Saturday, January 30, 2010

Smooth Sailing or Stormy Seas? How to Get Back on Course.

Can you believe we're at the end of January already? For the most part, it has been a busy, productive month for me--how about you? Are you enjoying smooth sailing in accomplishing your goals and maintaining a positive attitude? Are storms battering your boat, making it difficult to make any headway? Is your boat at a standstill, caught in the doldrums, waiting for something to get you moving again? Have you been blown off course by unexpected things popping up and taking up your time? Hopefully, you haven't been shipwrecked altogether!

If you recall, I had broken my goals down into doable steps for each month, week, and day. So, let's see where things stand with only one day left in the month:
  1. begin revisions on my WIP (work in progress) -- began on January 4, but have not made much progress (will talk about this later);
  2. declutter one day a week--started on January 7 and, in spite of some inner resistance one day, have kept at it every Thursday and am making good progress;
  3. join two off-line writers' groups--just sent in my registration for one today online (it's an offline group with an online presence, too); will be mailing a check and membership form to the other on Monday;
  4. mail package off to brother and sister-in-law--working on that this weekend, plan to mail it on Monday.
So, overall, I'm feeling pretty good about how January has gone. If you're making progress, congratulations. Be sure to celebrate your success by doing something special for yourself.

If you're struggling or feel like giving up, step back to take a look at what's going on. What's working? Why is it working? In other words, what are you doing that is keeping you motivated and positive? What's not working? What is keeping you from moving forward and succeeding? What do you need to do in order to get back on course?

As I sat down to evaluate my own progress, I discovered that what's working for me is having my daily tasks assigned to certain days of the week, writing them on a To Do List so that I can check them off at the end of the day, and keeping the list short. Anything that doesn't get done, gets added to the next day's list; but if it doesn't get done that day either, it waits until its scheduled day the following week. It might seem odd to put something off almost a week rather than continuing to carry it over, but there is a good reason for this. If I continue to carry an undone task over, day after day, it will be a constant reminder that I'm not meeting that goal and my To Do List will grow out of control and be overwhelming. I will perceive it as a daily failure, which will breed negative feelings, which will make me resistant to tackling the task as it looms larger and larger in my mind. Instead, if I reschedule it to the following week's assigned day for that task, I can progress through the rest of the week's tasks unencumbered. When it comes up again the following week, I will have had five days of success behind me before tackling this task again, so will be able to approach it in a more positive frame of mind. Then, I can make that my first task for that day to make sure it does, in fact, get done. Each success is positive reinforcement for believing that the next task can also be accomplished.

So, what happened with my book revisions? I started off strong, then hit a snag. Maybe I hadn't let the book simmer on the back burner quite long enough and was still too close to it, or maybe it's because I prefer making corrections with pen and ink instead of on the computer (though I prefer the computer when doing the writing), or maybe it's because I hadn't yet set up a schedule with my writing buddy for mutual encouragement and accountability. Perhaps I was a little overambitious given my health issues, doctor appointments, the change in our family constellation (we adopted a new cat toward the end of the month and are helping her adjust to her new home, humans, and animal "siblings" and find her place), and the day-to-day responsibilities attendant to running a home.

Instead of beating myself up over it, I looked instead at what I'd accomplished. In addition to the things listed specifically in my goals for the month, I'd also taken positive action regarding my health and given an abandoned cat a forever home. So, what about the book revisions? They'll be number one on my goals for February when I sit down tomorrow to see what I want to accomplish during the second month of this year. Another, will be to talk with my writing buddy to set up how we want to hold each other accountable.

What were your successes in January? What caused you problems? What lessons did you learn, and what action are you taking as a result? Share your comments, gratitude list, and questions in the comment section. Let's encourage one another as we head into February.

For help on specific topics, you might like to take a look at change expert Mary Jane Ryan's blog at In addition to current articles, scroll down to the menu on the right with articles archived by topics including weight loss, tips for achieving goals, gratitude, growth, how to create lasting change, and much more.


  1. Gratitude journal for this week:

    1/22--for fresh Waldorf salad and stuffed celery;
    1/23--for friends I've made in the writing community on Facebook and Twitter;
    1/24--for an unexpected phone call from a friend, calls and emails from family and friends, and for those who posted comments on this blog;
    1/25--for the wealth of material available to us on the internet not only for research, but for entertainment, as well;
    1/26--for doctors and technicians who are willing to schedule afternoon appointments to accommodate my schedule;
    1/27--for being able to adopt our new kitty, Micau, a wonderful addition to our family, from the local Humane Society;
    1/28--for Micau settling in well with our other cat and dog, and adjusting so quickly to her new home.

