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Plan your changes and change your plans

As we approach the end of the year, I, like many others, get naturally reflective and review what I’ve achieved over the past year before making plans for the year ahead.

When I was in my twenties, I had a special hardback notebook for my goals that I dedicated to this stock taking and plan setting. I found it in a drawer last week, it starts in 1995 and goes through to 2004. When partner and kids come on the scene, my book turns into annual lists of individual, joint and family goals each year. Then, at the end of the year we reviewed them to see what was ‘achieved’.

I recently read Marshal Goldsmith’s excellent book Triggers, and whilst there was some great stuff in there, I found his suggestion of writing daily and even hourly questions for myself (and marking each out of 10) to keep my goals on track, was too much even for a natural planner like me.

In 2004, when every page of my goals notebook was full of lists and reviews, rather than getting another book for 2005, we just stopped. I think, truth be told, I had been driving the whole planning thing for the rest of the family and whilst this may have ticked my motivational boxes, it didn’t really hit the spot for the rest of them. Thinking about it now, it seems a bit rich for me to attempt to plan their lives as well as my own. I remember finding it harder and harder each year to get everyone’s reviews and lists for the next year! I wonder how they put up with it for so long!

The point to note here is that we all have different ways of planning for and making change and whilst some of us may be more comfortable with the formal structure of written plans; for others, this is too restricting and can limit spontaneity. All this goal setting and planning can put us in a mindset of constant striving; wanting something else, something better, something different. It can assume a discontentment with the status quo and doesn’t sit well with being mindful and finding pleasure and peace in who we are right now.

So, my over planning was a bit much for the rest of the family. But it’s funny, after a few years of hiatus on the planning front, other planning and review methods have developed in the Hudson household which (surprisingly!) haven’t actually been led by me.

In 2008, after what seemed like a particularly busy year, my husband took it upon himself to write up our family highlights in the form of an A5 hand written poster. This was then framed and put up in our downstairs loo. It’s now turned into another tradition. Every year he makes a point of logging particular things of note on our family calendar, and at the end of the year he spends the day reviewing the calendar and designing a bespoke word-art depiction for that year. It’s not just the big things, but the small things too, taking note of an in-joke or a film we watched.

We’ve now got 12 framed yearly reviews on the walls and if we ever need to settle a dispute about what year did this or that happen, we can easily sort it out. For the record, our beloved rabbit, Spot, died in 2012 and according the yearly review he was “An ambassador for his breed”!

In 2016, we started another new tradition in the Hudson house too - a predictions jar. On New Year’s Day we all sit around the table and write down predictions for each other or goals for ourselves for the year ahead. These are written anonymously on slips of paper, which are folded up and put in a jar. The jar is then put away in a cupboard and opened the same time the following year. Opening the jar and sharing the predictions, evokes an hour or so of happiness, laughter, surprise and reflection. I can’t wait for this year’s opening, I know my prediction of starting my own business will finally have come true!

My conclusion on planning is that we’re all different and different things motivate us. For me, there are times in my life, when I know I am planning a change or approaching a transition, that I really need some formal planning and structure to help map the steps from A to B. If it’s written down, this helps to keep me on track. If you are focused and target driven, a clear set of goals and a plan is invaluable or even essential.

At other times in my life, I am aware that I am in a period of consolidation or learning, and really benefit from being less structured and more open to passing opportunities and to go where the wind takes me a bit.

What works for you? And how are you starting 2020?

Remember - Don’t be so focused on the future that you forget to enjoy the present.

Books to suit planners:

Marshall Goldsmith – Triggers – sparking positive change and making it last

Stephen Covey – 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

If you’re not a planner:

Nicey and Wifey - A nice cup of tea and a sit down.

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