Goal-setting is SO not punk rock


This may come as a surprise, but I really don't like planning. Some people love it - they organize, research, make notes, put little tabs on pages, and get everything together. These people (see: my mother) are my saviors because they make my life more manageable, even when they're just managing their own lives. They even make my life more exciting when they plan fun, new activities and invite me.

I'm a coach, so I help people plan and get their lives somewhat organized. Mostly, I facilitate ways for my clients to figure out exactly what it is they want and how they want to get it. Planning for myself is an ongoing challenge, especially when it comes to creative work. To me, the phrase "goal-setting" used to feel restrictive and strained. I often go to my coach for help when I feel muddy and overwhelmed. I know planning can be difficult for many of you, too, so I thought I'd share my observations and suggestions from both personal and professional perspectives.

Planning vs The creative process Ah, the creative process. That roller coaster of ups and downs; of laying on the floor in a ball to creating a masterpiece in 3 hours. Motivation and inspiration wax and wane. If you decide to make a carefully laid out schedule, it can be hard to stick to. Obligations come up or sometimes the creative juices just aren't there. Other times, the inner rebel chimes in, "I don't have to do what you say! You're not my Dad!", and it's all over. When you don't meet your plans it can make you feel shitty, depressed, anxious and then you feel shitty about feeling shitty and maybe even feel bad that you want to do artsy stuff and not "productive stuff" and only you value you and no one else does so why even try….AH!

When to listen to the inner rebel, when to tell her to eff off What does your inner punker tell you? Mine says, “Screw this, let’s party!” Now, don't get me wrong, there's nothing bad about rebelling. Sometimes the rebel shows up when you legitimately need the break. Sometimes she is screaming at something that isn't right, like a forced professional or gender norm that doesn’t align with your values. Other times, you need to tell the rebel you’ll party later. Ask yourself: "Is it advantageous for me to put this off?" If the answer is no, then barrel through. Note: Try to avoid saying “Should I put this off?” Should is the surest road to feeling shitty. Don't should all over yourself!

How to plan without being boxed in

  • Get focused - write down your values, what you think about the world, your aspirations, etc. Use one my handy dandy form to help you examine these, as well as other factors, like self-sabotage (aka "the inner punker").
  • Look at how it all connects. What do your views say about you and your objectives? What does your worldview say about how you approach your goals?
  • Think about what you can do to harness your ambition. Break it down to today, next week, or next month.
  • Now plan. Keep it simple. I find that if I start writing down what I’m going to do hour-by-hour, I end up rebelling against the whole thing, do nothing (or something else unnecessary), and then hate myself for it later. If you're like me, instead of writing it all out minute-by-minute, plan 4 things you’d like to get done at some point during the week or 1 thing you’d like to do each day or even 1 thing you'd like to do each week. This allows you the freedom to schedule yourself fluidly and still say, “I got that shit done!”
  • When the stubborn rebel shows up saying “You can’t tell me what to do!”, remind him that this is YOUR plan, not anyone else’s. Partying will feel so much better once your work for the day is done. In fact, put that party time on your schedule so you have something to look forward to!

The fact is, goal-setting and planning are essential to getting the big stuff done. Want to put on a show, write a novel, start a business, or finish your album? You've got to plan.

Feel like your planning deficient? Share your struggles below. Are you an expert at planning your own life and work? Please share your insight.