  2. I think I've done pretty well this month! My goals for January were:
    1. Go through some leftover clutter (the 2 boxes in the bedroom)
    2. Start studying for Network+ certification.
    3. Book our trips to San Antonio and Chicago.
    4. Eat better foods (more fruits and veggies) and smaller portions.

    I did go through the last 2 boxes in the bedroom finally but we haven't really done any further decluttering. There are definitely some areas of the house that can use it. However, the January goal was to do the boxes and I did those.

    I have started studying for my Network+ certification. I'm halfway through the book and my plan is to take the certification test by the beginning of March.

    We booked our trips to San Antonio and Chicago!

    We have been trying to eat more veggies. We try to have at least 1 meal a day with veggies. I haven't had as much luck with trying to get fruits in. I bring something with me for lunch but that's about it. I need to work on that again for the month of February. I did well with portions up until the last 2 weeks. Well mostly this week. But February's a new day.

    My February goals are:
    1. Continue studying for Network+ and set up my test for either end of February or beginning of March.
    2. Start studying for CCNA - I'm taking a class twice a week for the first 3 weeks, so I'd like to set aside 3 hours a week for studying on my own.
    3. Start volunteering to get my community service hours in for college.
    4. Get my scholarship applications sent in by Feb. 10th.
    5. Find some time for myself and for Louie and I to do stuff together - play games, go see a movie, or something.

  3. My goals are all over the place as I struggle at the moment just to keep up with what is going on. Soon things will settle down and I'll reevaluate where I am and where I think I'm going.
    Good luck with meeting your goals.

  4. I have a To-do list for long-range projects, too, such as grants. If I read about a grant that is due in early June, I add the grant to my April or May list; otherwise I might, probably would, forget it. The list helps keep me organized and on track.

    I also a firm believer in goal setting. This year I want to utilize social networking more. Speaking of which, your blog informative and fun.

  5. I think this is great to post your accountability report on your blog. I've done pretty well with my goals in January, but I've got to get more exercise. I need to balance work and personal time. I tend to work too many hours and not take care of my body. Thanks for the reminder to stay on course.

  6. This is helpful! Thank you! Over here from the Valentine blog chain.

  7. I haven't completed everything on my goals list; however I have done a lot of things. I prefer lists because when I go back and look at it, I can see some progress.

  8. I too struggle with my writing, due to trying to get my business going.

  9. Thank you, everyone, for stopping by and posting your comments.

    Cassandra, I know what it's like to feel like you're treading water just to keep afloat with everything that's demanding your attention. Sometimes, though, that's when we need to take a "time out" to take a deep breath and prioritize. It might bring some order to the chaos. Whether now or after things settle down a bit, good luck with defining your goals, setting priorities, and working toward achieving them.

    Nancy, thank you for your kind words. You've also hit on a key point in goal setting--don't just plan ahead, plan far enough ahead that you have sufficient time to complete your goals even if something unexpected happens. Too often, we underestimate the time it will take to accomplish something and end up feeling rushed. Thanks for making such a good point.

    Yvonne, first I want to thank you again for arranging this blog chain. It has been a very rewarding and enriching experience. You've also brought up an important point--that we need to take care of ourselves in order to take care of our other responsibilities. I think this is especially hard for women because we tend to place a higher priority on the needs of others than on our own. Finding balance is important, and something that, for me, is a continual work in progress.

    Leisa, I'm so glad to have met you through the blog chain. I hope you'll visit again.

    Shelia, like you I find lists extremely helpful. They provide not only a means of not forgetting what I need to do or want to accomplish, but a way of measuring my progress. One thing I find helpful is to take my major or long-term goals, and break them down into smaller, doable ones. It helps keep me from feeling overwhelmed.

    Robert, good luck with both your writing and your business. Hopefully, you can find a balance that will allow you to do both successfully.

  10. I love your blog and like the idea of putting goals before yourself. I too try to be goal oriented after 50 years in business. Somehow, in retirement, my goals sometimes get trampled.

  11. The never ending list of things you can do to promote your work is overwhelming. I try to delegate one hour a day to real writing in the morning before I get started on all the rest.

  12. Linda, thank you for sharing your comments. It's important to have a schedule for writing and, like you, I "try" to do that. My best time for writing is at night after the house is quiet and I'm the only one awake--other than our animals. There are no distractions, and I've always been a night person, so that's when my creative juices seem to kick in.

