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How to achieve your goals and a to-do list that works

planning and to-do list collage final
Do you ever have planning sessions?  Just for you?  For your life?  For whatever it is that you’re working on.. to help achieve whatever goals you have?  I never did.  I mean I’ve always been a list person.  And my husband is currently planning our 2017 family vacations before we’ve even been on our 2016 vacations.  (Yes.. he’s that guy.)  So I live with a major planner.  I’ve had planning meetings/sessions for other things – previous jobs, church callings, school volunteer things, etc.  But I’ve never actually had a planning meeting just for me.

My friend Gina and I were talking at the beginning of January about all of our goals for the year.  Personal goals, blog goals, family goals, etc.  We each had so many random goals and ideas floating around.  That’s one of the many things I love about my friend Gina.  She is nerdy just like me – we get absolutely giddy discussing things like this.  :)  The two of us decided that if we really wanted to achieve our goals this year we needed some time to just brainstorm and plan together.  So we put a date on the calendar for her to come over to my house and plan.  The morning of our meeting my husband asked me what I had going on for the day and I told him Gina was coming over to plan with me.

He laughed out loud.

You and Gina!?  You and Gina are going to “plan” together!?  

I said yes.  We are.

He smiled and said “well I’m sure that will be super productive.”  

He has no faith in me.  ;)  But we actually were super productive.
I bought made a fancy snack just for the occasion.  Gina came over and we got to work!
We took a few pics just to show our husbands how productive we actually were.  Look how serious I am!  Just working away.
No nonsense.
to do list that works 2
Total productivity.
to do list that works 3
Ok.  Maybe there was a little nonsense.  This is me and Gina after all.  ;)

But truth be told (and the reason I’m sharing this with you all today) is because it was actually one of the smartest things we’ve done.  We went over all of our goals and then wrote down steps to how we can actually achieve them.  We brainstormed all sorts of great ideas.  Fun post topics for our blogs, home projects for the year, ways to help our home/family life run smoother, how to schedule things ahead so we don’t always feel like we are treading water each day, ways to organize paper, what to do with all of our pictures, fun family activities, things to do with our kids for the holidays.  We covered SO MUCH STUFF.  Having a friend to brainstorm with was magic.  We both got so many great ideas from each other.  It was such a success we are going to do it again.

Have you ever heard this quote?
Or this one?
I really believe them both.  If you don’t make time to actually plan how you are going to achieve your goals, you will never achieve them.  We are all busy.  Gina and I are busy.  It took us 10 minutes just to find a morning that worked for both of us to meet and we had to schedule it three weeks out.  But it was SO worthwhile to actually set aside some time to just think and brainstorm and plan.  Is everything running perfectly for us now after our little planning session?  No.  We each have three kids (and Gina has one more on the way!).  Life will never run perfectly!  But we talked yesterday about how we both feel more in control of our lives.  We have some direction and focus!  We are moving forward and not just treading water.

If you are having a hard time achieving your goals or just feel like you need more direction and focus in your daily life, plan a time to plan!  By yourself, or even better with a close friend who has similar goals.  It could make all the difference.

Here is one simple thing I took away from our planning session that has helped me immensely and it’s such a small thing!  My to-do lists are looking a little different these days.
They are still written on cute notepads.  That will always be a given and in my opinion is a must.  It’s a well known fact that to-do lists written on cute paper are always more effective.  ;)

