Sustainable, Lasting, and Life-Giving Goals Are:
- Rooted in your core calling
- Organically growing out of your context
- Outlined for clarity
- Tailored to your lifestyle
- Etched into your memory
- Developed by Providence
Last week, we talked about how to make sure your goals are clear and actionable, so that you can make significant progress whenever you have the time. Today, we're going to talk about that time, about how to create a symbiotic relationship between your goals and your lifestyle so they mutually support each other over the long-haul.
Step 4 is all about how to Tailor Goals to Your Lifestyle.
Other goal setting systems might show you how to reverse-engineer your goal (what we talked about last week), but then they end there and wish you good luck. This system shows you how to look at your goal in the context of your daily life, and then make strategic shifts in your schedule in order to make space for this goal.
Learning From Experience
When I (Shelby) was seven months pregnant with my first, my husband and I decided that I would work from home. At the time, designing a planner was nowhere on my radar. I had a complex system of to-do lists and digital calendars that makes my head spin to think back on. But what was worse than my lack of a cohesive system of organization was my total lack of understanding about the concept of trade-offs.
That’s why, at seven months pregnant with my first baby, I signed the biggest freelancing contract I’d ever seen. Without fully realizing what I was doing, and with one tiny digital stroke of the pen, I had committed the next two years of my life to the completion of a very rigorous and mentally straining project that would teach me the concept of trade-offs through the hard knocks of experience.
On top of it all, I had a severe deficit in my personal time-management skills. Unsurprisingly, this turned into a years-long season of overwhelm that bubbled into every area of my life.
Even so, I have to admit that I am thankful for that insane season of life. It was genuinely good work (a dream project, really), and I learned SO, SO much from it.
But one of the most powerful skills that I learned through that season of my work life was the skill of learning when to say “no.”
Learning to Say "No" is More Than a Cliché
I quickly learned during my first few years as a work-at-home mom that trade-offs are unavoidable, and that "No" is a responsible word. And even though a complex of mom-guilt followed me like a shadow, lying to me and telling me that I should’ve said a big fat "NO!" to trying to do any work projects while also being a mom, those lies do not align with the conclusions I’ve reached over these five years learning the ropes of entrepreneurship and motherhood.
“No” does not have to be a big, nasty slamming-of-the-door on your hopes and dreams. It’s actually a word that we’re called to use with maturity, thoughtfulness, and precision. It’s also a word that we don’t really know how to use properly until we’ve gotten some experience under our belts in whatever area of life needs pruning. Without a growth mindset, “No” is a scary and painful word.
But combined with a growth-mindset, “No” is a power tool that you can use to optimize any area of life (work, home, school, ministry, anything). When a strong “Yes!” leads to a precise set of “No’s,” you have lifestyle-crafting magic. Within the context of a “Lord willing” attitude, God has given us agency. He calls us to wisely steward the lives and resources He's given us.
So how do we use “no” as a power tool to optimize our goals and our lifestyles so that there’s a lot less toxic stress and a whole lot more synergy?
Tailoring Your Goal To Your Lifestyle
If you want to create a compelling next-right-step goal that resonates over the long haul, you have to give yourself permission to develop creative solutions that make sense for your particular circumstances. If you allow yourself to approach your goal in your own unique way, you will access a precious sense of freedom. This freedom will allow you to bring rich flavor and irreplaceable value to the table—and will help you tackle your goal with confidence.
Saying “No” with thoughtfulness and precision is included in “giving yourself permission to develop creative solutions that make sense for your particular circumstances.”
Your lifestyle — your daily and weekly rhythms, margin, deep work intervals, and other life-giving habits — should be a flexible structure that properly supports and matches the goals you want to be living out. This means that your lifestyle must be trimmed so that it provides an attractive shape for your goals to follow, instead of tugging and pulling your goals out of shape.
Your goals also need to be neat and trim. You want your goal to make sense and fit you as a person, and you can’t let FOMO prevent you from being realistic about the kind of goal that fits the size of your life and the needs of your lifestyle while still being compelling to you. You need to embrace that you, with your particular life, will necessarily infuse a unique flavor into how your goals are actually accomplished.
Optimizing Within Beautiful Limits
Let’s take a second and talk about this phrase, “Beautiful Limits.”
Looking at the tangled overwhelm in certain areas of your life would probably not feel like a “beautiful limit” to you. Your kids are loud and impossible to concentrate around, your boss won’t allow you to pursue a certain avenue, and you have a personal issue that low-key nibbles at the rest of your emotional bandwidth.
Whatever your limits are, you may struggle to call them “beautiful.”
I hear you. I feel you. But you have to start with seeing the beauty in your life, embracing it, and building off of the frameworks that you’ve chosen and been given to steward (go back to last week and look at the concentric circles of influence for more on this). Yes, there are big changes that can be made to improve any life. But oftentimes, those changes are complex and difficult to puzzle out—and the process takes time.
