As humans, we have the capacity and the birthright to experience time in a saner fashion. —Joanna Macy, Coming Back to Life

Focus. Structure. Time Management Skills. Organization. Accountability. Balance.

Have you used any of these words recently to describe the shift you want in your life?

Perhaps you set good intentions but urgent requests always come up, and when they do, you jump to say yes, leaving your plans behind. Or, you’re constantly interrupted and have a hard time fully completing tasks. Perhaps you get to the end of the day or the week or the month and have no idea what you accomplished. Maybe you feel overwhelmed by all the tasks on your plate. Or you postpone your big dreams. Without a rigorous structure to help you focus, your attention can become scattered and fragmented, and you can end up wasting precious time and energy.

If so, you’re not alone. One of the words that my clients use to describe what they want when they first come to work with me is focus. I used to struggle with time management too. I tried out many strategies over many years to manage time better. I never figured out how to add extra hours to the day, but I did discover a handful of practices that I return to, over and over, to stay focused and attend to what’s most important.

One of the first time management practices I teach my clients is how to set monthly goals.

When they first come to me, many of my clients believe that they should be setting priorities each morning.

The problem is, daily goals can get you myopically focused on the short-term, and when an important interruption arises, you can feel like a failure if you don’t rigidly adhere to the goals you set in the morning. Moreover, making decisions requires a lot of energy, and having to decide what’s most important every morning can end up wasting lots of energy. Because of all this, daily goals can actually get in your way of reaching your long-term vision.

Monthly(ish) goals are more effective than daily goals at helping you get the most meaningful stuff done.

I add the “ish” because depending on the size of the projects or time frames you’re working with, you may discover that it makes more sense to work with a slightly shorter or longer amount of time. Some months may be different than others.

Set your goals at the beginning of each month(ish), and then, at the beginning or end of each week, check your progress. Reflect on what worked well and what didn’t. Then tweak your goals with the new information you have.

I invite you to try this now—

Grab a piece of paper and a pen, and write down your responses to the following questions—

  • What can I accomplish this month that will move me closer to my next horizon?
  • Which one or two steps would make the most difference in each area of my life?

Remember, goals are points on the map, not the end of the road. While specific goals are very helpful for staying focused and achieving great things, it is also important not to be too rigid or attached to your desired destination. What matters is that you keep taking baby steps in the direction of your next horizon.

I’d love to hear from you!

After reading this article, what questions about monthly goals do you have?

Please share your questions below, and I will make sure to respond!

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