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Combining prosperous work lives and balanced personal lives
October 2002

My goal is to bring you news, insights, and information about leading a balanced and prosperous life.

Making that Back-to-School Feeling Work for You - Part 2

Melissa, a coaching client. tried to use the suggestions in the September issue of the BossWoman eNewsletter to organize her fall and future goals. When she finished wordsmithing her personal and work mission statements, they didn't sound like her and she felt stuck. While the exercises from last month are useful to logical organized women, the kind who balance their checkbooks to the penny, Melissa is more right-brained in her style. She makes her living as an artist, wears free flowing striking clothes, decorates with a lot of purple, and can't even find her checkbook. To organize her goals she needed a looser, more right brained technique for generating the dreams that mattered to her. She needed to start with all her dreams, even the ones that seemed contradictory, and then put them together into a loose system that works for her style.

Connect the Dots; Define your Dreams

The sticky note may turn out to be one of the greatest inventions of the 20th century. I started using sticky notes while consulting with non-profits boards who wanted to craft strategic visions. The versatility of the sticky is just what is needed for this method of shaping a personal vision. Start by carrying stickies everywhere. Have them on your desk, in the kitchen, where you read, next to the chair where you watch TV. Some people like to use different sizes and colors for coding and categories but you don't have to get too fancy. Every time you have a thought about something you want to do like "we should get that chair reupholstered," write it on a sticky note, one thought to each sticky. Writing down these dreams and goals does not commit you to doing any of them. At this stage, the more stickies, the better.

When you have 50-100 stickies, it is time to sort them into categories. You still don't have to commit to any of them. You can throw out any that you don't feel drawn to or you can park them somewhere in an undecided pile.

Some people like to use poster boards for this process, other people like to spread out different colored 8.5 X 11 paper on the floor with the different colors representing areas of your life. You will need about six categories. Here are some areas that have worked for my clients.

  • House projects
  • Recreation & leisure
  • Travel
  • Family rituals and celebrations
  • Work
  • Marriage
  • Health & fitness
  • Spirituality
  • Social & friendship
  • Artistic
  • Charity & volunteer
  • Children
  • Education
Don't feel you need all those categories. Use ones that make sense in your life. If you are a young college student, you probably need a category for schoolwork but you might not have any stickies about children except, "get some children later."

After you have sorted all the stickies into approximately six groups, see if you can write an overarching statement that relates to each group. Use a larger size sticky than the ones you used for your goals. Write it in the present tense even if it is not currently true but will be true in the future. An example in the fitness category would be: "I stay fit by eating healthy meals daily and work out aerobically three times a week and with weights twice a week." Write the overarching goal statement in the present tense even if you do not currently do any healthy eating or exercise. There is more power in the present tense.

After these categories statements are written, double check to see if all the stickies you like fit somewhere under the overarching statements. If they don't, park them in a "miscellaneous" or "later" location. Rewrite the category statements until they describe the main themes that encompass all the stickies within the category. Within each category you may want to write some stickies for sub-themes. For example, using the above fitness category, you might have one, sub-theme for eating healthy, one for aerobic exercise and one for weight lifting workouts. Then you can nest the little stickies beside or underneath the sub-themes on your big poster board to you one colored page that has all your fitness goals.

Get It Done

None of your goals will happen if those stickies stay parked somewhere.

  1. Take each goal and write smaller and smaller sub-goals that have to be completed to achieve the big goal. Example, if fitness activities at the gym were part of your ideal life, you will have to join a gym which will necessitate calling or visiting the gyms in your area. You might have to set up a line item on your spending plan to pay for the gym membership.
  2. Start to park the smaller sub-goals in order under a heading that represents time. You can do this imagining going forward from today or backward from tomorrow to what has to happen today. Give yourself permission that not all of your descriptors have to be started on today. I have future goals of visiting my grandchildren. I don't have any grandchildren but as soon as I get some, I want to visit them. I can't start on that goal directly right now but it is not too early to start a travel fund.
  3. Enlist whatever social support you need including people you can be accountable to for the completion of the small sub-goals:
    *close friends or family
    *people at the gym in class with you
    *professionals like financial planners, fitness trainers, coaches, therapists.
  4. Put your goals into any system that you will realistically use, day timer, palm, or computer. Just make sure you can use it to support your progress.
  5. Every time someone asks you to do something, you can evaluate your priorities in light of your big picture plan.
  6. Say "No" frequently and politely without explanations.
  7. As you complete your goals, check them off in your system. Some of my clients like to move the completed stickies onto a "completed" poster.

With the stickies in place, this school year will be the year to make your dreams come true.


Enjoy your autumn,
Susan Robison

BossWoman coaching topics include

  • work-life balance,
  • career transitions,
  • building your business or practice,
  • time management,
  • increasing productivity.
Up and coming workshops
From Susan Robison & Pat Macomber

Title: Living Peacefully in an Anxious World: Stress Management for Busy Women
When: November 18, 2002 5:45-7:30
Where: TBA; somewhere in Baltimore, MD area
What: Stress management workshop.
Sponsored by: Executive Women's Network
Fee: free, but please preregister with Susan at 410-465-5892.

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BossWomen e-Newsletter is intended for informational and educational purposes only. Coaching should not be construed as a form of, or substitute for, counseling, psychotherapy, legal, or financial services.

Copyright 2002 Susan Robison. All rights reserved. The above material is copyrighted but you may retransmit or distribute it to whomever you wish as long as not a single word is changed, added or deleted, including the contact information. However, you may not copy it to a web site without my permission.

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