    Thanks for dropping by. I hope you'll visit again soon.

  13. What a great blog Donna -lots of specifics that makes us follow along and challenge ourselves. I felt like you were speaking to me and we are going through the same things!.

  14. Musings, thank you for dropping by and sharing your thoughts. I'm hoping my blog will be a dialog with my readers, that we can encourage, support, and hold each other accountable in working toward achieving our goals--including the goal of writing. I find having a writing buddy to be of a tremendous benefit--someone to bounce ideas off, offer constructive criticism, and be a fellow traveler on the journey. I hope you'll drop by often.

  15. Tom, thank you for the kind words. I can relate to your comment about goals getting trampled, but hopefully it won't be a permanent condition. I find I need structure--a schedule, a To Do List, an accountability partner--in order to be consistent in accomplishing my goals. However, as you'll see in my next post, even my best laid plans can get derailed by the challenges of living with chronic illness. I want to make my blog as user friendly as possible and encourage people to engage in a meaningful dialog. I hope you'll visit again soon.

  16. I'm kind of late getting in on the goals for January, but what a great way to move through a month - whether day to day - or for the year. I have to wake up each day, as frustration from being unemployed gets to me, and set a goal. Whether it's cleaning up this one mess, organizing this, going here, contacting this person...whatever it is I can do before the kids come home.

    I am in a better place with the unemployment stuff because I had to go to our beloved Unemployment and Training office last month (January) for a training and information on the extended benefits. Based on my previous experiences there, which were not positive, I went with apprehension. I was completely blown away by the professionalism and genuine caring of the woman I got to deal with!! I was and still am in shock. She's called me with information and I've been able to call her a couple of times. Reminds me I wanted to send her a true thank you card. I told her about my previous experience and thanked her for helping to look up not feel worse than I do. I was truly encouraged by her and that says a lot!!! I don't feel bad anymore and I know I have someone in an official spot to talk to, which is immeasurable!!

    So far this month I went to a book club meeting at the city library. I figure it's a good way to "get a life" doing something I love and getting out to be with other adults. My depressive and unemployed tendencies are to hide out at home, but need to push myself out of my slump. I am committing myself to finding more ways to engage with others like this - because it's good for me and I deserve an hour or so away from home to be ME and to have adult conversation.

    And as for my goal of being more genuine - it's not that easy!! Depending on the relationship I'm finding some easier than others. I have been standing up more for myself and claiming what I need to, but it's hard to be authentic and completely genuine in some cases due to history and relationships. However, I was able to tell someone who asked me a question about how he'd be remembered if/when he died, that if he had concerns about that then he needs to change how he lives! Guess that's a good reminder for all of us.

    Speaking of that - you should watch the movie LOVE HAPPENS. It's marketed as a romantic comedy but for me it was much more than that! it was about having lost someone (the main character lost his wife) and taking steps to become "unstuck" and move forward. I really needed to hear this!! "one brick at a time" were great words in the movie and while I don't build things, I know I have to take it one day at a time and try to figure out where and what I'm supposed to be.

  17. Anonymous, although January is a common time for people to set goals, you can set them anytime, so you're not really "late." And your post is full of positive steps you're taking. You're wise to have daily goals while looking for new employment, as that can help give you a sense of control over your day and avoid apathy or depression.

    Your experience w/the woman at the Unemployment office was similar to my experience with the technicians at the hospital who administered tests I had recently. Just as the woman encouraged you, resulting in a better experience, the compassion of the technicians helped to lessen my discomfort. A little kindness can have a very positive affect on others.

    Getting out, keeping physically and mentally active, and staying connected with others are also positive steps you're taking. I like that you recognize that you "deserve" some time for yourself and for adult conversation. You reminded me of a time when my kids were little and I took one of them to the store with me. On an impulse, I picked up a bouquet of flowers and set them on the checkout. My daughter asked, "Who are the flowers for?" I replied, "They're for me." When she asked why, I said, "Because I deserve it." The clerk thought that was a great answer! When we value ourselves, others will value us, too.

    Relationships can be difficult. If we've been hurt in the past, we don't want to be hurt again. At the same time, we don't want to shut down emotionally and put up walls. Learning to set and respect our own personal boundaries is a positive action that will help others to respect them, too.

    Thank you for the movie recommendation. I'll have to look for it. I just read an article about grieving and moving forward, and how they can occur simultaneously.

    Everyone has a purpose, and I'm confident from what you've shared, that you will discover yours and fulfill it. Thanks so much for your valuable contributions to this discussion.