2018 was a very disappointing year for me, just like any other year I started with far too many expectations backed up by no sustainable plans. But at the beginning of 2019, I called it quits. I was so tired of making the same mistakes each year. I wanted to set out goals for myself that I could actually look forward to and follow. I didn’t believe I could achieve all my biggest goals, but I still wanted to be bold with them by making sure that I was at least putting in some effort every day. And that’s the hardest part, isn’t it? Because most of the time motivation only lasts about 2 weeks after January 1st.
But I wanted 2019 to be different so badly I was down to trying almost anything. So instead of resolutions and goals or expectations, I decided to set up a system. A well-designed system that would fit my needs and keep me on the ‘right track’ for months, especially after the exciting new year motivation was long gone. I mean, of course I wanted to enjoy the excitement of a fresh new start, but I also wanted to find a way to have my back when that initial spike of inspiration dried up, just like every other year.
The Science Behind Motivation & Why Most Resolutions Don’t Work Out/We Get Discouraged So Fast
I wrote an in-depth article on the science of motivation on House of Brazen’s blog — you can find it here. But, basically, the main point is this: there’s a specific amount of willpower we can use everyday and once we hit a certain limit, we become unable to stop ourselves from giving in. That’s why it’s so important to avoid overcommitting, especially in the beginning! Again, for more information and advice on the topic, please read the post, I strongly believe you won’t regret it.
Related Post: “The Real Secret To Motivation”
Shiny-object Syndrome And What It Does to Your Goals
I have a confession to make: I have a shiny-object syndrome. It’s getting better, I’ll say that, but I still have a tendency. And this used to massively sabotage my goals. Because as soon as I started getting serious about something and committed to it, I would see something else and forget about the first goal/idea, and why I even wanted it in the first place. Or I would get 10 more ideas that seemed much better. Or I would overwhelm myself to the point it’d get almost impossible to stay on top of the million details.
That’s why and when I started experimenting with this system. I needed somewhere to put my big, broad and bold ideas — what can I say, I’m pretty ambitious — and some other place where I could get into details and set out any sort of plan with deadlines and specifics. Basically, I had to divide these very distinct parts of me in my goal-setting: I could allow myself to dream big, while still having that more rational and details-oriented part of me do its job too. They had to co-exist and co-operate if I wanted to be successful with my goals.
Creating a Step-by-Step Plan That Was Not Overwhelming
First Part — Brainstorming on a Google Doc
I started my new year planning by having a long brainstorming session lasted a couple of days, in which I wrote down all of my most frightening goals, resolutions and even obstacles I thought I had to overcome. I also tried my best to define my goals in a more ‘tangible’ way, because I knew that would have kept me motivated. So instead of saying “I want to exercise more” I wrote down “I want to exercise 5 times a week” and “I want to be able to perform a full chin-up”. It felt a lot more measurable and even achievable. I could finally see the exact outcome I desired from each goal. And that offered huge insights, too. For instance, I realized I didn’t like doing some things, I only liked the idea of doing them. I didn’t want to go running each morning. I just liked the idea of it. This allowed me to move a lot of things off the list. Imagine all the time I would have lost before realizing that.
Second Part — Planning on Trello
After some digging around, experimenting and research, I found the perfect planning resource for me: Trello. Trello is amazing. I’m in no way an affiliate, even though I should be. It’s great, and all its main features are free. No annoying ads. You can add people to your board, have different lists, insert google drive docs, upload photos from your computer. There’s pretty much nothing you can’t do productivity-wise. You can even set deadlines for each of your tasks, add comments, links, checklists, etc. Yeah, it’s great.
The Whole System Comes Together
So, to sum it up, I had a word doc to help me keep a list of all the things I wanted to do, the places I want to visit and the things I wanted to buy, but the Trello boards would get me into the ‘planning’ mode where I could actually build a system to sustain my everyday actions and habits in the long run.
I also set up a reminder to revisit the ‘big list’ every week (I printed it out to make the process easier) and another to check each main board on Trello every day. I decided to dedicate myself to only 2 projects at the time not to get overwhelmed.
Now whenever I get an idea — or a suggestion — and want to take note of it, all I have to do is grab my phone and write it down on the right Trello board (yeah, did I mention Trello has a phone app, too??). Everything feels organised, and I sleep better.
The True Power of Downtime
Downtime deserves a paragraph on its own. One of the hardest lessons to figure out about productivity for me was realising I can’t be productive the entirety of my time. I can’t always be working, or reading, or cleaning the house, or listening to inspiring podcasts or doing any other ‘productive’ activity all the time. My brain needs some downtime to just relax and do nothing else. And it’s easy to say but it took quite some time for me to accept it fully and practice it in my everyday life.
When I started aggressively reducing my ‘working’ time, I noticed a huge difference. Not only in my results, but most importantly in my energy levels. I felt happier and a lot less stressed. I even started getting more & better ideas to improve my projects (it’s crazy what happens when you stop consuming content all the time and just give your brain a break).
(This book helped immensely: ‘Do less’ — super suggested. The author doesn’t share the usual tips like ‘delegate’ which it’s not possible for everyone. Instead she suggests action steps anyone can take!)
One Last Thought
I haven’t achieved all my 2019 goals (yet). And for once I don’t feel rushed to do so. I’m in a great position (even just by having this blog), and I feel truly grateful for 2019. I’ve come a lot way and I can finally say I built a system that allows me to look forward to each day with enthusiasm and excitement, which is exactly why I wanted to share it with you. Hope this post was somewhat helpful or even just inspiring enough to create your own system that works best for you. My best wishes and to an amazing New Year!
Let me know in the comments section down below what’s your favorite part of this system, or if you have a good one on your own. How will you make sure you stay on top of your goals and resolutions this year?!
Related Post: “How To Actually Accomplish Your Resolutions This Year”