When it comes to setting goals – be the tortoise

deep thoughts by the water
Photo by Megan Horsburgh

“Aim for nothing, and you’ll hit it every time.” -source unknown

Have you been thinking about your goals for 2009?  I have.

Em made a good comment the other day – in January, the odds are really stacked against you.  You’ve just come down from the holiday high, the weather is bleak, the days are shorter, and you might be financially tight because of Christmas.

I would encourage you to think of those odds as motivators for change.    Yes, the weather is cold – but it won’t be forever.  You’re tired from the holidays – what better time to do what you need to do to feel better?  After all, wouldn’t you love to have made serious progress on your goals come springtime? I know I would.

Good ol’ “kaizen”

A few months ago I wrote about using a kaizen approach to change your habits.  It’s a Japanese word that simply means “continuous, but very small change.”  Much like reaping what you sow, or perhaps even the tortoise in that famous race, kaizen means focusing on those very small goals that are required to reach that one big one you’ve got in mind.  Slow and steady wins the race.

Here are some examples of kaizen in action…

alarm clock
Photo by Chris Metcalf

  • Goal: You want to wake up an hour earlier every morning so that you can work out.
  • Problem: It’s just so hard to peel yourself out of bed that much earlier, because the covers are so darn cozy.
  • Kaizen Solution: Just wake up one minute earlier the first day – instead of 7:00, get up at 6:59.  No problem.  Then the next morning, wake up a minute earlier than the day before – that means 6:58.  That’s two minutes earlier than the first day.  Continue the cycle for 60 days, slowly waking up a minute earlier than the day before.  If the method works, you should easily wake up an hour earlier – 6 a.m. – in two months.

piggy bank
Photo by Chimidoro

  • Goal: You want to put more money into a savings account.
  • Problem: Somehow, that $50 every month goes somewhere – groceries, Starbucks, the phone bill… who knows.
  • Kaizen Solution: Set aside $1.65 a day.  This can be physical change that you put in a mason jar, or you can open an Capital One 360 account, where you can have an endless amount of savings accounts, all tied to your checking account.  Set up a daily automatic withdraw of $1.65 cents into a specific savings account.  If you start January 1 (that’s four days ago – $6.60 to catch up), you’ll have over $600 saved by the end of the year.

What will your goals be?

With this in mind – what’s on your mind? If you reflected some on 2008, then you have a general idea of how you’d like 2009 to be a bit different.  Perhaps you thought of some specific ways you’d like to change this year.

If you’re a recovering perfectionist, like me, then you’ve got some barriers stacked against you – you tend to not do something at all if you can’t do it perfectly, and you tend to make goals that are far too ambitious.  Kaizen is a great tool for you, in this case, because you can set a bunch of shorter goals, with one larger goal in mind.

I encourage you to make monthly goals, not just yearly ones.  Have a big picture end in mind – but focus on what you’re going to do in January.

If one of your goals is to be debt-free by the end of the year, how much money will you put towards that debt in January? Where will that money come from?  Chart your progress, so that you stay motivated and encouraged.  I love the idea of snowflaking your way towards your financial goals.

If you’d like to finally lose those 20 pounds this year, what are your diet or exercise plans for this month? Have you created meal plans that reflect your goal?  What will you do to make time to work out this month?  How about this week?

Kelley reminded us of that handy acronym to keep in mind when setting goals – make sure your goals are “SMART”:  Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely.

And as that recovering perfectionist, don’t let screwing up once convince you to throw in the towel.  Give yourself lots of grace. Purposely allow room to fail, so that you can brush yourself off and go at it again.  Make mistakes a part of your plan, because you’re human. And don’t forget to laugh.

What are your plans for January that will bring you a step closer to your 2009 goals?

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  1. Laura

    Brilliant post! The kaizen (did I spell that right) approach is so inspiring. I have been wanting to get up earlier for months but can’t seem to make myself – but I could totally do a minute a day! Love it! Thanks for sharing!

  2. Nicki at Domestic Cents

    Yes, I am a perfectionist also. I just want to dive right in and do everything perfectly. I like the idea of the ‘shorter goals,’ it makes me feel like I’m still winning even though I have reached the ultimate goal yet.

    Nicki at Domestic Cents´s last blog post…Carnival Of Family Life

  3. Mary

    That approach worked well to get me off my caffeine addiction; I haven’t thought of applying it in other areas.

    Regular exercise – here I come!!

    Mary´s last blog post…A year without sugar?

    • Emma

      That’s exactly right! This is how I quit smoking. At first I started smoking less cigarettes per day, cutting down from 10 to 9, 8 etc until I reached 3. Then I started smoking only when the urge was too strong, then I began smoking halved of cigarettes and finally I didn’t smoke for a day.

      My goal was to stay off cigarettes just a day at a time (sounds like AAA, I know 🙂 ) And I kept on going smoke-free, and now I’m not smoking for 3 years already. My bigger goal was to clean the poison out of my system before I get pregnant – and I did it!

      Emma´s last blog post…Family vacation can be fun or a disappointment – the choice is yours.

