specific, tangible, doable projects to them. This is, by far, the most important ingredient.
Another important step is making sure you do a lot of prep work. The more organized and planned you are ahead of time, the more likely you are to actually follow through. If you don't have running shoes by the end of the year, your chances of going running on January 1 are very low. You want to set yourself up for success. For that, you need to be well-prepared.
Following on the example I mentioned above, what I did to prepare for a year of crafting with my son was to go through all the blogs I could find on kid crafts. I created a tumblr account specifically for this project and I added photos and links to 60 different projects. This way, we were guaranteed to have at least 52 inspiring ideas. One for each week of the year. This also meant that when we sat down to craft, we weren't wasting time on coming up with an idea; we could immediately start crafting.
Here's an example from Monika where she decided to keep a gratitude journal for all of 2010. She made her minibook ahead of time so it could hold a whole year's worth of sentences. This way, all she had to do each day was to sit and write. (see all of Monika's project with free downloads here and she has a 2011 one as well, more on that coming this week.)
Preparation can take a lot of time and effort. I made my list over the course of a week and attached goals to each of my priorities. You want to put that time in the beginning when you're all excited about the idea and most likely to follow through. Then, as the year progresses and you start to burn out, it's easy for you to stay on task because you're not spending any time preparing.
Setting A Schedule
Now that you have your project and have prepared for it, the next most important thing is to set a schedule. What works best for me is to set a specific time and a specific day of the week (or month) to do my project. I am much more likely to follow through if it's a reserved time. I look at it as a date between me and my project.
With my son, we spent every Saturday morning crafting. It was on my calendar. We both knew it and made sure it was prioritized accordingly. Since there was a specific time and day, we were less likely to skip it. We didn't wait for the mood to strike. We committed to doing it even if we didn't feel inspired. We knew that inspiration would come the moment we actually began crafting.
I cannot recommend this enough. I now have daily, weekly, and monthly schedules for all my projects. I find that instead of suffocating me, they liberate me. They give me permission to reserve a section of my time so I can do what I believe to be most important in my life. When I prioritize the project and make it important, other people in my life do that, too and they gladly respect my choices.
Many of you might think you don't have time in your day/week/month to add a project and I understand that. I know what it means to be busy. I have two young children, a full-time job, several crafty commitments, and I teach. However, as I mentioned, these projects are centered around things I decided were Important. And my goal is to prioritize important over urgent. So I make the time for them. Even if it means other, less important, areas suffer in the process. For an hour a week, I work on my art journal instead of folding laundry. It's never about having the time. It's about making, finding, trading the time.
Tracking + Accountability
Another crucial ingredient to making the project happen is finding some way to track it so you can be accountable for it. There are many ways to do this. You can do it privately where you make a chart for yourself and put a star for each time you make progress on your project. Let's say you decide to make a scrapbook page each month. Create a little chart for each month of the year and hang it on your fridge (or laundry room, wherever works for you) and give yourself a gold star each month you make a page. I promise that when you see six gold stars in a row, you won't want to break your streak so you'll feel motivated to scrap a page in July, as well. Tracking works wonders. It's proof that you're on your path. Evidence that you're focusing on what's important and making progress.
You can also track more publicly. I post all of my projects on my blog. I dedicate a day of the week or month to post them and make sure they are completed before the blog deadline. This makes me accountable and helps me track my projects. For Crafting with David project, I posted each Monday. This meant that if we had to skip our Saturday morning date for some reason, we still had Sunday to do our project but that was it. We couldn't postpone it forever because I had to post it on my blog by Monday morning.
I want to make sure to mention that while I like doing mine publicly, it's definitely a personal choice. There's no wrong way to do this as long as you're doing it.
To make it easier on you, I've created two things for you. One is a weekly journaling spot. You can print one and adhere it to your daily planner. It has room to write each day's project and even space for daily projects. Or you can print one each week and fill it as you see fit. The second one is 2011 monthly pages. You can print all 12 and schedule once a month (or even once a week) projects on that. Or you can feel free to print them up and put your golden stars.
Creating a Support System
As with most things, there's power in numbers when it comes to following through on your projects. Here are some ways to create a support system:
Find a Buddy
If you find a running buddy, you're more likely to go running because she will show up at your door, ready to go. For the crafting project, I had a built-in support system since I was doing them with my son. If I felt tired one Saturday morning, he would make sure I still got up and did it.
Start a Blog
Another project I did last year was called Weekly Gratitude. My friend Lori wanted to do it and asked me to do it with her. One of the things we did was to start a blog together so we could post our thoughts and art and create a community specific to this project. I've seen blogs around many projects and creating a blog is free and very easy to create. If you don't have your own blog and want to do your project publicly, making a blog specific to the project is a great way to create a support system.
Create a Flickr or Facebook page
Similar to a blog but Flickr and Facebook have a slightly different feel. Flickr is a photo community. So if your project involves taking photos or having other people join in with their own photos, Flickr would be a great option. There are Flickr groups for projects like Weekly Art Journaling, Project 365, and December Daily amongst many others. There even is a Flickr group for One Little Word.
Facebook is more of a social network but I've seen many people create pages there and comment/track their progress on their Facebook page. The idea is to choose something that feels natural and easy to you. Something you will actually do without feeling forced or out of your element.
Regardless of which option you choose, building a support system around your project can make the difference between following through or not. Having other people involved increases your accountability and gives you the extra energy you need to keep going.
This likely goes without saying but I wanted to say it anyway. None of these things matter without your commitment. If you want to do what's Important, if you want to stay true to your One Little Word, if you want to follow through, you need to be committed to making it work. You need to be committed to prioritizing this project and choosing to give yourself the time to make it happen. All of the things I mention above are tools that help you do it but none of them will work without commitment. It all starts and ends with you.
I hope I did not scare you away. It might seem like a big effort but your project could take 15 minutes a week. Or one hour a month. You decide how involved it is. You decide how many and what kind of projects you're committing to. And when you're choosing them, keep your limitations in mind. It's better to do one project and do it all the way through than to start six that go nowhere.
No matter how involved your project is or is not, if you've stayed true to what's important to you and followed through, I can promise you that the reward at the end is amazing. Not only do you feel fulfilled for having completed a meaningful project but you feel proud that you've made the time and commitment to something that matters to you.
For the next two days, I will give you many examples of projects. Some of these are ones I've done and will be doing in 2011. Others are ideas I've come across and loved. Some of these projects are year-long and others are month-long. I even have a few that are week-long. Some are art and craft based and some are not. All that matters is that you make a specific commitment to something that's important to you and follow through.
Have you already chosen some projects for 2011? I'd love to hear them. If you've done projects in the past, I'd love to hear your thoughts, advice, and what you believe mattered most in your success. I look forward to your comments!