At the start of 2015, I did some reflection regarding myself and my goals.

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Actually, I started a couple months before that by listening to different podcast and reading blog posts about goals. Resolutions, goals, and other related topics are easily discovered between November and January every year.

For the past few years, I have been more intentional about setting goals. To be honest, most of those “goals” were more like aspirations and desires. I believe that all of my goals were fairly specific with a deadline, but many of them either lacked a good way to measure the progress or weren’t really actionable in the way I formed them.

Each year, I was pretty good for the first month or two. And then I would trail off like the everyone else. I would have a renewal mid-year, but that too would fade. Then I would come back to November and December, making new goals for the next year.

Too many things!

One of my other problems in 2013 was that I had way too many things on my goals list. There was little chance that I would be able to focus enough to make progress. Here’s a list of those goals:

1. Spiritual

  • Read through Bible
  • Start and keep a prayer journal
  • Participate regularly in the visitation program

2. Physical

  • Exercise at least 3 times a week
  • Stop drinking pop, except for special occasions
  • Learn and adapt better eating habits
  • Lose 20 pounds by February; another 20 pounds by April

3. Intellectual

  • Read at least 20 books
  • Continue taking college classes

4. Family

  • Have at least 2 family “outings” a month
  • Have a family vacation in the summer

5. Social

  • Regularly post 3 times a week on blog
  • Have 500 Twitter followers by June
  • Invite another family over once a month

6. Career

  • Build up “Qualiplicity” to $2,000/month by April
  • Learn Ruby by April
  • Get “Gradebook Flex” up and running by April
  • E-books: “Founded Upon a Rock” by February; “Looking Unto Jesus” by April; “Nothing Undone” by June

7. Financial

  • Make $100,000/year household salary by end of the year
  • Have $12,000 emergency fund by June

So, I had 20 goals in the 7 different areas of my life! The experts say that you should have between 5-7 goals. I kind of went overboard.

While I could be hard on myself for setting too many goals or not making them SMARTer, this was the first year that I really took the time to think about it and write them down (and then share them publicly with the world). This was, at the very least, I really good start.

Incremental improvement

As I set my goals for 2014, I did better than I did in 2013. I trimmed my 20 goals down to 12. Still not where I out to have been, but definitely better than before. Here’s what I came up with:

  1. Prayer journal
  2. Exercise routine
  3. Reduce pop intake
  4. Cut back on eating out
  5. Read 10 new books
  6. Review 10 previous books
  7. Gazelle intense on paying off mortgage
  8. Dedicate time each week for family
  9. Dedicate time each week for Dev By JR
  10. Improve marketing
  11. Deeper connections with people
  12. Have other families over

If you’ll notice, there are several things that carried over from 2013 into 2014, like diet and exercise. I knew this was something that I needed to work on, but had failed to follow through with before. (As a hint for later, this carried over into 2015 for the same reason…)

I experienced greater success in achieving more of these goals.

Using focus words

Besides setting goals that I apparently would never keep up with, I choose certain words each year to help me focus on what I need to do.

I started in 2013 after reading a fellow-blogger (Carol Dublin) share that she was following an idea from Chris Brogan to choose three focus words. My words for that year were dedication, intentionality, and opportunity.

This was a great breakthrough for me. I even created a bulletin board in my home office to help keep these in front of me regularly. I place my focus words on them as well as a list of my goals, books I plan to read, and other things to help me focus.

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sharpen_ax2This board helped me to keep these things in front of me…for a couple months. Then I started doing more of my work in my school classroom (I was teaching part-time in a Christian school), so I didn’t see my bulletin board as often.

 

In 2014, I chose another three words. This time, however, instead of choosing three different words, I chose a three-word phrase: Sharpen Your Ax. I used the verse, Ecclesiastes 10:10: “If the iron be blunt, and do not whet the edge, then must he put to more strength…”

My desire was to increase my focus to sharpen my skills more so that I could be more efficient and productive.

It definitely helped, but I knew I needed more.

Welcome to 2015

For this year, I decided to go a little bit of a different route. I didn’t make a list of 12 or 20 goals.

I boiled it down to one word.

Better.

My goal and focus for this year is to become better:

  • Better Christian
  • Better husband
  • Better dad
  • Better leader
  • Better skills
  • Better character

After I chose this word, I started listening to the book, Essentialism, by Greg McKoewn. He emphasizes the need for narrowing everything down to the one thing that is most important and that the way to improve something is to do less of other things.

This led to me adapting my one word to another three word phrase that Greg used frequently:

Less but better.

If you would have looked back over the past five months, you would probably be thinking the same thing I’ve thought: it doesn’t seem like you’ve focused on less but better. This would be because the year so far has been hectic!

Part of this is due to commitments and decisions made prior to this year. A few things crept in that I shouldn’t have allowed (I’m still working on saying “no” when I should).

However, I also know that this year should be wrapping up one part of my life that has dragged on for years. In addition to my full-time job, building a side-business, being involved in my church, and homeschooling my kids, I have been taking classes at a community college to get my Associate degree. I started in 2010, and I’m down to three more classes. I took two classes this spring semester, and I’m planning on taking the other three between this coming fall and next spring.

Scaling back

As a result of my other commitments, I had to, unfortunately, scale back on my content creation. I have three blogs/podcasts that I’ve been working with. I had to scale back each one in different ways.

This podcast and blog resulted in inconsistent episodes and posts. I hope to change that going forward, now that the school year is over. I’m still doing homeschooling with my kids over the summer, but I can use the time I had to spend on my own homework and studying.

I also had to limit the things I volunteered to do at my church. This is something that was really difficult because I really want to help and be involved more. I’m leading one of the ministries (our CALM program for grief recovery) and taught an English class in our seminary, but most of the others aren’t as heavily reliant upon me.

Some lessons I’ve learned (and am still learning)

I don’t have this whole thing mastered yet, and my life is still somewhat chaotic, but I’ve learned a lot along the way.

  1. Learn to say “no”
  2. Take time to reflect on what is most important