Making Lists and Plans

In posts thus far, I’ve often referred to your “game plan” or “course of action.” What I’m talking about is the series of steps you’re taking to get you to your goals. These steps can be as broad or specific as you want or need them to be. They can be short-term, long-term, in-between or a mix of all three. As you progress in your goals, you’ll find a system that works for you.
For me, I’ve found what works for me changes as time progresses. Overall, though, my plan consists of a series of to do lists partnered with a schedule that dictates when I’m doing those items. The format may change with my mood, or as my focus shifts, but the overall plan stays the same for the most part.
Today I’ll be talking a bit about what I do. Maybe it’ll help you; maybe it won’t. Either way I hope it’ll give you ideas that will help when formulating your own course of action.
The first step is taking my desired end result and figuring out what I would need to do to get there. Let’s take a simple example: to become debt-free, I need to pay off each credit card bill and avoid charging additional items. Simple enough. I list each credit card I need to pay off. Then I break it down even farther: how much do I owe on each card? What’s the interest rate on each one? When it comes to the second part, avoiding additional charging, I try to figure out where I can cut back on spending so we’re not living beyond our means. Are there bills I can lower? Expenses I can cut?
Each one of the items on this new list becomes a mini goal, and I can break it down even farther. How am I going to pay off those bills? Will I establish a debt snowball to pay them off one at a time? Will I look at changing energy suppliers to cut my electric bill? Cutting out unneeded items on our cell phone bill? Spending-wise we’re already pretty bare bones, but if I were one to indulge, I could add things like cutting out my daily coffee and bagel run, cutting back on clothes shopping, etc.
The things I come up with become my to do list. Some items I may need to break down farther as I go along, but for now I at least have an actionable list. And once I’ve got a concrete idea of what I’m going to do, I put it into effect. I take the things I’ve decided to do and do them. I look into changing energy suppliers and select one. I cut out those extra minutes we don’t use on our cell phone. And I determine how much I’ll pay each month toward my credit card bills. Each action will take me closer to my goal, and I can check things off my to do list. If there are items I’m trying not to do, I can put that on my to do list for each day or week or month, too: i.e. pass Starbucks without stopping.
When I do the items on my to do list will vary. Some things, such as actually paying the credit card bills, get done according to my bill-paying schedule. Other things I fit in as I have the time. Sometimes I’ll take my work schedule for the week or the month and actually write in when I’ll do things, according to when I have a morning or day off.
Since I have so many goals going at once, my schedule gets quite full. To keep myself somewhat organized, there are times when I will plan out every spare moment. (When I’m feeling really unfocused, I might even plan out every free hour to keep myself on track.) Sometimes this will consist of a general goal for the day (for example “update website”). Other times I will give myself more specific tasks (make a particular phone call, run a particular errand, etc.).
Now, I’m not perfect. There are definitely times when I don’t finish everything on my schedule or my to do list. But having it all written down helps keep me accountable and focused. It’s harder to slack off without guilt if I know there are things I had scheduled myself to do. And, ultimately, the purpose is to move forward in my goals. The only way to do that is to move forward with my course of action. And, for me, that’s checking things off my to do list. What works for you?
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