My Pared-Down Approach to Planning and Goal Setting

It’s that time of year!

Tomorrow marks the start of 2019 and I don’t know about you, but I’m ready for the fresh start and clean slate that January 1st brings.

I’ve tried my hand at many different goal-setting planners, journals, and apps for both business and personal use in the past, like the Best Self Journal, Cultivate What Matters PowerSheets, and the 5 Second Journal. And all of them worked well for the season I used them in.

But this year I’m paring down and taking a slightly different approach to setting goals, mapping out my time, and keeping up with my schedule.

My Pared-Down Approach to Planning and Goal Setting | Elle & Company

How I’m setting (and keeping up with) my goals

I set 10 overarching goals at the start of 2018.

I had good motives when I sat down and mapped them out, but the sheer number of goals I set for myself (coupled with some major life changes like having a baby and renovating a house) set me up for failure.

I ended up accomplishing two of the goals I set for myself. But instead of celebrating those wins, I naturally spent more time focusing on what I didn’t achieve and feeling discouraged.

Lesson learned.

This year I’m taking a simpler and more realistic approach by setting one quarterly goal for my business and one quarterly goal for my personal life.

I took this approach two years ago (thanks to the Best Self Journal) and had success with it, because focusing on one goal for 3 months helped narrow my focus and actually get it done.

So I’m going back to it.

My business goal for this quarter
is to teach 150 students how to use Adobe Illustrator in my Illustrator Basics course this February.

And my personal goal for this quarter is to run a 5k in under 30 minutes.

I’ve written each of these goals down on paper (I use the Work Week Scheduler workbook in the Elle & Company Library), along with a short note on why I want to reach it.

Because I also discovered that if I don’t have a good reason for pursuing a goal or I don’t spend the time to consider why I want to reach it, I’m less likely to accomplish it.

I want to teach 150 students how to use Adobe Illustrator because it will help others create eye-catching graphics for their business and allow me to bring in an income for our family.

And I want to run a 5k in under 30 minutes because I want to get back into shape before Eli’s 1st birthday (and prove to myself that I’m capable of doing it).

I’m also less likely to achieve a goal if I don’t consider how I’m going to reach it, so I like to brainstorm 3 tangible action steps that will help me make progress on each one.

To reach my business goal of teaching 150 students how to use Adobe Illustrator, I need to:

  • Keep up with a consistent content schedule to increase engagement and build up readership

  • Map out a launch sequence for my social media accounts, blog, and list

  • Make updates to the course content

And to reach my personal goal of running a 5k in under 30 minutes, I need to:

  • Register for a local 5k race

  • Create a training schedule and map out a few close running routes

  • Stop making excuses and stick to the plan!

And that’s really all there is to it!

This simple approach is a lot more practical and a lot less overwhelming, and it doesn’t take a bunch of time or a special journal to do it.

How I’m mapping out my time

I function best when I have routines and a schedule.

So I find it helpful for both my personal life and my business to create an “ideal schedule” for my week.

I block out time in my weekly calendar for my morning routine, uninterrupted work time, workouts, etc.

And because I’m a very visual person, I do this on paper and color-code everything using the Work Week Scheduler workbook from the Library.

My Pared-Down Approach to Planning and Goal Setting - Elle & Company

My week never goes according to plan, but this ideal schedule acts as a guideline to make sure I’m accounting for and intentionally setting aside time for my biggest priorities.

This approach also helps me see if I need to say no to things that won’t fit in my schedule,

and makes it easier to get back on track when unexpected events and tasks inevitably pop up.

How I’m keeping up with my schedule

I love the idea of using an online calendar like Google Calendar or iCal to keep up with events and tasks.

Not only can you access it from multiple devices, but you can sync it up with family members and coworkers, set alerts and reminders, etc.

However, as much as I try, I keep coming back to a paper planner.

Writing things down by hand helps me remember things better, and I love having a tangible planner at my desk to keep up with everything for my business, our family, church, etc.

I’ve used a Rifle Paper Co. planner for the past few years and I love the format and design of it.

But this year I’m going back to the basics with the printable 2019 calendar that I created for the Elle & Company Library.


It has both weekly and monthly views (which is a must for me), along with space to write out daily tasks, meetings, and events.

I hole-punch it and keep it in a binder, along with other printable checklists, workbooks, workouts, recipes, etc. The whole thing acts as a “homebase” for every area of my life, and I love having the ability to continually add to it and customize it.

It may not be as portable as iCal or as small as some paper planners, but this binder approach works better for me in this season while I split my time between working from home and taking care of my little one.

This year’s approach isn’t revolutionary.

But I’ve found that the simpler it is, the easier it is to follow and the more likely I am to follow through with it.

What’s your approach to goal setting and planning for 2019? What resources have you found helpful? And how are you doing things differently this year?