It is that time of year! It is the time that, statistically, most Americans give up on their New Year’s Resolutions. If the studies I have read are accurate, then 80 percent of those who made resolutions or set goals at the beginning of the year have given up on them by now. Can you believe that? 80 percent! If that is true of you, then I have a solution for you.
In Stephen Covey’s classic, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Covey asks us, the readers, to close our eyes and imagine our own funeral in the future. He then asks, “What would we want others to say about us and the lives we lived?” This is a truly effective exercise, but I think I have a slightly different twist on it. You’re going to love this!
Maybe it is the material I am choosing to read. It could be the kind of people I am around these days. Whatever the case, I am hearing more and more about life plans and finding a “calling” from God. I wonder if there might be a serious problem in these discussions that too many people are missing?
Life Plans Are Good
First of all, I do not want anyone to think I believe life plans are bad! I have one myself that I tweak and clarify every year. I have written a great deal about being intentional in living out or lives for eternal impact. A solid life plan can be a great tool in this process.
Imagine for a minute that you know me as a 100% reliable and trustworthy source. Imagine also that I have just told you that I have undeniable evidence that the U.S. Government is going to file bankruptcy in Federal Court next Monday morning. What would be your reaction?
Ripple Effects of Bankruptcy?
I am not a guru when it comes to these types of issues, but I am fairly sure I could make some educated guesses about some of the ripple effects of an event like this. I assume you could do the same. In light of that, how does your current investment portfolio look? What would be your new financial plan?
Would you buy more shares of stock or sell what you have? Would you invest in the U.S. Dollar or move toward gold and silver? Would you make plans to spend as much as you could before the date of the event or would you try to invest in those areas (food, barter materials, etc.) that would contribute to your long term survival and well being?
Would any of these actions change if I told you the date of the bankruptcy filing was actually 6 months from now versus next week? What about one year from now or longer? How would your urgency change?
Truth Is Worse!
Obviously, I do NOT have advance notice of a bankruptcy filing like this. Unfortunately, the knowledge I have is far worse than this. In fact, I am fairly confident that you have this same knowledge that I have.
Folks, the truth is that this entire world that we inhabit is bankrupt. The filing has already been made and we are simply living out the discharge process. What is the only major difference in this news and my fictional bankruptcy filing?
We read in 2 Peter 3 that this world is already scheduled to be destroyed. Everything in it will be destroyed and our works laid bare. Bankruptcy has been filed, but the discharge process is taking time. Peter tells us here that the Lord is patient, but the events are coming nonetheless.
Let me translate to be clear. Everything you “own” right now will be destroyed. It will have a value of $0. Any investments you have in land, buildings, stocks, etc. will be brought to a total value of zero. This is a total and complete bankruptcy with full liquidation of assets.
So…what is your plan? How does your current portfolio look? Do you feel good about its diversity? Are you wisely invested in those areas that will last after this bankruptcy?
Back to the issue of timing. In my fictional bankruptcy, I gave you a hard date, a timeline that you could see and one that would allow you to make necessary adjustments. The world bankruptcy explained by the Bible does not do this. No one knows when the final discharge will happen.
And that, my friends, is why many of us are asleep at the wheel. We think we have time. We are living with the illusion that we can deal with these eternal investment issues at some point in the future. Unfortunately, we simply do not know. Therefore, many sleep.
I am sorry, but I just don’t think that is what we are supposed to be doing. As for me, I am certain that I have entirely too much left invested in this world and not nearly enough laid up in heaven. I am working on that, but I have a long way to go.
What about you? What if this “world bankruptcy” were to be discharged today…how would your portfolio fare? If you are like me, that is a scary proposition. While I know without a doubt that my soul would survive the fire, I am concerned that I have too much stuff that would not.
I have told you before that my job description, and life’s goal, is to add silhouettes. To the extent that I can accomplish this goal, my investment in this effort will survive the fire. My struggle is to invest more and more time, energy, and resources into this effort and less into the material rewards of this world.
I must continue working to shift my portfolio away from the temporal and toward the eternal. I am convinced that we are called to live IN this world. I am just as convinced that we are not to make it our home. We should be renters here, not owners.
I encourage you to take some time and think through this idea of world bankruptcy. Think about where you are currently investing your time, treasure, and talents. Consider Paul’s warning (1 Corinthians 3:10-15) to us and begin doing work that will survive the fire. I think this would be a great investment for you!
What does your portfolio look like today?
What action do you need to take to correct it?
What is your level of urgency? What should it be?
[title color=”orange-vibrant” align=”scmgccenter” font=”georgia” style=”normal” size=”scmgc-7em”]Free Book Give Away!!![/title]
Another Free Book Give Away?
