“If you don’t know where you’re going, then how are you going to get there?” It’s essential to have goals that are tangible and written down. In this episode, I walk you through part of the process that I use to develop plans for myself and how I’m able to stay on track and organized. As you move through 2021, one of the things that I would encourage you to do is to spend some time writing things down and doing quarterly reviews. Tune in as I talk about planners, SMART goals, and The Big 3.
Find A Planner
When we think about goal setting and all that we do to run a practice and manage our own lives, I think it’s essential to have some goals. Make sure that your goals are tangible and written down. You have a forty percent greater chance of completing a goal just merely by writing it down. One of the tools that I use pretty consistently now and for the last several years is the Michael Hyatt Full Focus Planner. My friend Michelle makes another planner that I recommend. You can hear Michelle Hardman, LPC from The Primed Practice on TPOT 101; the planner she developed is called the Primed Planner. It is one that she created specifically for therapists. Whichever tool you choose to use, I think it’s good to have a way that you can use to keep yourself organized and on track.
Know Your Domains
The other thing about having a plan or having a system is it should be very goal-directed because, like the quote says, “if you don’t know where you’re going, how are you going to get there?” It’s essential to break things down into smaller pieces to know how to accomplish what you want to achieve for the year. I think the other thing about goal setting is that when we think about our lives, our businesses, and what we do in our practices, we have many different domains or different areas of our life.
Most of us are kind of interconnected; we have our home life, private life, what we do with our friends and family, and all of that. There is probably a whole set of goals that you want to have around your personal life, like your health, taking care of yourself, and self-care. Then we have our business goals that revolve around our private practices. Think about what growth you want to have, how you want to build your practice, the milestones you wish to set for yourself, and moving forward in your practice.
One exercise that I think is always helpful is, and this is my brain dump exercise. Use your planner, and jot down and label each of the domains in your life. For example, you might have your practice; you might have a church community domain, personal finances domain, and business finances. Plus, you’ve got your family life; you have your immediate family and extended family. It’s essential to jot those down, and then under those different domains, do a brain dump. When we write things down, our brains process that information a little differently.
The Big 3
The Big 3 allows you to work on three big goals per quarter. When working on big goals, break them down into smaller pieces. There’s a thing called SMART goals (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound). When you think about making goals, they need to be specific. They need to be measurable, and they need to be actionable. They also need to be risky to some degree. In other words, you need to get out of your comfort zone a little bit with making goals. Goals need to be time-sensitive. You need to be able to have an end date in mind when setting a goal. Also, they need to be exciting and something that you can get behind rather than something you dread. Lastly, goals should be relevant and aligned with your own values.
You know, as most of us went through graduate school as clinicians, we learned a lot of the great stuff around just different clinical skills and being able to know how to engage with people know how to walk people through various stages of their life and being able to create helped them create change and think about themselves differently. And all of that I would just kind of lump into the category of, of clinical skills. But one of the things that we probably didn't learn unless you've had some other kind of special training in that, or I've taken any special courses is just on. Number one, the business side of private practice and the financial side of private practice. There are very few graduate programs that teach any of that. And so of course, there are a lot of us now a lot of private practice consultants or private practice, aficionados, or mavens, or whatever you want to call us out there now that are, are teaching the skills but a big part of the skill of running a business or really just doing any of this kind of stuff that we're doing is being able to, to organize things well and to be able to manage our time. And all of that well. Back when I was working for an agency, one of the things that they did was with all of the new employees, they would send us to a Franklin Covey training. And it was really centered around the planner, that Franklin Covey that they purchased and had for all of their employees. And it's centered around time management. And I think a big part of Time management is really kind of knowing the direction you want to go. You know, there's that soul saying, Our I guess it's a saying or a quote or whatever I'm not, I don't know who to attribute it to. But anyway, it's, uh, yeah, it might have been, it might have been Henry Ford, or Thomas Edison. But anyway, it was the the quote, or the saying is, if you don't know where you're going, how are you going to get there. And I think that is, when we think about goal setting and thinking about our lives and our businesses, and all that we do, to run a practice, and just even manage our own lives, I think it's important to have some goals, and some goals that are tangible, and written down, I hit heard somewhere that you have a 40% greater chance of completing a goal just simply by writing it down. Now, I don't know if that's actually has some data behind it or not. But I've heard that is kind of like with habits, you know, you've probably heard that if you do something 21 times consistently, then it will, you'll be able to develop a new habit. So in this episode, I want to just kind of walk you through part of the process that I use, and just developing goals for myself, and just really how I'm able to keep myself on track and try to stay organized. One of the things. One disclaimer here, though, is that I am not a