I get it. It’s the new year now and you’ve seen everyone talk about their goals. “I want to lose weight!” “I’m going to take a trip!” “I am finally going to get that new job!”.
Maybe your goal is smaller – you want to read more books or make it to the gym. Still, you realize that you’ve tried this same resolution for the past…too many years and haven’t make it past the third week in January. It’s hard to start new habits! It’s even harder to figure out how you’re going to track this goal in your bullet journal or figure out if this should go on your weekly or daily lists.
While there are many reasons why we don’t do what we say we’re going to do, I think the biggest reason is we make goals like we make wishes. “I want to go to the gym more.” can easily become “I *wish* I would go to the gym more.”
So how do you stop wishing and start doing? Run your resolution or goal through the ‘Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich’ test.
Most people start with high-level goals. We start at the outcome we want but can get lost on how to make this happen.
Here’s how you know whether you will ever reach your goal – starting tomorrow morning, what and when are you going to do things differently in order to reach your goal? If you’re unsure, use the PB&J process
Start by making sure your goal is written as a SMART goal – Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely.
- Instead of “go to the gym”, you’re looking for “go to the gym twice a week for at least 20 minutes for 6 months”.
- Instead of “lose weight”, you’ll want “lose half a pound to a pound a week for 4 weeks, then half a pound for 4 more weeks.”
- Instead of “read more books”, you could set out to read 10 pages a day for the next month, or aim to read 25 books this year. Break each book down by how many pages a day you’ll read or what time periods you will block off to read – no matter what.
Sometimes our goal is bigger or more nebulous. How do you work on career goals? Or start a meditation habit? Or increase our pay by 25% a year? Or a really complicated goal – like start your own business?
If you’re like me, it’s too overwhelming to think about how in the world you could do all of this in one year. How do you make a new business “measurable” or “timely”?
The way to move past feeling overwhelmed is to break each goal into discrete, actionable tasks. I refer to this as slicing the goal into tiny, tiny steps instead of lumping them into this ball of chaos. Y
The Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich Method
Ask most people how to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and they will look at you oddly and start talking “Well, you slap some peanut butter on some bread and then some jelly on another piece of bread and smoosh them together.” Then look at like like you’re the idiot for asking the question.
Where is your peanut butter jar is kept in your kitchen. The jelly? Bread? Do you even have bread? Is it moldy? Are you out of jelly? Do you have to go to the store to buy any of the ingredients? Do you own a knife or spoon to use to spread the ingredients onto the bread?
Do the same thing for your goal.
Step1. Do you have everything you need to make your sandwich/ meet your goal? Do you need “ingredients”? Do you need education, or finances, or more time? Then focus on these as your goal and put your larger result to the side for right now.
Step 2. If you have all the ingredients, then break down the steps it takes to use them. “Get the peanut butter out of the cabinet” “Grab the jelly from the fridge”. “Get the bread out of the cupboard”. Number these items 1, 2, and 3 and give them their own separate pages to write the rest of your steps. You will need lots of room. I call these parts “epics” (yes, for you I.T. agile folks, I am hardly original).
Step 3. Break down how you would get each item. “Open the peanut butter jar”. “Pry open the jelly jar.” “Untwist the bread tie from the bread bag”. Keep breaking each step down – what does it take to open a peanut butter jar? Picking up the jar – but with which hand? Which hand do you use to unscrew the lid? Do you need assistance to get your jelly jar open?
I realize at this point you may be thinking “Seriously?! I KNOW how to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich”! Yes, and you know how to get in a car and go to the gym, and you know how to work harder to increase your income, but do you really know the daily tasks you must complete? Do you have a precise picture of what it really takes to accomplish your goal?
Until you can make a list of things or tasks you need to start doing tomorrow morning (a.k.a. you have the info your need to revise your bujo dailies), keep at this.
A Few Tips on Breaking Down the Tasks:
- Use multiple sheets of paper. Keep breaking each item down. You’ll know you’re done when the tasks end up being like a light bulb: on or off, done or not done.
- Do not try and do this all in one day! You may want to do this on large post-it notes and stick them to your wall. Then WALK AWAY. You need distance from your thoughts in order to see them clearly. You may want to tackle “bread” related tasks one week, and “peanut butter” related ones the next week.
- Pair up with a friend. We all have blind spots in our behavior (that’s why they’re called ‘blind’ spots instead of “completely obvious’ spots). Others can see what we can’t, and we can do the same for them.
- Once you have all of your tasks and you see how long that list it, I think you will be kinder to yourself as to why you haven’t done it yet. Chances are you have a very long list in front of you! If it were easy to accomplish our bigger goals, we would all walk around feeling like superheroes every day.
Holy Crap – this is taking up too much time!
If you are now freaking out at the amount of time it’s taking to plan everything and break all of this down, let me remind you that you haven’t accomplished this goal yet. If your goal is something you’ve tried before and couldn’t do, planning this out will reveal why it hasn’t worked before. If this is new, then you are doing to work to discover errors in your thinking before you waste even more time taking the wrong path. For example, if you want to lose 75 pounds and you think you’re going to do that in 4 weeks, this mental run-through should reveal the flaw in your thinking.
How long until I reach my goal?
This is the fun part – figuring out when you can finally plan on being done. Take all of those tasks and see if you can determine how long they will take to complete. Make sure you leave room for the rest of your life (sleeping and eating, anyone?) and you can come up with a general timeline.
The most important thing.
Be sure to put rewards in place throughout this process. Humans are generally bad at working towards long-term goals. We sacrifice our future self for the happiness of present-day self. (Cue Daniel Gilbert’s TED talk on “why we make bad decisions”)
I would love to hear what questions you have about this process! Please feel free to leave your questions below. We can also hop on a video call to discuss.
What goals are you looking to work towards in 2018?