You read that right! I am offering a free copy of Todd Gongwer’s book, LEAD…For God’s Sake!: A Parable for Finding the Heart of Leadership!
How Do You Win?
If you scroll down just a bit you will see the Rafflecopter entry form which outlines a bunch of ways to enter the LEAD…For God’s Sake! giveaway. Just complete as many as you would like to be entered to win!
Why Am I Doing This?
I started this blog in an effort to spread the message of integrating the Christian faith into our businesses. I want to see more Christian business owners and leaders begin looking at their businesses from an eternal perspective and running them as platforms for Christian ministry.
While I know my posts are written toward this effort, I thought I would try to step it up a notch for 2013. My plan is to give away one book a month for the entire year! All I am asking from you is to follow the Rafflecopter instructions below. As you enter, you will be helping me to spread the word about this blog at the same time. We both win!
This Month’s Book: Todd Gongwer’s Lead…For God’s Sake!
…an engaging and compelling narrative. As a business leader I found its takeaways right on target. I wasn’t able to put it down. It’s that good!
–John Beckett, Chairman, the Beckett Companies, Author, Loving Mondays
This is a book I could not put down until I finished it. Every parent, coach, manager, and leader should read it. I wish I had read it 30 years ago. –Lou Holtz, Former Notre Dame Head Football Coach
I wish LEAD…For God’s Sake! had been available to my classes and seminars for business and practitioners over the last twenty five years. It is that good…an engaging story you won t want to put down. –Dr. John E. Mulford, Former Dean of the School of Business; Director Center for Entrepreneurship, Regent University
Enter The Give Away
Follow the instructions below to enter the Lead…For God’s Sake! contest and then spread the word to others! The contest ends at midnight on Saturday, August 31st and the winner will be announced on Sunday, September 1st.
In her second guest post in this two-part series, Kari Scare digs into the details about the daily plan that is part of her overall life plan. Her method is simple and straight forward, making it very useable for anyone! It brings some structure, but retains flexibility for those days we all need it! I highly recommend you take a look at her overall “Big Picture” in her last post as well as consider the details of her daily plan as she describes it today. You will probably want to read more from Kari at her blog – Struggle to Victory.
My Daily Plan
As detailed in The Big Picture, my husband and I created a life plan together many years ago. We do our best to teach our boys the elements of that life plan in the way we operate as a family and as individuals.
Each member of my family lives out the life plan in very different ways, that is to say we have unique daily game plans. Though how we each live in the details is unique to the individual, we still work as a unit to make sure our family stays on track with its priorities.
Today’s post details the carrying out of the Big Picture “daily plan” from my perspective.
Creating a Daily Plan
Each morning, I make time to allow the following process to happen. During the week, this process can last an hour or two. When the family is home, the process sometimes need shortened or at least metered out differently.
- 1. Hear the timeline the Holy Spirit has for my day. Because I tend to over-control, I must give my day over right away to the Spirit’s control. I do this through time in prayer and God’s Word.
- 2. Make a list of the day’s goals. Sometimes this involves repurposing part of my last “to do” list, and sometimes a new one gets created. This list comes into existence during step 1, usually one piece at a time.
- 3. Seek confirmation of the game plan. Did I mention that I tend to over control? Because this truly is a chronic struggle for me, I spend time reading Christian blog posts and short devotions after my list is created. No set number, just enough until I feel a peace in my spirit about the day’s plan.
This approach attempts to pre-empt my tendency to over-control and script my day too much. In my head, I call it forcing things. I used to live a life where I forced every aspect, partly because I lacked patience and partly because I thrived on control. This scripting or forcing always led to immense frustration.
The above process works well for creating my daily plan. But alone, it’s not quite enough structure. I like flexibility, but I also realize that my moods and feelings can easily distract me. For this reason, I use the following tools to help keep me focused and structured enough to stay productive.
- · Lists
Some are paper & some electronic. My weekly project list and daily “to do” list (sometimes these are one and sometimes separate), are written out on paper. Then, I use Evernote and Alarm Stiky Note on my tablet for other lists such as books to read and shopping lists.
- · Calendars
I have an electronic calendar for appointments and a paper calendar for my writing. The electronic calendar goes with me pretty much everywhere, but the blog calendar stays with my writing material. I check my electronic calendar daily and the writing calendar when necessary to direct my writing priorities.
- · Journal
This is where I keep prayer requests, where I express my emotion, where I address problems and struggles, and where I consider goals and focus areas.