naturally organized person. I'm just always amazed at people that have just kind of a knack for that and know how to kind of put everything in its place and, and find a place for everything. My my wife's caregiver is like that, I'm just amazed at how she knows how to just help us stay organized in our house and knows where to put everything and knows how to do it. That's not something that I do just naturally, it's something I have to put some effort into. So I've learned over the years, just several different ways to do this. And I think my time management skills and my organization skills and and all of that is just constantly changing. But one of the tools that I use pretty consistently now and a half for the last several years is the Michael Hyatt full focus planner. And we'll have links in the show notes here for that. And just so you can take a look at it but it is a is a binder, it's it's not a binder, it's actually a book it's a bound book is what I wanted to say. And it's divided each each planner is two hardback book and each planner is for one quarter of the year. So it's a little pricey, but I figured that if I spend The money on it, then I would force me to use it so. And the way it's organized, it's just got a lot of stuff in it in terms of the way the pages are organized and being able to think about writing out goals and that sort of thing. And I'm not saying that you have to get this planner, but there are a lot of other good planners out there, as well. My friend, Michelle, Michelle Hartman, who was back in Episode Number 101, has a planner that she developed, which is called the primed planner, and it is one that she developed specifically for therapists. And so we'll again, we'll have links in the show notes here for those things. But I think the point is, is that whichever tool you choose to use, I think it's good to have a tool that you can use to keep yourself organized and on track. And the, the, the other thing about having a plan or, or having a system is it should be very goal directed because like, like the quote says, if you don't know where you're going, how are you going to get there. And so being able to break things down into smaller pieces of knowing how to accomplish what you want to accomplish for the year. I think the other thing about goal setting is is that when we think about our lives, and just think about our businesses, and what we do in our practices, we have a lot of different domains or different areas of our life, I know. And for most of us, you know, they're kind of interconnected, some are more connected than others, but we have our, our home life, our private life, we have what we do with our friends and family and all of that. And there's probably a whole set of goals that you want to have around that you have your personal goals, you things that might involve, you know, just your own health, being able to take care of yourself and self care, all of those sorts of things. And then also we have our business goals are our practice goals. You know, as far as what sort of growth you want to have, how you want to build your practice, milestones you want to set for yourself, and just thinking about, you know, pushing forward and moving forward in your practice and being able to accomplish the things, you know, all of your goals, I think should be centered around, as I like to call it, your y. But also just thinking about your lifestyle, you know, most of us go into private practice, because we we love the lifestyle that it creates for us, it frees us up to to be our own boss to be able to set our own schedules to be able to take time off when we want to take time off, and also gives us for a lot of us just a much greater earning potential. So your goal should center around those things, as much as anything at all be kind of connected and being able to move yourself forward. The problem is, is when we start thinking about all of these things, that's a lot of stuff to think about. I think it's easier to kind of organize things into what I refer to, or have heard referred to, as are the different domains of our life. And so one of the things that I do each year, and probably each quarter is just really kind of assess the different domains of my life and the areas that I want to change and want to improve or just leave the say same sometimes. So one exercise that I think is always helpful is and this is part of my kind of my brain dump exercise that I like to call it, it's just to get a sheet of paper or, again, I use my planner, but being able to just jot down and label each of the domains in your life. So for example, you might have your practice, you might have if you're involved with a spiritual community or church community might have that domain of your, your life, you've got your financial domain in terms of your personal finances, and also your business finances. So that would be one category. You've got your family life you've got not only your immediate family, but also extended family. And then you've got your friends that you're involved with. And then you also might have overheard it referred to as a your Eva avocation, which are things like your hobbies and the things that you do for fun, and things that bring meaning to your life, outside of work and outside of your family. So, all of these different domains. I think it's important just to jot those down, and then under those different domains, the next thing that I do in my process process of setting goals is due, again, a brain dump of just thinking about all the things that I'm concerned about all the things that I want to accomplish all of the things that are things that are on my mind about those different domains. And so you do this brain dump where you just put all of that on paper, and just put all of it down. Because I think when you're able to write it all down, and I think there's there's benefit in doing this longhand, I mean, in terms of actually using actual writing things down on a piece of paper, our brains just kind of processed that information a little differently. Another way that you can do it is that there's a, an app that I use a good bet, just particularly within the projects that I work on, and that is Trello. Some of you might have heard of that. Another one that is out there, that I've become a little bit familiar with is Asana. But again, those are tools that you can use to kind of organize thoughts to organize projects and different