I was talking to Gina about how I’m trying to “eat my frog” and really focus on the most important things I need to get done each day.  (Read this post if you don’t know what I’m talking about.)  Then she showed me a youtube video she had seen by Becky Higgins.  (Love Becky Higgins btw.  She is the creator of Project Life – the scrapbooking system I love.  You can see albums I’ve made in the past with her kits here.)  Becky writes her to-do lists and then highlights the 3 or 4 most important things that have to be done that day.  She focuses on the highlighted items first, and then once she has finished them, she uses a marker to cross those to-do’s off and then highlights the next most important thing.
This was my to-do list for one day last week.  Like I said, this is such a simple thing but it has helped me so much!  I usually look at my list when I have a minute during the day and just start random things and then get distracted with something else.  Then at the end of the day I realize I didn’t do something that really needed to be done on my list and I’m up late scrambling.  I’m a very visual person so seeing the most important things highlighted makes them stand out to me and I can focus on them.  My list doesn’t feel as overwhelming to me and I’m not wandering from it as much.  I look at what is highlighted and that is what I work on.  Those are my “frogs.”  If nothing else gets done that day it’s ok, I can move them to tomorrow’s list and highlight 3 new things, but at least I finished the “must do’s.”

Becky writes two separate lists on one page – one for her home life and one for work.  She starts one list at the top and one at the bottom.  I tried this – separating blog to-do’s from home to-do’s, but after a few days I felt like one big list was easier for me to manage than two lists so I just combine it all.   (My blog and life to-do’s are tied pretty closely together anyway.)  :)  You can watch Becky’s video here:

So to wrap up today’s post: Plan a time to plan!  It’s the best way to actually achieve your goals.  Do it with a friend.  Friends make life more fun and you’ll have someone to hold you accountable.  Make your to-do list work for you by highlighting the most important things you need to complete that day.

And today’s most important take away to spend some time pondering: Why make your own fruit platters when you can buy them beautifully pre-made?


Enjoy your day friends!

xoxo, Erin
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31 thoughts on “How to achieve your goals and a to-do list that works

  1. Oh my goodness, this is uncanny. I actually do this exact thing with a friend (well, more of an aquaintance actually) and posted about it on IG last week. We try and meet once a month but not more than 2 months between meetings and we just go out for coffee and fill each other in on where we are at with progress towards our goals, help each other brainstorm and figure out solutions, cheer each other on, etc. its great because it’s low pressure but it also holds you accountable because where you might make excuses to yourself, they can sound silly saying them to another person! Plus it gives you a deadline for things that don’t really need them (ie if you want to write an e-book, you might try and have a chapter finished by the next meeting). I’m so, so glad I’m not the only person who does this!!!!! Like really happy to find out I’m not the only one, haha!

  2. Thanks for this post Erin!! I would love to know how to organize pictures. Also, I have been trying to “eat that frog” to!

    1. You’re welcome Marcie! Thank you! :) I’ll share what I’m doing with my pictures at some point for sure. It’s a work in progress, but I’m working on a system! xo

  3. Great ideas, Erin and I’m thrilled they are working for you. I will take what you have shared and work it into my life. I so appreciate your willingness to try new things and share what works and what doesn’t. That fruit bowl looks so yummy! So, what does your husband think now that you two actually were productive?? :) And I’m all kinds of awed by the fact that he’s working on 2017 vacation plans. He really needs to be a guest on your blog. Hee, hee!

    1. Ha! I know! He really does need to write a post or two. He’s just too busy planning and being productive to do it.. ;) Thanks so much cutie! Happy Thursday! :) xo

  4. I like the idea of highlighting the most important tasks. I get sidelined easily or tackle the more fun or simple tasks and sometimes don’t accomplish the tasks that were a higher priority. Thanks for the tips. I also love the idea of doing this with a friend. It’s always nice to get another perspective.

    1. Jen I’m the exact same way! I do the stuff I want to do first which usually isn’t what actually needs to get done. Highlighting my top three things has been HUGE for me! So simple, but it’s helping me be so much more productive. Glad you like the idea too! :) xo

  5. i have been reading your blog for a few weeks now and love this post! making lists has been a priority lately, electronically or on paper :) it keeps it in my mind fresh as i scribble those notes. love becky higgings project life, bought it over a year ago and just discovered a couple nights ago when cleaning my supplies from my selves :( definitely going to make that happen soon! great ideas and thoughts and something i can improve by prioritizing whats most important each day. Thanks for the great organization ideas!