Devotions allow God to direct my thoughts, feelings, goals, etc. Sometimes I use a book of devotions, and sometimes I use devotions from other blogs. Sometimes I read just one, sometimes several. God uses devotions written by godly people to confirm His Spirit’s direction.
- · Bible study
The Holy Spirit always has a specific focus for me to study that goes deeper than daily devotions.
· Scripture memorization
This is the area with which I struggle the most. I continually have scripture I want to memorize and am working on a solid system that I can stick with.
· Idea book
While I am very picky about the book I use for this, I am not so picky about what I write inside. Sometimes I write brief thoughts, quotes and notes. Sometimes, I write outlines for posts or studies. And often, I write an entire post out before typing it. This is the book I take with me when writing at the coffee shop or sitting outside on the deck. When I want to decide blog post topics, I go through this book.
Each of these items is an essential tool in my daily plan. They are adaptable to my needs and moods, yet they also provide a structure that helps me stay focused. This system helps me release control and rely more on the Spirit’s leading as I live out the details of The Big Picture.
Do you see how you could manage a similar daily plan?
Which of these tools should you immediately add to your daily plan?
Do you see enough flexibility in this daily plan process?
Have you read about the life plan and goal setting methods others use? Do they frustrate you because you think differently or cannot seem to keep up with some of the details they build into their process? If so, you may just love this (and the next) guest post from my friend in the blogging world, Kari Scare. If you like this one, check out more of her work at Struggle To Victory!
The Best Goal-Setting & Time Management Method in Existence!
Guilt. Frustration. Embarrassment. Inadequacy.
This is how I used to feel when I failed to set goals the “right” way. When I heard about a person’s completed life plan or even a personal mission statement, I felt defeated because I just couldn’t manage to create my own.
Unconventional Life Plan
I have felt like a failure over and over again because I didn’t set SMART goals and because I didn’t do a SWAT analysis or put a daily game plan together in just the right way. I have felt ineffective because I don’t use an app to do just about everything for me, including helping me break negative habits and establish new ones.
Then this thought struck me. If I struggle so much with feeling this way, why am I still so productive? Why do I have so many solid habits that keep me healthy physically, spiritually and mentally? I then finally realized that while my methods might not fit into the mainstream mold of goal setting and habit management, what I do still works very well. This led me to my next question.
Best Life Plan Method?
So, what really is the best goal-setting method? What really works for creating new and breaking old habits? The answer to these questions transformed my life. Ready? Here it is: Whatever works for you!
No two people will use exactly the same life plan method, nor should they. We may take bits and pieces from other methods, but what works best for a person will be unique to that person. We all have different blends of personality style, temperament and learning style, so why wouldn’t our styles for managing time, goals and habits be different too?
As a result of these realizations, I now value my personal life plan method for setting and reaching goals and for making new and breaking old habits. My method revolves around the creation of a Big Picture, a life focus if you will, that sets priorities. It also includes two other essential elements, accountability and regular touch points.
The Big Picture
Each of the elements in creating my life plan holds a lot of details within themselves. The priorities and basic philosophy don’t change, but how accountability plays out and touch points are maintained do change as one season of life fades into another.
1. Set priorities.
My life plan involves three focus areas, God first, family second and work third. My husband and I decided these priorities years ago, and both of our lives are organized around them. The choices we make, such as how to fill our calendars, our financial planning, etc., revolve around these focus areas.
2. Establish accountability.
The primary reason my husband and I combined our life plan into one is to live as fully as possible in the truth that two become one at marriage (Mark 10:8).
Another very important reason we did this was for accountability. While we must make decisions separately at times, we know they must fit within our priorities. We constantly check with each other to make sure we stay within our priorities as well as avoid over-commitment. The idea being that we want excellence in fewer things rather than mediocrity in many.
3. Create touch points.
Touching base on our priorities, which basically means keeping each other accountable, is part of our life’s routine. We coordinate our calendars regularly and discuss commitments prior to making them whenever possible. We have daily downloads every day when possible, even if they need to happen electronically.
We also make a point to talk in more depth on our priorities at least quarterly. We try to do this away from home, say at a coffee shop or on a dinner date. We also go away as a family twice a year for connection that includes delving into goals and priorities.
Solid Guide, Different Parts
The process for creating and maintaining The Big Picture has been solid guide for career and parenting choices as well as served to strengthen our marriage too.
This Big Picture provides the framework for our lives, but we each carry out the unique parts we play in very different ways. In other words, we live in the details in different ways.
In the next post, Living In the Details, I will detail my personal approach to carrying out a daily plan, and approach that fits my personality and temperament. While no two people live life exactly the same way, we certainly can gain insight, inspiration and ideas from one another. That is my prayer in sharing my personal plan with you.