things that take care of a lot of moving pieces. So the the purpose though here and setting goals, though, is to be able to capture everything that is on your mind, or everything that you want to accomplish for the year or for the quarter or whatever, and then be able to break those down into smaller pieces. And again, the thing with doing the brain dump, the goal is just to kind of get it all out of your head, it doesn't have to be organized at this point, or really make any a whole lot of sense, or that sort of thing. I think the idea is just to do a brain dump around all the things that are on your mind, all the things you want to accomplish, all the things that are important to you. You know, most of us have done some different brainstorming exercises at different times in our lives. This is the this is that concept of just being able to do put it all on paper, get it all down so that you could look at it. The next you want to just kind of maybe even just draw lines to the things that seem connected or seem to make sense, that are maybe overlap and different, different parts of your life. So so for example, you know, our schedules and all of that sort of thing overlap with what we do at work. I mean, we have all keep schedules for ourself, you know, outside of work, but those things overlap with with our work. And so being able to kind of draw a line between those things. Certainly our financial goals overlap, you know, being able to understand the flow of your finances, within your business within your private practice is heavily connected to your own personal financial goals. And just being able to kind of understand how those interplay with with each other. So again, do the brain dump, then just start connecting the dots, so to speak of understanding what what parts of the different domains of your life are connected, what are not, and then begin to prioritize those things. There are some things that we we have as goals that might not be might not be the right season or the right time to do that. And one of the things that we all most all of us experience this last year, last year, was when it came to goal setting and trying to accomplish things that we had set our mind to all of that changed when COVID hit, I mean, just what era we put on the brakes and everything changed and our priorities changed. I don't know even for me in my life, when we found out that my wife was going to have to have this major surgery, everything that I had been working on and everything that I had prioritized just got pushed to the backburner because I had to focus on her care, and being able to figure out how we were going to manage her disability and all of that sort of thing. So those things will happen. And you have to be prepared for those things. And allow yourself to have some flexibility around that, you know, the next part of kind of my process of, of just goal setting is to be able to think about, you know, what, when am I going to do these things and so that's the other part of it. I think one of the one of the mistakes that I make is that I have these big ideas about paints and and get really excited about them, but I don't figure out when exactly I'm going to do those things. I think a lot of us tend to just kind of kind of go by the seat of our pants and that's not really a good, good way to do things. It's really important to, to set times that you're going to work on things You know what all of us have daily tasks that are come in, and we're going to have all of those things that we're going to constantly need to work on, you know, for example, one for me is, and I think for all of us is just getting our, our progress and session notes done, from the sessions that we have. And also just being able to block off time within your week to be able to work on projects, without the distraction of having to see clients, because that's one of the things you know that, at least for me, at the stage that I'm in, I'm starting to change this a little bit. But, you know, I see clients, you know, four days a week. And so my afternoons are usually filled with seeing regular therapy clients, using my mornings I devote to doing working on other projects and doing other things. But one of the things that with any of the projects that I've got, is that I have to just set aside time to work on those. And so that's where your calendar comes in, and being able to actually put it on your calendar, that you're going to work on those things that are important to you. So I'm a big big proponent, of course of the Google workspace and using the tools of Google so I really live by my Google calendars, the first thing I open up on my computer on my phone every morning to to look at and say okay, what is my day, and tail. So being able to put those things on your calendar and really live by your calendar is an important piece in staying organized, and also being able to focus on the goals that you want to accomplish for yourself. So the other thing too, and I learned this from using the planner that I'm using from from Michael Hyatt and company, is what they call the big three. And they they had this concept where when they think about setting annual goals or whatever is that you only allow yourself to work on three per quarter of the big goals, the big, hairy, audacious goals, as I like to call them. And then you break those down into smaller pieces. So in order to accomplish, you know, here, here's an example and the simple example that I think might be on a lot of our minds. You know, one of the things that I've been focused on this last year is just kind of getting myself back to being healthy again, in terms of just getting some of the weight off that I carry, being able to eat more healthy, being able to exercise more, you know, the stuff we're supposed to do in order to take care of our bodies physically. You know, just to say I'm going to get healthy this year is not a great goal. But to be able to say, I'm going to get up and walk every day, three miles every day, is a measurable goal to be able to accomplish what I want to accomplish in terms of living a healthier lifestyle. Also as being able to track what I eat and be able to jot that down, all of those things kind of add up to being able to meet that goal of losing weight, and to be able to move the needle forward with my health and all of that. So that's a simple example of that it when you apply it to your business is the same way if