dreams and goals,  good questions

a year in the life: tracking for the win

My paper assistant.

I recognized it during a multitasking failure – because, who am I kidding with the “multitasking”?  While I was with my family watching a Hallmark movie but actually playing a webinar (with one sly earbud in) about goal setting on my laptop, the truth came into focus.

Wow, I did it, I thought.

I actually stayed with one planner without abandoning it for 12 months – consecutively.  I know.? I’d like to thank the Academy.

It may be a mess but it’s my mess; my planner is a nearly complete record of a year of my life in bullet points, sloppily scrawled Bible verses, check marks, and tracked goals.   Wire-bound between two tattered covers.

Because it exists on the outside of me, I don’t have to wonder why my sore spots still sting, or wait for Facebook to send me Timehop reminders.  I know what happened.

In 2016 I loved my Get To Work Book.

What about you?

Do you know what happened to you this year or are you still catching your breath?  Does it shock you to find that there are bruises unhealed, decisions still unreckoned, and glories uncelebrated?  Could it be that you have yet to process it all?

I am one of those people who needs to get words and work out in physical form to have a full response to it all.  Because I know this about myself, I know what my successful processes look like, but until 2016, I had not figured out how to work a planner.  So I did what we all do to learn – I followed the fascination all around, in real life and on social media, until I felt ready to try and fail and try again until I had my own system.

I truly love that process of learning, even though I hate failing and wasting.  I left a pile of paper and books in my wake, but it was all worth it to hold, in my two hands, something tangible that tells one year’s story.

December is a sweet time to take stock.  Although nothing magic happens on January 1st,  I sure love a brand spanking new year, and January is also my birthday month, so you better believe I’m taking inventory.  My guess is you are too.  Let’s do that together.

If you’re not sure where to begin, go get a nice eggnog latte (I want you in the mood to be nice to yourself) and come back ready to uproot what you planted in 2016, and stare at the new growth.

Pull out your favorite notebook or a blank page in your planner and…

  1. Make a list of wins.  My planner (Get To Work Book) had a page for this at the end of every month and I loved it.  Why not make a grid of 12 blocks on a page and jot down nothing but the good stuff that happened in the month it occurred?  This is your highlight reel.  Preen over it and receive it.  You’ll have more wins this year than you thought before you wrote them down, I guarantee it.
  2. Make like an introvert and ask yourself some questions.   Who are you now that you were not a year ago?  How would you fill in the blank:  Now I am so much more __________.   Are there some friends that weren’t on the scene a year ago who make you feel loved and known?  Take some time to read a psalm of praise, and smile.  Good things did happen.  God never left you.  Look how strong you are.
  3. Make a new choice.   Not a resolution but a choice.  Decide what you want to change.  Do you need a new system to track your life or did the one you used really help you feel good about all the things?  Give yourself permission to try something new if your trajectory got lost somewhere in 2016.  It’s perfect timing to start fresh.  I choose a word for my year, and I’ll be posting more about that in January.  Having a guiding word is a great way to frame an intention. My word for 2016 was steadfast and I wrote about that here.
  4. Make a few goals.  Not a lot, a few.  Having fewer things that I wanted to work hard on this year, one quarter at a time, made a huge difference for me even if it seemed less exiting than having a longer more impressive list.  I am truly proud of what got done.
  5. Make hope a habit.  Hope can be a slippery object.  Be intentional about letting the first thing your eyes look upon daily be God’s word even if it’s just a verse. Refuse to look at any other social media first, unless it’s a midnight text from a family member who might be in danger.  After nearly a year of doing it (with a handful of days when social media won) it is ingrained in me now.  His truth gets first dibs on my head space in the morning.  It has really helped to also to learn to stop deciding and redeciding things that are just a no-brainer.

After letting my goals have light and oxygen (I even fed them this year), it turns out all the brilliant people are right.  The best way to track toward the things that matter is by consistently trapping our intentions and refusing to get soft on ourselves by pretending we only hoped for them.

The best way to do this for me is on paper, but you don’t have to be a planner person to chronicle your life.  There is no perfect way – planners are just assistants.  They don’t do the work.

Go get reckless about making your way to your next right plan or planner, and shameless about abandoning it as soon as it’s feels like you’re trying too hard to do life another guy’s way.  Your way of making progress and feeling your own growth as it happens is the best way.

That’s the flag I’m flying.

Happy New Year!


Inkwell Press LIVEwell Planners (Classic layout) are also available at OfficeMax.


Here’s where I gush about some of my favorite tools!  In every instance, you can follow hashtags like #plannerperfect  – or, more specifically #gettoworkbook, etc. -to learn more about all of these systems.

  • I learned to get super specific with my goals by taking a self-guided course called the Map Making Guide, by Tara Swiger.  She is a creative guru for entrepreneurs, and I’ve learned a lot from taking her lead.
  • How to Choose a Planner That Will Fit Your Needs by ScatteredSquirrel.com focuses on helping you decide what features in a planner will matter to you.
  • I loved my Get To Work Book this year. Its simple smart design makes a strong point of leaving off the frills, while keeping gridded space to create some.  They ship out really fast, too. If I’m honest, it helped me take myself seriously.  Also, I’m just a huge fan of Elise Cripe, who also has an amazing podcast.
  • Midori, on the left, Northbound Notebook underneath.

    The Midori Travelers Notebook with customizable calendar pages is another way to go, if you like a downy leather planner that fits in your purse.  I like mine but I needed something bigger so I use it with blank inserts to track projects.  My husband loves his Midori – men and women seem to both enjoy it.

  • Another great planner I love is Inkwell Press Livewell Planner.  If you’d like to get one, they ship very fast and you can save $10 by using my link. 
  • For journalling, I love May Design customizable notebooks, and more recently I’ve used Northbound Notebooks, which are made of soft buffalo leather and still priced affordably.


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