What do you think about this approach to a life plan?
Which part can you take and apply immediately?
What benefits do you see in using this plan?
In my last two posts, I went into detail about a daily game plan that I am working on in an effort to avoid spiritual drift and remain focused on my life plan. While I am certainly seeing some results that are promising, it is also a struggle for me. In comment on the last post, fellow blogger Kari Scare mentioned this same struggle in creating a new habit.
Here are her comments:
I would love to consistently use something like this. But, something inside of me…keeps it from becoming a habit. In fact, I did use something similar to this for a while but ended up going back to my list method…I still wonder at my inability to stick with that.
I’m a driven person, very productive. I stick to the focus areas that my husband and I set. Yet, I realize how something like this would amplify my life. SO, maybe you could address some of what I struggle with in another post.
New Habit Struggle?
Do you experience this kind of struggle in creating a new habit? Do you get frustrated at your inability to remain consistent with a new habit even when you know it will improve your life?
If you struggle like this, you are not alone. Just visit a fitness club or gym during the first week in January and again in mid-March. There is a huge difference in how busy it is, right? The fallout is huge!
So what we really want to know is how to overcome this struggle in creating new habits. What is the magic formula for beating this part of us that resists new habits (at least the good ones!) and keeps us from improving?
Well, to start off, there is not a magic formula. I will not even try to convince you that I have the silver bullet for this problem.
New Habits Not Impossible
What I will tell you is that it is not an impossible feat to create new habits. People that are faced with decisions between exercising and facing life-threatening medical issues have proven this to be true over and over. Others have done it without the threat to life. So how do they do it?
As I said, I do not have a silver bullet, but I do have some simple insights. Take a look at the following three keys and see if they make sense to you. While this is not a guaranteed formula, I am convinced that if all three keys are present, your odds of successfully creating a new habit will increase exponentially!
#1 – It MUST Be A Priority To You
While this may sound overly simplistic, it is true. Either it IS or it IS NOT a priority for you. If you are absolutely confident that any given tool or habit will make your days better and your life more effective, then you just have to decide if that is what you want.
It cannot be a suggestion someone else is making for you. It cannot be something that would be “cool” if you did it. Nor can it be something you are guilted into doing.
You have to want it more than whatever else is currently occupying the time it takes to do it (e.g. exercise vs. 30 minutes more sleep). You have to want it more than it will cost you in time, money, effort, etc. If you want it badly enough, then you will make it work.
#2 – Enlist Accountability
Look back at Kari’s comments. What is the one thing she mentioned that she is able to stick to? Exactly, it is the focus areas that she commits to with her husband! I do not believe that is a coincidence.
Is this the only way? No. Can we develop a new habit without accountability? Sure. I did not say this is the only way. It will just increase your odds exponentially. So if that is the case, why not enlist accountability.
This step is not really that tough. The accountability partner does not necessarily have to be creating the same new habit as you are (though it would certainly be helpful if they did). You just need to have a relationship with them that would cause you to avoid having to admit failure to them.
Just explain to them what you are trying to do and how you need them to help you with it. Then set up regular intervals for follow-up conversations. Give them a list of several key questions you want them to ask you. You could even make it fun (and increase the pressure) by committing to buy their lunch (or a coffee) every time you fall short of the new habit!
#3 – Embrace Grace!
Sure, it needs to be a habit. Sure it is better if we do it EVERY day without fail. At the same time, even this habit will eventually become stale and you will risk becoming legalistic about it. Instead of feeling like a failure when we miss a day or only half-way complete it, we should just give ourselves the grace that God gives us.
Move on. Start again tomorrow. The world will not end. Your life will not suddenly become ineffective and worthless. Don’t buy into the lie that one miss means the whole effort is over!
Of course, if the missed days begin to equal or outnumber the days you complete the task, then you need to refer back to #1. IS it or is it NOT something you need to be doing?
I hope this discussion helps you as you approach a new habit. My prayer is that we all continue to look for ways we can weave new habits into our lives that will continue to help conform us to the likeness of Christ. At the same time, we cannot see ourselves as failures when we fall short. We just need to get up and try again.
Have you attempted new habits with all three of these keys in place?
What were your results?
What is your biggest struggle in attempting to create new habits?
If you have ever worked on a life plan for your life, then you know the process can be somewhat overwhelming. You likely know that maintaining that life plan can become a burden at times, depending on how you have it set up. In light of that, I have come up with a tool I am calling a daily game plan that may just be the help you are looking for!
