You know that scene in Back to the Future where Doc shows up on Marty’s porch to tell him about his future? This post is like that, only I’m going to be talking about the importance of goal setting in your planner.

The Importance of Goal Setting in Your Planner | When you've got big dreams and ideas, the importance of goal setting becomes very clear. I like to set goals and track them in my planner so I know that I'm always on track.

Original photo by STIL 

So that was a weird intro, but I’m a weird person. And know that I just can’t fathom starting this post any other way.

But here’s why:

When I was younger, I set a lot of really lofty goals. They were the sort of goals that were pretty much impossible, and I never achieved them. It was stuff like “publish a novel by the time I’m 21,” or “be a millionaire by age 30.”

It was mostly toxic and unattainable given the background and support system for writing I had. But that hindsight is something I only have now. I sure as hell spent a lot of time being sad and depressed about not achieving those goals though. In fact, I would argue ages 18 through 29 were spent just straight up hating myself for not achieving impossible things, and putting in unnecessary work and networking with the wrong people.

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(This isn’t to say that everyone I met and everything I did then was bad. It is to say that I wasn’t in a place where I could do what I needed to do for me or my career. This is mostly because I didn’t have any achievable goals. Thank goodness for Saturn returns, though, right?)

But now, I’m a much happier person, and I’m definitely getting better about goal setting, and creating action plans to achieve these goals.

The Importance of Goal Setting

Like I mentioned before, I used to set impossible goals. While there are a lot of writers who publish novels by the time their 21, they are certainly the exception. And I didn’t have a support system around my writing then. In fact, some day, I believe Kathryn Trattner and I will do a tell-all documentary about our experience with a male-dominated writing class, and how it almost silenced us.

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If you want to know a bit more, you can read about it here. But also know that if we were to do that tell-all documentary, the rest of the women in the publishing industry would be like “this is so tame and y’all got off real easy.”

It’s sad, but true.

Anyway, for me now, I don’t make big goals like that. I mean, I make goals that are a big deal, but I don’t make them so big they’re impossible.

The importance of goal setting for me is tied to planning. I like having a goal, because I can reverse-engineer that and create a play-by-play plan to get there. And then, it becomes a matter of achieving little attainable steps.

“But Marisa, couldn’t you have done that with your novel when you were young so you published by the time you’re 21?” you ask, smugly glaring over your mug of coffee.

“No,” I say, grabbing a chair and smashing it over your head. I leave the coffee shop, but not before dropping a $50 on the table because I feel bad for the worker that will have to mop up your head blood.

When I was 21, I didn’t have the tools necessary to write. I mean, I had a laptop and a love of stories, but I didn’t have all the metaphorical things I needed. All the friends I had at the time belittled what I did, to the point where I believed what they said. I had also just completed my creative writing degree. And while I felt like I had a lot of knowledge, I don’t think I had the sort of perspective necessary to give my stories any meaning.

I still loved writing, but I didn’t have the life experience to write anything good.

This is something I notice with a lot of books. You can always tell when a writer is following the formula of story structure and the formula of logical steps for a human life. There isn’t anything messy about their characters, which is to say, there isn’t anything real.

I like to write real. There should be sadness. There should be terrible childhood memories that basically tear your characters apart then, and twice as bad when they think about it as adults. There should be characters who are destined to pass on generational trauma, and those characters that tear their lives apart to stop it.

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But at 21, how could I know that? How could I know anything beyond the bass beat in my headphones or the clever lyrics whatever white boy with a guitar spat out? How could I put any emotion into my writing when I wasn’t really allowing myself to feel any of the emotions in my life? (If I were, I wouldn’t have maintained very many friendships from that time.)

This may seem very far removed from goal setting. But I promise it’s not. The importance of goal setting lies in knowing yourself and knowing what you’re capable of. And it’s only when you know what you’re capable of that you can achieve those goals. If you’re stuck in a place where people doubt you constantly and you believe it to, then you’re destined to fail.

The importance of goal setting is being able to tell yourself you have the skills and abilities to do a thing, and fuck anyone who says otherwise.

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Goal Setting in Your Planner

Now, I’m in a place in my life where I like to create big, hairy scary goals. The type of goals that could up-end my life as I know it if I were to achieve them. (If you follow me on Instagram, then you know I’ve been hinting at how this about to happen — BIG TOWER CARD ENERGY RIGHT NOW.)

(Also, that makes sense because I’m currently in a Wheel of Fortune/Fool year of my life. Pardon the foray into tarot and numerology. Back to pragmatic stuff.)

Know that those big, hairy scary goals? You can’t achieve them if you aren’t in the right place mentally. Or, rather, you probably can, but the outcome will destroy you. Upleveling is hard, especially when you know the princess is in another castle always.

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(Thats a Nintendo metaphor for you young kids. Basically, I’m saying that even though you achieve a thing, it’s never the end of your journey.)

But one thing that keeps me sane when my life is on the cusp of a big, big change is my planner. And you should know that by now, especially since I write a lot about it. I used to think the planner was to keep me organized, but now I realize its manifest purpose is self-care.

Here’s how I’m using my planner in a pretty big upleveling season:

So, for me, I keep track of my goals in my planner, and on my Kanban board. I like having these visual reminders of where I am. I also like knowing how far I’ve come and how far I have to go.

And can I just say that it’s easier to make space for projects when you’re spending time focusing on them in a planner? Like, you can actually see when you will tackle the thing, and that makes all the difference.

(And this post about weekly planning sessions from Life with Dee is a great way to keep yourself organized for the week ahead.)

Remember when I said you need to know what you’re capable of to actually achieve your goals? Well, that’s why I love goal setting in a planner. You know you can do it, and you can see the time you’ll do it too.

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Do You Set Goals in Your Planner?

How do you track your goals? How do you like to visualize how far you’ve come? What’s a goal that you used to get down on yourself for not accomplishing even though it was probably impossible?

2 Responses

  1. I am thisclose to tossing my Simplified Planner into the pool and adopting a new system. It’s just not working for me anymore and, quite frankly, looking at it is a reminder of the dumb shit I’ve done to sort of keep up in the planner world. I ain’t about that life anymore. Probably going to switch over to a bujo-esque system so I can set shit up the way I want to set it up which includes working on goal setting. Any goals I do have written down are in my journal right now which is ok by me. I just need to make them more clear and concise.

    1. I totally feel that. I’m finding that a lot of the pre-designed systems are just too much to deal with and don’t let me focus on what I need for my work.

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