The new year is a good time to review your goals. Although they can and should be reviewed throughout the year, flipping the calendar to January offers us all a fresh start.
If you have a personal mission statement, get it out and see how you’re doing on working toward your goals. If you don’t have one, it’s time to put your goals on paper. If you don’t plan on where you want to go, you’ll end up somewhere, I’m just not sure where.
Now that you have your goals in front of you, no matter how much or how little you accomplished last year, you can plan for greater success in the coming year. Benjamin Franklin said it well, “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” So, plan to succeed.
The Pizza Plan: creating your personal action plan
Your personal action plan is like eating a pizza. Your goals are the ingredients that make up an extra large, family-sized pizza. You’re hungry to achieve your goals. You’d like to devour the entire pizza in one sitting and accomplish your goals all at one time. But, you can’t eat an entire pizza in one bite.
Let’s say your goal, your pizza, is to be accepted into college.
Cut the pizza into manageable-sized pieces
Identify small, manageable tasks that will move you toward your goal. Make sure they’re specific and realistic. You can eat the entire pizza by cutting it into smaller, bite-size pieces, and eating one at a time. If the slices are too big, achieving your goal will still be overwhelming.
You may want to complete a dozen college applications, but you’re not going to get them all done in one sitting. That’s unrealistic—the slice is way too big. If you try to eat too much at one time, or too fast, you’ll choke and you may give up. The same is true for your goals.
What are the different slices into which you could cut your pizza? Do you know what colleges to which you’d like to apply? One slice could be researching colleges. Another could be the classes you’re taking now. Are they challenging you? Are you gaining the knowledge you need for the major you’re interested in? Another slice could be gaining the skills that will help you stand out among other applicants. Are you volunteering in your community? How are you gaining leadership skills?
You know you’re going to be asked to submit an essay with your application. Start writing it. That’s a slice. But, you can chop that into smaller bites, too: research what makes an essay stand out; find examples; jot down some notes on what you’d like your essay to include; and, begin to outline your essay.
When to eat each slice
Do some slices need to be eaten before others? Research comes before submitting applications. Taking the right class leads to the knowledge you need to acquire.
Like I said, you can’t eat the entire pizza in one sitting. Create a timeline for eating each piece, taking each bite, and achieving each smaller task. If there’s no timeline, or due date, it likely won’t ever get done. That’s why I continue to set deadlines for myself.
Start with your deadline and work backwards. Your first application is due in nine months, so work back from there. What do you need to do the week before? The month before? What can you do today to help you achieve your goal? Create a checklist so you can see what lies ahead and what you’ve already accomplished. It’s satisfying to cross something off your list.
Everyday ask yourself, What can I do today to help me reach my goal?
Over time, you may need to cut your pizza differently. Or, you may find one slice was a bit to hard to stomach, so you cut the remaining slices into even smaller pieces. Things change or get us off track for a while, so your timeline may need to be modified. Don’t be discouraged. One thing won’t change: your goal.
Every success starts with a clear idea of what you want: your pizza. Plan your success by cutting the pizza into slices and bites you can eat over time. Eat a piece, then another piece, then another. Over time, you’ll devour the entire pizza. The most important thing is to stay hungry!
What slice of your pizza are you going to eat today?
Joe Villmow is a business owner and founder of EmpowerMe Foundation (www.EmpowerMeFoundation.org), Milwaukee, Wisconsin.