Daily Game Plan
In my last post, I described how I progressed from modifying and tweaking my life plan to creating a more simple tool called a daily game plan. Birthed out of an idea I got from reading Seven Days in Utopia, this daily game plan is an effort to apply life plan strategy to our daily lives. Take a look at my last post for more on the thought process behind this tool.
As I promised in the last post, I want to take you through the current version of my daily game plan tool. I will go over each area and explain how I use it. I will also give you the option to download a pdf of it. As I go through this process, be thinking about how you would improve this tool. I am going to ask you for your feedback at the end.
How To Proceed
The best way for you to go through the rest of this post is to [CLICK HERE] for a marked-up, full-screen view of a completed daily game plan. Because each section is labeled to make it easier to follow along, you will likely want to keep this open in the separate tab and flip back and forth between them. If you would prefer, you can also just print a copy. Either way, it will be helpful to have it visible as you progress through my description below.
Section #1 – Key Questions
This first section is fairly simple. As you can see, I put the day and date in the box at the top and then I read through the questions. These questions are some that I pulled together and may change from time to time. You could add your own here.
Sometimes I actually write a one or two word answer to some of the questions. Sometimes I just think about them and leave them blank. The point is to read and contemplate these questions every day. I want these thoughts becoming part of my mindset throughout the day.
Section #2 – Calendar
The next section is a condensed calendar picture of my day – only the highlights. I do not put more than three or four items on this calendar. The purpose of this section is two-fold.
First, I want to think through my day and how it will flow. When I have to write it like this and only have room for the select few events, I have to visualize how they will fit together. The second reason is to remind me of those bigger appointments when I glance over the game plan during the day.
Section #3 – Key Focuses
In this third area of my daily game plan, I write the most important task or project for me to accomplish that day. Sometimes there are a total of three or four of these items when I combine the three categories – Work, Home, Other. More often, there are only one or two items listed here.
While my to-do list is always much larger than this, completing this section of the game plan forces me to determine and prioritize my most critical tasks. This is a great exercise, especially when many days my to-do’s overwhelm me. I find that it is seldom that I do not accomplish all that is listed here.
Section #4 – Outreach & Prayer
In this part of the game plan, I stop to think about the people I am likely to work with that day. Is there anyone in particular, employee or otherwise, that I need to reach out to in a special way? If someone comes to mind with clarity, then I write their name in the space and pray for the opportunity to impact them. If not, I leave it blank.
After that, I write in those areas about which I know I need to pray. This may be something related to my marriage or my children. It could be a pending decision at work or even a habit I am trying to break. Nothing is off limits here (except a confidential request from someone else!).
Section #5 – Potential Problems
This is one area where I have seen the most impact on my days since I have been using this daily game plan. Here, on the left side, I ask the question, “What could go wrong today?” I then write down any potential surprises or obstacles that I think may pop up during the day to come.
I imagine what it might look like if a conversation I plan to have that day ends up going bad. It could be that I might receive bad news in a pending project I am working on. It could even be a temptation that I am not prepared to handle.
Once I determine a couple of likely problems, I ask myself, “How will I (later) wish I had handled it?” This is a powerful question because it forces me to think about how I would script the situation after it goes bad. It is accountability in advance! You would be amazed at how much easier it is to handle a crises when you have already visualized it and scripted your response!
For a detailed description of the meaning of the five terms (Observation, Strategy, See, Feel, Trust), you need to read the book, Seven Days in Utopia!
Section #6 – Scripture Memory
This final section of the daily game plan is the simplest, but also carries power. In the top section, I write the Bible verse that I am attempting to memorize for that week. In the bottom section, I write the verse I memorized from last week.
This rotates each week so I am writing each verse once a day for two weeks. I also glance at the reference during the day and attempt to repeat both of the verses aloud without looking. This may only happen once or twice during the day, but any repetition helps!
As I said before, I tried this on a half of a sheet of paper at first (8.5″ x 11″ folded), but I am now loading it onto my iPad in an app called Notes Plus. It is fully contained on the screen and I am able to easily access it throughout the day. This seems to work best for me as I am carrying my iPad everywhere I go now.
Like I said before, this is a work in progress. There may be parts of this idea that excite you and other parts that leave you saying, “Huh?” That is fine! I don’t expect you to accept it all as/is and start using it that way. My main purpose in sharing is to start the conversation – both in your mind as well as between all of us.
Take some time and think it over. Ask me questions or give me some suggestions. The only advice I will give is to be determined to keep it as simple as possible! Do not give in to the temptation to add two or three (or more) incremental improvements that end up making it too cumbersome to use.
For a blank copy of this game plan, [CLICK HERE].
What are your thoughts about the game plan?
Does it generate any ideas for you?
What additions/deletions would you suggest?