How to Get the Most Out of Your Goal Planner

A woman sitting on a grey couch writes in a planner with a pen.

“The moment you put a deadline on your dream, it becomes a goal.” — Stephen Kellogg 

Anyone can have a big idea, but it takes the right tools and the right mindset to be able to accomplish a goal. Planning is the ultimate way to make sure your dream becomes a goal.

Studies have shown that just by writing your goals down, you increase the likelihood that you will accomplish them. Having a goal planner is one of the best tools you can use on your journey towards accomplishing your biggest goals.

Whether you have a bullet journal, a calendar, or a goal planner focused on taking your plans from vision to finish line (like the Ink+Volt Planner), here are some ways to make sure your planner is working for you.

Spend time thinking ahead

When you know what’s coming up, you can prepare to be amazing. This is a great exercise for working backwards. Imagine your life in 10 years. What stands out to you? What is important?

Once you know where you want to end up, start thinking about what needs to happen in the meantime. What would you need to have accomplished in 5 years, in order to end up where you want to be in 10 years? What can you do this year?

Keep breaking it down. What can you do this month to move in the right direction? What steps can you take this week, or even this morning?

This process allows you to create a vision for your life, and as you work backwards towards the present day, you can get more and more strategic. Maybe you don’t know how or where you’ll buy a house in 10 years, but you know you need a down payment, so working towards savings today is something concrete you can do. You can start taking small actions today to add up to future success.

Spend some time at the very beginning of your week going over plans and other tasks you want and need to accomplish. Are the tasks on your list moving you towards your bigger picture goals? If no, what’s getting in the way? Do you need to reassess your big picture goals or your day-to-day tasks?

As you’re doing that, keep these questions in mind to help direct you forward toward your goal in the best way:

  • What’s my timeline? Sometimes goals are all about the timing. Having even a general idea of where you are in the process is helpful. Putting your work in context of the bigger picture can help you focus on the right tasks to work on right now.
  • What are the priorities? Not all tasks are equal. Some are very important. Some aren’t. As you’re setting up your weekly or daily goals, try and number them according to priority. Make sure the things you’re giving most of your time to are the things that matter most to you, or move you most efficiently towards your goals.
  • What’s the outcome? It can be easy to fall into a cycle of finishing tasks and moving on to the next one, and the larger goal can seem to get lost at times. Actively thinking about why a certain task or short-term goal is important, can introduce some clarity for the long haul and help keep you on track.

Review and adapt

Just as it’s important to think ahead, it’s important to look back, too. Goals are often held as concrete ideas that aren’t allowed to change, but really they should be quite flexible, because life itself is so fluid. 

It’s okay to reassess goals and tweak them. Circumstances may change, and you may change. Being willing to adapt is actually a sign that you are more likely to succeed, because it means you are connected to the reality of your situation. 

Block off time for reflection in your schedule. This is good to do on a small scale every week or every month, just to make sure you’re working on the things that matter. But setting aside time for bigger picture reflection -- maybe quarterly or once a year -- is also helpful for making sure your big picture goal is still something that you want.

Reflection is also a good place to assess whether the steps you’re taking to get to that goal — even if it hasn’t changed at all — are working. It’s easy to assume that if you’re busy, you’re making a lot of progress, but those two things don’t always equate. 

Make sure your efforts are paying off in the right direction.

Questions and journaling spaces throughout the Ink+Volt Planner help guide reflection each week to help you better plan for the future. You can use that space for looking back, looking forward, or looking at the big picture, whatever feels most fitting at the time.

Let’s be honest, reaching a goal is hardly ever comfortable. If it were easy, we’d all be there already. 

Reflection is a chance to practice mindfulness and how it relates to goal-setting. Putting in that time can help lead to revelations you might not have otherwise thought about, that can lead you to better understanding of yourself, your progress, and your future.

Make focused progress

Slow and steady progress is the key to accomplishing any big goal. But occasionally, it can be useful to sprint forward too.

A 30-day challenge is a great way to give dedicated effort and time to a certain habit or skill you want to grow. In the Ink+Volt Planner, you’re given a 30-day challenge page to fill out to help you establish accountability for your efforts. If you’re not sure where to start, you can use our master list of 70 30-day challenge ideas here.

By focusing on just one small habit every month, you can make sure that it doesn’t get lost in the shuffle of other daily activities that demand your attention. This exercise can help you make significant progress on something that otherwise might have taken longer without the deep focus of a 30-day challenge. 

Honor your growth 

There’s a lot that you can learn from taking a trip back in time. Every so often, it can be really rewarding and exciting to revisit the first pages of the planner where you spilled about the perfect year and how you’d get there. It’s a chance to see how far you’ve come, how much you’ve learned, and how hard you’ve worked.

If you’re not where you thought you’d be when you do your check-in, don’t fret too much. Studying your planner can help you start to get back on track:

  • Take notice of what you’ve recorded (and what you haven’t). If you think something’s missing, note that. Perhaps your daily schedule could be tighter. Maybe your goals should be dissected differently. 
  • Ask yourself whether your original goals were attainable. If not, consider readjusting. How can you make it more achievable? Maybe you need to adjust the target based on the time or resources you actually have available.
  • List the things you’d do differently over previous weeks or months. What lessons have you learned along the way? It’s okay not to be perfect -- the most important thing is that you learn and course-correct.
  • Highlight your wins! Progress is progress! Even the small stuff. Acknowledging when you had a good week or month is important. Dwelling on the failures is easy, but recognizing when you’ve done well will increase your momentum and satisfaction along the way -- which will spur you on to continue doing amazing work.

Where there’s a will, there’s a way. Putting the work into a goal will pay off. It may be tough, but a little planning and a lot of thinking will make it worth it. With a goal planner by your side, there is nothing you can’t do.

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