you were, if you have a goal of I want to get more clients this year or this month, make it more specific, I want to get five new clients each week, you know, that's a very specific, measurable goal. So your goal should always be measurable. And then also just being able to think about it in terms of how you're going to do that. So there's a thing called SMART goals are smarter goals, which is simply an acronym for you know, just the word smart or smarter. And when you think about making goals, they need to be specific. They need to be measurable, they need to be actionable. They also need to be risky to some degree. In other words, you need to get out of your comfort zone a little bit with making goals. They need to be time keyed or time sensitive. In other words, you need to be able to have an end date in mind when setting a goal. Also, they need to be exciting and then the words they need to be something that's just really you can get behind and not something that you necessarily dread doing. That doesn't make for a great goal. And also relevant they need to be really kind of aligned with your own values and aligned with your y so to speak. But again, that's just an acronym again, I learned that from Michael Hyatt and company and it's just the acronym smart. sem a RT er. So Well, again, we'll have links in the show notes and that sort of thing. For more information on the smarter goals. In fact, I did an episode or did a blog post, I can't quite remember without going back and looking it up, just around goal setting and just some of the things to keep in mind. So as you move through the New Year, one of the things that I would really encourage you to do is to be able to spend some time writing things down and just doing some quarterly reviews, being able to kind of look back at the previous year, and spend some time doing that, I think it's a gut, you know, one great idea, which I wish I could afford the time to do this, but haven't yet is just to take a retreat day. And I know that there's been a lot of people that do this, where they, they take a day off or a few days off for a weekend, and they go and plan their year, which I think is a great idea. But you know, with all that has happened this past year, you know, our priorities change, our values have changed, how we think about our goals, and moving forward, has changed. And so I think it's a good idea, particularly this time of year to kind of regroup with everything. Well, I hope this framework has been somewhat helpful to you, and just thinking about being able to kind of begin to kind of pull together some goal setting. We do this every year, in terms of just thinking about resolutions and goals. And I just wanted to share with you kind of my process around that. One, one of the things, I think that I would say is that there's a lot of information, a lot of resources out there just around this topic of goal setting and time management. And that sort of thing. One of the things that I would say is, is to educate yourself on that, again, it was something I had to learn along the way wasn't necessarily something that was taught to me in graduate school or in any of my formal training. And, and so I think it's something that just, you know, the most successful people tend to be very organized with it. I think about my friend, Joe Sanok, over practice of the practice, who most of you if you're listening to podcasts on private practice, he's, he's got one of the leading podcasts in the space. Joe's a very organized person. And I'm just always amazed at how much he is able to accomplish. But he's got kind of the head for it. And the way to think about it, it's not that you can't learn it as well, I've had to learn it and it's helped me better have have a greater sense of purpose in my practice, and in what I'm doing with the practice of therapy is just to be very goal oriented with with what you do. So I would encourage you with the new year starting to think about your goals, think about spending some time to just write it out, to really take some time to, to look at things and and capture it all. As I mentioned, there's a lot of resources on organization, and time management and that sort of thing out there. One book that I'll mention that I has was very formational for me or very, very helpful to me was a book called getting things done by David Allen. It's really one of the classics on time management. He goes into a pretty elaborate system for being able to organize times, but you organize your time management, but he he does it in such a way that it's easy to easy to digest. And really think about how you organize stuff and how you accomplish things, day in and day out. And by doing that, you will have a plan to get you where you want to go. And so again, think about where you want to be. Again, it's I think it's helpful to think about where do I want to be a year from now? Where do I want to be five years from now or 10 years from now? For me personally, I'm at that age where retirement is on the horizon. And so I'm thinking about that, and thinking about what that's going to look like and how I'm going to get to that, that place in my life. So anyway, hopefully, this is helpful information for you and just thinking about the new year and, boy, I'm so glad we're moving into a new year. And as I know you are probably two that this has been a tough year. We've learned a lot we've learned a lot from each other. We've learned a lot about what it means to be human and what it means to be fragile. And also at the same time, we've learned how to draw on our resilience and being able to draw on each other. Again, another little silver lining to this whole COVID painting debbik even though we haven't been able to physically be with each other, I think that just as in general as human beings, it's brought us closer because we're, we've faced adversity together. And we have, we've lived through it. And so let's keep pushing forward in 2021 is going to be the best year ever. I just know it will be for you.
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Gordon is the person behind The Practice of Therapy Podcast & Blog. He is also President and Founder of Kingsport Counseling Associates, PLLC. He is a therapist, consultant, business mentor, trainer, and writer. PLEASE Subscribe to The Practice of Therapy Podcast wherever you listen to it. Follow us on Twitter @therapistlearn, and Pinterest, “Like” us on Facebook.