The good news? You can begin to tackle the logistics of making those big changes by tailoring goals to your lifestyle, and then tailoring your lifestyle to support your goals.
Beautiful things happen when you embrace your limits, trimming both goal and lifestyle so that they match and mutually support each other.
How All Of This Helped Me As a Work-From-Home Mom
When it came to working from home, there was so much excess to trim from both my goals and my lifestyle.
How I had to tailor my goals:
- I had to get deeply in touch with my “why” for working from home. Helping to capitalize and stabilize our family and our long-term business and ministry projects was at the heart of my “why.” And since my “why” centered on deeply connecting with and providing for my family and our common goals, that meant that my work would need to facilitate both deep connection and adequate income.
- I had to embrace my unique “how.” I have small children to homeschool, a husband who works full-time while freelancing on the side, and issues with chronic illness. In my life, I have to fit my work in around my mothering. I had to design solutions for my limited emotional, mental, attentional, and decision-making bandwidth. This is the precise reason why I helped create the Evergreen Planner. It acts as a hub for my brain—storing important details, providing a framework for my time, and allowing me the space to be intentional with each of my limited resources.
- I had to trim my “what.” This was the most practical, results-driven part of my goal-tailoring journey. I had to get still, get real, and get focused on what mattered most to me in my career. I wanted to be a fully present mama, but I also wanted to be excellent in my work and serve others deeply through my efforts. I had to zero in on the things that would really move the needle forward on my work goals every single time I sat down at my desk, because time was limited (and this is why outlining goals for clarity is so critical!).
How I had to tailor my lifestyle:
- I had to create daily and weekly rhythms. I had to create time-blocks for my hours and themes for my days, turning my chunks of time into buckets that would make organizing my tasks a lot easier. I had to automate as much as I possibly could, turning the mundane everyday things I needed to get done into automatic habits (so that not only would I stay on top of things, but so I could also free up a ton of emotional and decision-making energy for my work). I had to proactively make provisions for time with my kids, time to clean my home, time for working, and time for my community. All of this helped me feel mentally present for wherever I could show up, because I knew that I carved out time for all of my other responsibilities too.
- I had to identify my lifestyle anchors. These were the things that were sure to happen at the same time, every day. My anchors were when my husband went to work (9am), when my kids needed to nap or do quiet time (1pm), when my husband got off work (5:30), and when my kids went to sleep (7pm). These lifestyle anchors formed the framework for the rest of my habits. Understanding the consequences of not honoring these anchor points helped me learn to proactively transition.
- I had to schedule deep work intervals. Probably the most stressful seasons in my working life (outside of agreeing to insane deadlines) have happened because of I attempted to do work that needed 80% of my focus in the middle of a ton of distractions. Carving out time for deep work means making space for significant progress. This is time when I’m not on full-out-mom-duty (because the kids are sleeping or being cared for by Daddy), I’m not letting my phone distract me, and I’m not just pulling random work tasks out of an invisible hat. Deep work time is time spent fully focused on getting to a specific milestone of an important project. Deep work has looked different in different seasons. Sometimes it's daily, and other times it happens in larger chunks on certain days. Crafting a lifestyle that makes space for me to have this time has meant that I can make tangible daily progress in my work goals and keep vocational commitments—even with a very busy household.
- I had to create supportive habits. This has looked like consistently maturing in my morning and evening rhythms, improving my self-care habits, revisiting my boundaries around technology, regularly talking positively about my work with my kids (so they could become passionate about it too), learning better communication habits with my husband, developing techniques for sorting out my priorities and choosing what I allow to go on my schedule, and, of course, maintaining a strong habit of decluttering my brain and getting organized around my goals by leveraging my planner and this ROOTED goals system.
- I had to make sure I had margin to breathe. I had to embrace that every choice came with a trade-off. God only gave me a limited amount of time—and it is enough time to get the really important things done. But in order to get the really important things done with that limited time, I would have to prioritize. And I would have to support my energy, bandwidth, and sanity with MARGIN. You can’t sustain a breakneck and packed schedule for long. Margin is the oil that keeps your gears from stripping, and allows you to actually enjoy your family and your work, instead of only ever feeling stressed and drained by them.
How to Get Started
How do you begin optimizing your goals and lifestyle? Start by asking what’s doable in both. By asking what’s doable, you get your first glimpse of the lines you need to draw and excess you need to trim in your expectations. Then you work from there, crafting rhythms, trimming excess, doing all I've talked about above.
If it feels overwhelming, take a deep breath. This is building sustainability for you, your family, your work. It will take time, but you can do it. And you don't have to figure it out alone. The ROOTED Goals Workbook walks you step-by-step through exactly how you can do this in your unique life.