    1. Hi Lilly! I’m so glad you found my blog. :) I am the same way with Project Life. I was SO into it and love the concept but haven’t done much lately. I need to get back in a good routine with it! Thanks cutie! Enjoy your evening! xo

  6. This has to be one of my favorite posts!! I am a list maker. I can’t get through my day without one. I use the three most important things also. I just write them on the top of my list and then continue with things that need to get done but can wait until the next day if need be. I make one to keep at home and one for my purse. I always try to cross everything off my list but we can’t plan how the day will unfold so I give myself extra time on the things that are not as urgent. (Hope that makes sense.) Marty isn’t a planner which drives me crazy. However, he gets stuff done. I wish I could be more like him but I would loose sleep if I was. I think my way is better anyway. My life runs so much smoother when I have my “to do’s” right in front of me. On those days that I cross everything off my list, I feel the need to celebrate. You know, like add a shopping day to the next days list. ;)

    Great post and your hair looks beautiful. xo

    1. YEA! So happy you liked this post Cathy! I know you love lists like I do! I’m the same… feeling the need to celebrate every time I get through my to-do’s! And yes.. shopping makes it’s way on to my list quite often too. ;) Love you cutie! xo

  7. Hey Sweet Girl! Love your ideas today! Makes so much sense, so easy! Gonna do!!😁
    Question : I have always loved your notebook that says “I ❤️ Lists” and now also love your gold & white striped clipboard, with the scalloped edge! Gorgeous!! Where did you get them? Have a great day! 💙

    1. Thanks so much Velvet! Happy you liked the post. :) I got the striped clipboard from Target in the dollar section – so cute right!? All of my other notebooks I find at Marshalls. For some reason they always have the cutest random notebooks! Enjoy your day too cutie! Thanks for the sweet comment! xo

  8. I Erin, I visit your blog weekly for my healthy dose of organization therapy and of course decorative inspiration. I remember digging into an older post, as be it was your favorite things, but I can’t seem to find the amazing framed verse you have. I went on to find it through the stated website but can’t seem to relocate it. Help? I loved it. Thanks for taking the time to read this.

  9. Love this post and I really must get some planning done. Have felt totally overwhelmed lately — but tomorrow is a new day, right! You and your friend are adorable!

  10. Maybe it’s my lack of cute notepads keeping me from being productive and organized. Haha! Gotta get me some:) Thanks for another great post. You’re constantly inspiring me.

  11. Wow, did I need to read this today. I have been in dire need of a sit down planning session. It’s happening today for sure. Thanks for the inspiration to finally get some goals and plans in order! :)

  12. I absolutely love this Erin! Wonderful idea. I think of myself as too organized sometimes, like I just need to not have a list..buut, its just natural for me. Ive never thought to do it with a friend though which of course would make it so much more fun!

  13. ERIN!!! I LOVED our very productive planning meeting {and our not so productive past planning meetings! HA!} and I love this post! It’s so much easier to have a “guide” to follow to keep our goals and plans on track than to fly by the seat of our pants :) Hopefully this week I’ll get my post up on my take-aways from our fun, but super productive meeting! So glad to have you to plan with :) Love you friend!!! xoxo

  14. Erin, I’m not sure if anyone’s mentioned but your blog is loading reallllly slow these days once I click through from feedly. Sometimes only 2 pics load at the top and many minutes later, I close. Today only the quotes are loading.

    I don’t have this problem with any of the other blogs I follow and I really love your pics so I want to see them, especially of you and Gina doing your goals (one of my favourite pastimes).

    Anyway, have you changed something recently (last couple of weeks – month)?

    1. Oh no Marcia! So sorry to hear this! I haven’t heard that from anyone else and I had my husband check on his two computers and it is loading fine?? I haven’t changed anything lately. I’ll keep looking into it! Let me know if it starts loading better for you again! xo

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