Life goals can't be planned on Post-its.

If you wanted to, could you climb Mt. Everest? Could you picture yourself standing on the summit? Could you find out what you need to know to accomplish that goal?

Could you study maps and learn about the terrain? Could you search the Internet for guide companies? Could you read up on Everest climbs, both successful and unsuccessful? Could you talk to others who have done it?

Could you buy the necessary gear? Could you improve your diet and physical condition? Could you start training on smaller mountains, and work your way up to 10,000-,15,000-, 20,000- ft. peaks?

Could you organize the food and lodging requirements? Could you structure your calendar and block out the time needed to train, travel and climb? Could you create a written plan to get you from where you are now to the top of Everest?

Could you work that plan and accomplish the goal? And, even if the first, second, third efforts left you short of the summit, could you keep after it? Could you revise, tweak and adjust the plan, and keep going until you made it?

Could you? Sure, you could. If you wanted to.

What do you want? What do you want enough that you are willing to do whatever it takes to get it?

If you really wanted to create a successful business, could you? If you really wanted to create your ideal life, could you? Sure you could.

    Step One: Discover what you want.
    Step Two: Craft a plan for getting it.
    Step Three: Work the plan.
Easy enough. So what's holding you up? Maybe it's the Post-its.

If your idea of a plan is a note on a Post-it, you need some help.

There are a few good uses for Post-its. Use them for communicating something on an original document, without writing directly on the document. Use them as page markers. However, don't use Post-its for to-do lists. Don't use them for phone numbers.

If your office is awash in a sea of yellow squares, you are in trouble. You need a formal system for planning your time and actions. And, you need to make sure your time is well spent and your actions will move you in the direction of your goals.

Are you picturing yourself carrying around a day planner and thinking, “What a nerd!” Get over it. We are too old to remember what we need to do. We are too busy to waste so much time on things that don't matter. A formal day planning system can help.

Begin With The End In Mind

Steven Covey lists “beginning with the end in mind” as one of his seven habits of highly effective people. If you can clearly picture what you want, the whole universe will conspire to help you achieve it.

Write down your Ideal Day. Start with when you wake up and move through each hour of the day. Jot down thoughts, descriptions of what the Ideal Day would be like. How would you spend it? With whom? Where? Would you work? What does your company look like? How many people? How much money? How much time would you spend with your family?

Maybe you don't know what you want. You know you want more, but how much? You know you want your company to run better, but you aren't sure what that means. I have found the following exercise to be very useful helping people - myself included - in crystallizing wants and crafting goals.

Go to Barnes & Noble. Visit its extensive magazine rack. Buy a dozen magazines specializing in the kinds of things and activities that inspire you. Check out the travel section of the store. Buy a book, or a map, about a place you want to visit or live.

You can also search the Internet and print out pictures and pages on things you want to have and things you want to do. Pay attention to what inspires you, to what makes your heart beat faster.

Keep your camera handy. Take pictures of things or activities that inspire you. If you see an office that pleases you, take a picture. Clip inspiring articles from the newspaper. Find brochures for your perfect truck, home, vacation, software program, community service program, etc.

With a glue stick, scissors and some blank paper, create pages that describe what you really want. Knowing what you want - and picturing it - will help you craft your goals.

The Planner

Assemble your Ideal Day and your scrapbook pages in a three ring binder. This is the beginning of your Planner. (At Benjamin Franklin Plumbing, we call this the TAP Binder, short for Time and Action Planning.)

Now, put your goals in writing.

Take a blank piece of paper and write 2006 Goals on the top. Use a second piece for 2005 Goals. Use a third for your goals for this year. Goals are things you want to have. Your goals should be achievable, believable and measurable.

Note: If you have never written your goals down, this is going to feel weird. That's OK. Press on. You can't do this wrong. And you will get better with practice.

Here are some questions that will help you jot down your goals.

Personal - Social, Physical, Spiritual Goals

    How much time do you want to spend with your family? Doing what?
    Where do you want to live? What do you want for a home? A vehicle?
    What educational goals do you want to set for yourself? For your kids?
    What is your goal weight? Physical fitness goals?
    How much money do you want? How much do you want your family net worth to be? How much debt? What do you want for your salary?
    What do you want to have accomplished in your spiritual life? What contributions do you want to make?
Professional - Business Goals
    How much time do you want to spend at work? Doing what?
    How much do you want for your salary?
    What are your goals for sales, profits, average sale, key percentages?
    How many trucks do you want?
    How many employees?
    What awards do you aspire to earn?
    Would you like to sell your company? For how much?
Flesh out your goals for this year, next year and the year after. On the page with your 2004 goals, take one more step. Under each goal, write down a frank assessment of your current status.

For instance, suppose your goal for 2004 is to be debt-free. If you are currently $975,000 in debt, moving to debt free status in a single year may not be realistic. What portion of that debt is retireable this year? You might want to write in pencil. Feel free to erase and rewrite your goals. If YOU don't believe your goals are achievable, you doom them to failure.

Now, set your short-term goals. What portion of your 2004 goals is achievable within the next 90 days? Goal for goal, write down your 90-day goals. Next, convert your goals - to have statements - into projects and to dos that will move you to your goals.

Now, commit to a few projects and to dos from this month's list that you will get done this week. Assess the to dos with an eye for your goals. For example, if you have a goal to hire a plumber in the next 90 days, some to dos that would move you to your goal would be:

  • Create an ad that will catch a plumber's attention;
  • Run the ad in the newspaper;
  • Create flyers with that ad copy;
  • Distribute the flyers to your supply house salesman and to your local trade tech teachers;
  • Craft a script for a phone call to plumbers you would like to have work for you;
  • Make ______ calls this month.
Don't litter your planner with items you don't need reminding about. The idea is to infuse new, high-level activities to your day and weed out those things that are not leveraging your time and energy. Keep this week's list short. However, GET IT DONE. Better one or two to dos done than many listed and left undone.

Imagine if you accomplished only one highly productive project every week. After 52 weeks would you life be considerably different (better).

Sunday Night Or Monday Morning: Keep all these pages in your three-ring binder, your Planner. Take it with you wherever you go. No more Post-its.

Sunday night or Monday morning, keep a standing appointment with yourself to review and update your Planner. Read over your Ideal Day for inspiration. Look at the pictures. Read through your 2006, 2005 and 2004 goals.

See yourself achieving your goals. The clearer your mental image of your goals become, the more likely you are to achieve those goals. Add to dos and projects that will move.

Last month, we explored budgeting. Your budget is a reflection of your goals in numbers and dollars. Refer to your budget during your weekly planning meeting. Revise the plan as you run into challenges. Be critical: How can you be most productive? Are your actions moving you toward your goals? Are you using your resources - your time and money - to best effect?

As business guru Jim Abrams says, “Plan, or be planned for.” If you are not proactive with your plan, you will be at the effect of someone else's plan.

Each month my column reflects the lesson that I most need to hear. I struggle with planning. Hey, I am a spontaneous, fun-loving gal! However, the older I get the faster time goes. If I don't plan and act, another year will pass, and what I have now will be what I had then.

That is no longer OK with me. I want more, and I want to give more. Use these tools. You may fall off the planning wagon. You may miss your weekly meeting with yourself. Dust yourself off and Get back to it.

Take down your Post-Its and craft your goals and your plan. You can do it, can't you? If you want to. If you are willing.