  4. Krissi

    “Ing” sounds interesting I’m going to check it out right now. It sounds like a perfect way to make small steps towards saving. A goal I want to achieve this year.

    Krissi´s last blog post…the SwimMom Question?

  5. Dominique

    The kaizen approach is really achievable. With every little step we are one step nearer to my goal of saving enough money to have a ” rainy day” account if needed.

    Dominique´s last blog post…Weekend Party at JWT Gym

  6. jenna

    Another big fat “THANK YOU” is in order!! What a great idea — one minute at a time…. maybe I really WILL wake up before the kids jump on the bed in the morning! I think I may have to do it with my bed time habits first —- go to bed one minute earlier each night until I get to 11PM… THEN start the morning minutes. I just have to admit that I LOVE staying up late when the house is silent, and having time to myself, so I need to rethink my schedule… maybe on paper, to really SEE where the time goes. My children (3 years in a couple of weeks and 9 months) are pretty active, so I feel like I am just running behind them all day.

    • simplemom

      Jenna, I love the evenings, too, even though I’m more of a morning person. Something about finally getting the kids to sleep and having a relatively quiet house makes me want to get stuff done.

      That’s a good idea to see on paper where your time is going. I might need to do that as well.

  7. Lucie @ Unconventional Origins

    Great post! This whole new years “series” you have done has been so helpful! After I answered a lot of the questions posed in previous posts, I felt ready to set my goals. I have already set personal goals and family goals with my fiance, and now I think we will look at them one more time and see how we can take them one month at a time.

    Lucie @ Unconventional Origins´s last blog post…Ringing in the New Year Part III – Setting Goals

  8. Loretta

    I like the idea of the kaizen approach. I’m going to have to apply that to waking up earlier. I used to be such an early riser but now I find myself really slacking in that department. I guess on the other end I’ll have to apply it to going to bed earlier as well…

    Loretta´s last blog post…Celebrate!

  9. Caitlin

    Thanks for the great post! I gave up on golas a few years ago because I’d always miss one day and get frustrated and quit because it was obviously pointless… 😉 Thanks for the kick in the pants!

  10. Avlor

    I like the approach and will ponder how to apply it to my resolutions. Thanks!

    Avlor´s last blog post…“New Look” and Tagged

  11. katydid6

    I’ve found these posts about reflecting on the new year really inspiring, too!

    One of my goals for 2009 is to complete a mini-marathon in May. In order to make that happen, my goal for January is to add one more day of running to the 2 days I manage to squeeze in. My hubby is helping me to reach this goal by scheduling time during the week when he’ll watch the kids during the day. I’ve learned that if I try to do it early in the morning or in the evening I will always find a reason not to do it!

    katydid6´s last blog post…January 4th

  12. robyn

    one thing i did was make a list of “31 things to do before i turned 32”. which is in june. this gives me some good intermediate goals, and a timeline for them. some are larger goals (mostly involving knitting stuff) but all are measurable in some way. and in my mind i’ve got them divided out by the next six months, the easier ones to be done between now and march (when i’m getting married) and some of the more time consuming ones later, when the buzz of the wedding planning is done.

    setting monthly, weekly, and even daily goals has really helped me. say i want to get a certain amount of knitting done by june. i just say how much i’m going to get done in january, then how much i have to get done each week to hit that goal. and then i look at my week. so tonight i’ve got to finish a hat and start on a mitten. i can do that easily! and before i know it, goals complete!

  13. Courtney

    I’m trying baby steps to read the Bible this year and joined a blogging book club for it. The schedule is in manageable chunks, and the accountability to others helps me stay on track.

    I could use a good work out, but I want to wait till it gets warmer!

    And for diet, I suppose I could eat one less cookie or chocolate a day … I have to think about that some more, though. Giving up chocolate just doesn’t sound right!

    Courtney´s last blog post…The glory of it all

  14. Mama Koala

    Great post! Thanks, as always for your common sense approach to life–it is inspiring.

    We are aiming to be credit card debt free by the end of 2009, but will be piling the cash into an emergency fund for now as we found out we are expecting again:-)

    Mama Koala´s last blog post…Farewell Size 8!

  15. bee

    You are so motivating! I love the thought of reaching your goals a little at a time!

    bee´s last blog post…Have a Rockin’ New Year!

  16. Renee

    I really like the kaizen idea. Slow and steady really does win the race. I’ve given some thought to my goals for 2009. They are, for the most part, connected. I’d love to lose those extra pounds, be more patient with my children and have a more positive outlook in general. All pretty vague, I know.
    My plan is to get up early and walk on the treadmill most days for 20-30 minutes. This not only helps with those extra pounds, it makes me a better mom. And being a better mom helps me maintain a positive outlook.
    I remember seeing on one of my daughters shows (something on Noggin or Sprout, can’t remember) that it takes 30 days to change a habit. So I’ve been focusing on getting through January. It will be easier then. It’s a short term goal and I can re-evaluate where I need to go next once I get there.

  17. RookieMom Heather

    Ha ha. Tsh, you crack me up. One minute earlier for 2 months. I don’t know about that one. What about setting daily goals rather than a big annual goal? I’ve made mine very easy and sometimes I don’t declare the goal ’til I’ve finished it (today was go to work for example). But they’re all things I want to accomplish.

