Navigating the Highways and Byways of Goal Planning—Part 3: Take to the Road

By Lissa Cupp, vice president, e-Commerce & Consumer Marketing, ACCO Brands


The route to your destination has been laid out in Part 2 of this four-part series designed to help you achieve the life you want through effective goal planning. Now it’s time to hit the road! Actually initiating your trip is often a hurdle in itself, so remember the wise words of Mark Twain to get you going: “The secret of getting ahead is getting started.”

As you make final preparations to embark on your journey, be sure to get yourself “road ready.” That is, take a few easy steps to help ensure a smooth trip with minimal detours.

  • “Clear the decks” of any loose ends or anything stopping you from getting started.
  • Similarly, have your “DON’T” list in hand! Clear off things you aren’t going to do to make time for the “good stuff.”
  • Schedule time in your day/week for you and your goals.
  • Take note of the things you don’t necessarily enjoy but will need to deal with on your trip, such as certain tasks and “toxic” people.
  • Map out your “have-to’s” versus your “want-to’s” to avoid unnecessary diversions and delays.

There are several planning and organization tools available to help with these preparatory steps. Also available to you—and critical to your success—are planners and calendars. If you don’t get your itinerary and trip on the books and visualized, your goals will never be reached. Use these tools to put your timeline in perspective and ensure reasonable due-dates are established. Basically, take a look at the year at-a-glance.

While you have your calendar out, look at it month-by-month and again make certain your goals and timelines are achievable. For example, for a goal of being debt free by June, look at the first few months of the year and ask yourself, “What must be true in January in order to reach my goals?” Always remember to keep these goals visible. In other words, according to the late self-improvement and leadership guru, Dr. Stephen R. Covey, those are your “big rocks” (see below).

Next week, we’ll wrap up your journey by looking at detours, milestones and the importance of keeping your eyes on the road.

The Big Rocks of Life

by Dr. Stephen R. Covey from First Things First

One day, this expert was speaking to a group of business students and, to drive home a point, used an illustration I’m sure those students will never forget. After I share it with you, you’ll never forget it either.

As this man stood in front of the group of high-powered over-achievers, he said, “Okay, time for a quiz.” Then he pulled out a one-gallon, wide-mouthed Mason jar and set it on a table in front of him. Then he produced about a dozen fist-sized rocks and carefully placed them, one at a time, into the jar.

When the jar was filled to the top and no more rocks would fit inside, he asked, “Is this jar full?” Everyone in the class said, “Yes.” Then he said, “Really?” He reached under the table and pulled out a bucket of gravel. Then he dumped some gravel in and shook the jar causing pieces of gravel to work themselves down into the spaces between the big rocks.

Then he smiled and asked the group once more, “Is the jar full?” By this time, the class was onto him. “Probably not,” one of them answered. “Good!” he replied. And he reached under the table and brought out a bucket of sand. He started dumping the sand in and it went into all the spaces left between the rocks and the gravel. Once more, he asked the question “Is this jar full?”

“No!” the class shouted. Once again he said, “Good!” Then he grabbed a pitcher of water and began to pour it in until the jar was filled to the brim. Then he looked up at the class and asked, “What is the point of this illustration?”

One eager beaver raised his hand and said, “The point is, no matter how full your schedule is, if you try really hard, you can always fit some more things into it!”

“No,” the speaker replied, “that’s not the point. The truth this illustration teaches us is: If you don’t put the big rocks in first, you’ll never get them in at all.”

What are the big rocks in your life? A project that you want to accomplish? Time with your loved ones? Your faith, your education, your finances? A cause? Teaching or mentoring others? Remember to put these Big Rocks in first or you’ll never get them in at all.

[photo by pupski]

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