Setting and Achieving Monthly Goals and Projects

This year, in addition to my three yearlong resolutions, I’ve decided to take on a series of month-long goals and projects spread throughout the year. Here’s my schedule of projects as they read right now, which covers the first five months of the year.

January 2011: Rearrange my office with shelving
February 2011: Reorganize the laundry room, getting a better laundry system in place
March 2011: Reorganize the garage and closets, identifying stuff for a spring yard sale
April 2011: Plant a great garden and harvest springtime foods (like morel mushrooms)
May 2011: Set up a family computer workstation (and the required rearragements)

I have some vague ideas for the second half of the year, but I haven’t put them all together as of yet.

Let’s take a look at the features each of these have in common.

Each of these projects will take about twenty hours of work (by my estimation) to fully complete. Some of them sound easier than others, but often the easier ones have some additional constraints that will add significant time to the equation. For example, the office rearrangement requires me to dismantle my current (overly large) desk first, which will take time. I also have to move a significant amount of computer equipment, and when the office is rearranged, I have to move some items from the basement to the new shelves.

Each one can be done in small batches, so I’m not required to set aside entire days to work on these projects. My life doesn’t afford me large blocks of time that I can devote to projects like this – it just doesn’t happen. On the other hand, projects that can be subdivided into smaller pieces tend to work very well because I can simply work on the project for an hour here and an hour there until it’s complete.

I want to work on these projects steadily, so setting a clear deadline for myself encourages that. Although I am quite busy, I do want to actually move forward with and complete such projects. Setting a deadline puts me in a position where I consistently put time aside to achieve these goals – an hour here, an hour there, and then they’re completed.

Setting Your Own
Of course, you can do the same thing in your own life. Using monthly goals to accomplish such activities is a great way to keep yourself moving forward on the smaller yet still significant things you want to accomplish in your life. Here are some tactics to use for doing just that.

Make (and keep) a big project list. Spend some time making a list of all of the projects you want to take on in your life. Include everything, from enormous life-changers that could take years to any small thing that you can’t quite accomplish in an afternoon. Once you’ve made that list (I recommend using a word processing program), save the document and return to it regularly, adding new items and looking for things to accomplish.

Create time estimates for these projects. They don’t have to be perfect time estimates, just enough to help you get an idea of how many hours of work it will take as well as any other length requirements.

Seek out projects in the twenty hour range. Generally, such projects are perfect month-long goals for you to set for yourself. They require some significant time, but can be accomplished with an hour or two a day or a few full weekend days.

Come up with a month-long plan of attack. How will you accomplish this goal? What needs to be done each day? Sit down and define exactly what you intend to do and how you intend to accomplish it.

Flip the calendar… and get started. It’s as simple as that. A calendar month is a perfect period and timeline for accomplishing such small goals.

Twenty Ideas
Here are twenty ideas for such projects to get your creative juices going. Good luck!

1. Walk/run 100 miles.
2. Cook 25 meals in advance and freeze them for future use.
3. Thoroughly clean and rearrange a room.
4. Create a complete grocery “price book.”
5. Have a yard sale.
6. Make a “recipe box” containing 150-200 recipes you can just pull out and rely on.
7. Prepare and plant a garden.
8. Air seal your home and improve your attic insulation.
9. Open up an account at PaperBackSwap, then list and ship fifty unwanted books.
10. Learn some basic home repair and fix a few minor problems in your home.
11. Repaint the trim of your home.
12. Organize and host a block party to get to know your neighbors.
13. Attend meetings of several civic groups to see if any click with you.
14. Calculate your net worth and set up a spreadsheet to make it easy to calculate it in the future.
15. Contribute to a large-scale volunteer project, like a “speed build” of a Habitat for Humanity house.
16. Read four books – one per week.
17. Deeply investigate a topic you’ve long been curious about.
18. Prepare a batch of homemade wine or beer (for gifts, if for nothing else).
19. Repaint a room in your home.
20. Find new checking and savings accounts and migrate your banking to them.

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