A step-by-step guide to goal setting

‘Fewer things, more deeply’ is a slogan I created to guide my personal priority setting about five years ago. It emerged as I fought my way out of a period of over extension. 

One of the indicators of my over extension at the time was when my old habit of sacrificing sleep to stay on top of my commitments crept back into my life. Adequate sleep was a superpower I had struggled to integrate into my life until my mid-thirties. When I hit that period of over extension in my late 30s, and now, as I sit cozy in my 40s, taking an extended break from this superpower is no longer an option I’m willing to entertain. 

Fewer things, more deeply means saying ‘no’ more often 

In December, I wrote about a quick, three question approach to ‘letting go’ of 2022. At the end of it, I said I would share a process for ‘welcoming change’ in early 2023.

In the spirit of ‘fewer things, more deeply,’ my suggested process for ‘welcoming change’ into your life this year is heavily focused on saying ‘no’ more often in order to say ‘yes’ more loudly, to a shorter list of true priorities. 

Because not only do I want you and me both to tap into that adequate sleep superpower; but, as a consultant, facilitator, and coach who works with people and organizations dedicated to social change, I also know that you can do anything, but you can’t do everything. (To paraphrase David Allen.) Choosing the right, top priorities and zeroing in on a plan to advance them is job one if you want to welcome real change in 2023. 

Here’s one, ten step approach to doing that: 

  1. Take some time reflecting on your 2022 (you can use my three questions, or another series of questions you’d prefer to reflect on). 

How do you want to feel at the end of 2023?

  1. Next, spend some time tapping into how you want to feel at the end of 2023, or what you want to be celebrating. A facilitation exercise I use frequently is to set yourself up with a piece of paper and some coloured pencils or markers. Then, set a timer for 15 minutes and draw a picture of yourself in December 2023. What are you doing / holding / wearing? Where are you? Who is with you? If there’s a thought bubble above your head, what does it say? 
  1. On a new piece of paper, write out a list of the two to five main domains of change that you identified in your drawing. For me, this list changes as the circumstances of my life change. For example, until I became a parent ‘Family Caregiving’ took up less space in my life and looked very different. Below are my current domains. What are yours?
    • My Consulting Business
    • Social Connection 
    • My Partnership 
    • Family Caregiving 
    • Putting My Mask on First

More, less, differently, tweak

  1. Take a look at your domains and beside each one write one of the following words: More, Less, Differently, or Tweak. ‘More’ reflects a desire for this domain to take up more space in your life. ‘Less’ means you want to make it smaller. ‘Differently’ means keeping it about the same size but seeking noticeable change in how you approach it and / or the outcome. ‘Tweak’ means small change.
    • Look for some balance in your change portfolio. Unless you have endless amounts of free time, you should aim to have a couple of ‘Tweaks’ and maybe only one or two ‘Mores’ These would ideally be balanced out with a ‘Less’ or two. 
    • If all you have are ‘Tweaks:’ that’s okay. Whether this is because you had a very optimized 2022 and are focused on small improvements, or, because you know you can’t handle a lot of change in 2023, what’s important is that you are being honest and strategic about your 2023 change agenda. 

Pick one area where you’re feeling most called to change

A cardboard sign held up on a stick in front of treetops and a blue sky reads: All you need is less.
Photo by Etienne Girardet on Unsplash
  1. For the next step, you need to choose a domain to focus on. Take some time to briefly reflect on where you are feeling most called to change, and start there. Write the domain on which you want to focus at the top of a new piece of paper. Then, on the rest of the paper, draw a table with five columns across and about six rows down. Leave some space in each row to write a few notes. Label the five columns: Activity, More, Less, Differently, and Tweak.
  1. List out the main activities you plan to undertake within this domain in the rows under the ‘Activity’ column. Then, take a few minutes with each activity to describe the change you’re considering under one of the the More, Less, Differently, or Tweak columns to the right of it. If you have a lot of activities, create an additional table on a second piece of paper. 

Take a break!

  1. Take a break! Really. Stop here and step away for a while. Let your brain process all this heavy lifting subconsciously while you do something else. Then, when you come back to what you’ve done, check in with how you’re feeling about the domain of change you have identified, and where More, Less, Differently, and Tweak are showing up in your activities.
  2. At this point, you can choose to repeat steps five to seven for the rest of your domains. Or, if you already feel like you have a lot to start with, make a ‘fewer things, more deeply’ choice and put them aside. You can come back to them in March or April, once you’ve (hopefully) made some progress on this initial list of priorities. 
  1. On a new piece of paper, write a list of your top three to five priority activity changes. Of course, you probably surfaced a lot more than three to five changes! And, maybe I’m wrong and tackling ten changes at once makes sense for you. But, that’s often not the case. Most of us should really just start with three to five. Also, consider balance. If you’re doing ‘More’ of one thing then you need to consider balancing it out with ‘Less’ of something else. 

First prioritize, then plan

  1. Spend some time planning these priority changes in more detail. Important questions include: What are the first few steps and when are you going to take them? Also, do the steps build on one another meaning there’s an ideal sequence between them? And, is one of the changes about ‘Less’ and you need to wind it down before you start a change that calls for ‘More’? Are there costs involved? Do you need to add in an activity (saving up money?) to make one of your changes happen? 

Step 10 is the one many people never get to. Usually there are two reasons for this. One, they didn’t get focused enough in their priority setting, and action planning for too long or broad of a list of changes is overwhelming. Or, two, all of their changes involve ‘More’ and they aren’t prepared to create space for implementation. That’s why the ‘fewer things, more deeply’ mindset is key.

Setting down something I love (and deleting Twitter)

As for me, I have decided my word for the year ahead is LESS.

My first domain of focus is my Consulting Business. I want to deliver greater impact for my clients by investing in the growth of a targeted list of service offerings in 2023. 

To create space for this I am not planning to produce another season of my podcast, Life Without Us. I loved creating the two seasons of the pod already out there in the world, and I have deeply appreciated the amazing feedback from loyal listeners. But, it’s time to apply a ‘fewer things, more deeply’ mindset to my business. That means setting down something that I love. 

Also, I broke up with Twitter. I deleted my Twitter profile and all instances of the app across my devices. I will focus my social media engagement on Instagram and LinkedIn. Please find me there if we’re not already connected!

My 2023 focus

I will orient my blog posts and my free monthly newsletter (sign up for it below!) around my 2023 service offering investments. 

This year, you can expect me to focus on:

  • The experiences of racialized women executives, and the launch of a new offering related to my Women of Colour in Leadership coaching practice. 
  • The why and how of Community-Centred Strategic Planning, which is my specialty and the service the majority of my clients reach out to me for. This post gave you a small peak into my tool box for personal priority setting. What I bring to organizational strategy journeys is even more impactful (plus, inclusive and collaborative!)
  • Conflict literacy. From practices to get ahead of it to systems to respond to it, conflict is something that comes up a lot in my work as a facilitator and I believe we all need to get a lot better at it on our path to recentring interdependence.

I wish you well in your 2023 journey to welcoming change. May it be one that embraces a ‘fewer things, more deeply’ energy!

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