    Trying to keep myself honest via twitter #dailygoal.

    RookieMom Heather´s last blog post…Activity #1061: Customize your celebration

  18. RookieMom Heather

    Oooh, I also have a big list of 101 things to accomplish in 1001 days to keep me busy… and a book of 250 activities to do with (or without!) a baby so you could say I like making goals.

    RookieMom Heather´s last blog post…Our notso rookie babies

  19. Neas Nuttiness

    This was a GREAT post. I’m going to make a sign that says “Kaizen” and put it on my fridge.

  20. BJ

    Great post. Thank you for the helpful tips.

    BJ´s last blog post…Routines

  21. Kristen

    I have some simplicity goals this year, so I am doing Tsh’s spring cleaning. I have a feeling when I am done I will feel light and free and the mental chatter may leave as well. I also feel responsible for reducing my husbands high cholesterol and vitamen D deficiency. Each day I fret about getting up early enough to make him home made oatmeal with nuts and fruit. I then prepare a relatively healthy dinner in the morning so when he gets home with the kids (I am not there until he is home 1.5 hours) he can pop it in the oven and relax. I am fortunate that I have perfect physical health, crappy mental health as I worry about everything and try to control it. So I am hoping the spring cleaning will teach me along the way what is important and what is not, and hopefully it will teach him too and he can be responsible for his own health. I will also practice reeping what I sow.

  22. Jennifer

    Fabulous blog post! I like the suggestion on waking earlier. I am putting that into action!

    Jennifer´s last blog post…Not Me Monday

  23. Kristi

    Love this!!

  24. Dara

    I love this! The tortoise is the story of my life. I’ll never be the fastest or flashiest, but if you want someone who will be consistent and plod along, I’m your girl. One of my goals is to get completely caught up on a project I’m consistently behind on. I broke it into 29 pieces and will work on one piece a day and can hopefully be caught up in a month. Then it will be actually manageable to stay current–it’s just been too overwhelming up until now to even start and then I get further and further behind. I’m excited for the new year!

    Dara´s last blog post…A Fresh Start

  25. stephanie

    Good reminders. I’m working on several goals for 2009. One of them is related to eating healthier and, while I would love to go gung-ho and buy all sorts of produce, organic this and that and completely revamp my eating, I also know that I have 4 other family members that don’t need such help. I don’t want to make two different meals at every meal, so I’m going to work on eating healthier within the confines of eating with my family – which may mean more watch of portion control, an extra helping of the veggies instead of carbs, etc.

    stephanie´s last blog post…Journal Your Christmas ::: Days 23-29 (Catch up!)

  26. Maria -- WriterGig

    This is a great method, and it suits me well. For example … I wanted to add at least 50 article to my eHow profile one month. I made it a goal to write two each day … simple, and manageable! — and before the end fo the month, I’d met my goal! I am doing this for my 2009 home organizing and writing goals. Great post!

    Maria — WriterGig´s last blog post…Get Organized, Moms!

  27. aHaModernLiving

    You are so spot on. I mentally have to break down big tasks as you describe in the kaizen solution. Love your blog!

    Catch Me On: Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn

  28. Mitzi Zohar

    The only problem with this post is that it really cut into my blog surfing time! I was so inspired that I jumped up from the computer and got rid of three bags of stuff! Thanks for the inspiration.

    Mitzi Zohar´s last blog post…Freecycle Fabric Windfall

  29. LaToya

    I think that gradual changes are a great idea. This month I am sitting down with debt counseling to aid in the goal towards being debt free. Also my overall goal is to live a life that’s more pleasing to God than myslef. For this month I am reading a Proverb and Psalm a day . . . searching for wisdom.

  30. Angie

    Hey… this has been my theme lately! Kaizen. Glad I have a word for it now.

    Thanks for all the great tips you share here!

    Angie´s last blog post…Using up my Stash(es)

  31. Vintage Mommy

    I too am working towards more realistic goals and less “all or nothing” thinking. I decided to make affirmations instead of resolutions this year, and it was a good decision.

    I will be thinking about ways kaizen can help me reach my goals. The getting up earlier a minute at a time is a great example of how you can truly start small!

    Vintage Mommy´s last blog post…A Big Milestone and a Small Milestone

  32. Kalisha @ Mommy Lounge

    Thanks for this post! It puts the whole weight of a new year’s resolution in better perspective. I like the idea of slow and steady–I will have to try that. Slowly and steadily! 🙂

    Kalisha @ Mommy Lounge´s last blog post…Merry Christmas!

  33. GoalGirl (Marion)

    Really cool to see goal setting, and a lot of other things discussed from the perspective of a busy mom, being a busy mom myself (and aspiring to be a ‘Simple Mom’). Kaizen… how the Grand Canyon, most great literary works, and all of the best bonsai came to be. I love it!

    Follow GoalGirl on Twitter

    GoalGirl (Marion)´s last blog post…Book Review: Seth Godin’s “The Dip”

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