The R.O.O.T.E.D. Goal Setting System helps you to identify and reverse-engineer essentialist goals that bridge the gap between the future you want and the life you’re living right now.
Sustainable, Life-Giving Goals Are:
- Rooted in your core calling
- Organically growing out of your context
- Outlined for clarity (part 1 & part 2)
- Tailored to your lifestyle (what we’re talking about in this post)
- Etched into your memory
- Developed by Providence
When I was seven months pregnant with my first, I decided I wanted to be a work-at-home mom. My husband and I had been discussing all of our options, and I had been dabbling in the family business for a few months. While I’d always imagined that I wouldn’t take on any serious income-earning projects until my kids were totally self-sufficient (like in high school, or something), certain life events combining with my studies of Scripture had me looking at things from another angle. My husband and I started charting out financial goals for our family. I looked over them with excitement because I was starting to believe that I would be able to help us reach our goals through grit, determination, and good old fashioned hard work.
At the time, designing my own planner was nowhere on my radar. I had a complex system of todo lists and digital calendars that honestly makes my head spin to think back on. But what was worse than my lack of a cohesive system of organization, was my total lack of understanding about the concept of trade-offs.
That’s why, at seven months pregnant with my first baby, I signed the biggest freelancing contract I’d ever seen. Without fully realizing what I was doing, with one digital stroke of the pen, I had committed the next two years of my life to the completion of a very rigorous and mentally straining project that would teach me the concept of trade-offs through experience.
Looking back now—even with seeing how my lack of personal time-management skills mixed with such an intense project to create a chemical reaction of overwhelm that bubbled over into every area of my life for years—I have to admit that I am thankful for that project. It was such good work (a dream project, really), and I learned SO, SO much from it. I’m saying this without a hint of bitter irony. I learned so much from the material I was working with (it had to do with book publishing). I was also forced to learn excellent personal time management skills, how to help a baby learn a gentle schedule, and how to work with a team.
But one of the most powerful skills that I learned through this crucible was the skill of learning when and how to say “no.”
Learning to Say No: More Than a Cliché
I quickly learned during my first years as a work-at-home mom that trade-offs are unavoidable, and that No is a responsible word. And even though a complex of mom-guilt followed me like a shadow, lying to me and telling me that I should’ve said a big fat NO! to trying to do any work projects while also being a mom, those lies do not align with the conclusions I’ve reached over these five years learning the ropes of entrepreneurship + motherhood.
“No” does not have to be a big, nasty, hairy slamming-of-the-door on your hopes and dreams. It’s actually a word that we’re called to use with maturity, thoughtfulness, and precision. It’s also a word that we don’t really know how to use properly until we’ve gotten some experience under our belts in whatever area of life needs pruning. Without a growth mindset, “No” is a scary and painful word.
But combined with a growth-mindset, “No” is a power tool that you can use to optimize any area of life (work, home, school, ministry, anything). When a strong “Yes!” and a precise set of “No’s” are mixed together, you have lifestyle crafting magic sauce. Again, this is all within the context of that “Lord willing” attitude. But God has given us agency, and the instruction to move forward in improving our stewardship of the resources He’s given us.
So how do we use “no” as a power tool to optimize our goals and our lifestyle so that there’s a lot less toxic stress and a whole lot more synergy?
Tailoring Your Goal To Your Lifestyle
Here’s a sneak peek of page in the Tailored to Your Lifestyle section in the Goals Workbook we’re developing:
Saying “No” with thoughtfulness and precision is included in “giving yourself permission to develop creative solutions that make sense for your particular circumstances.”
I like to use dressmaking as a mental illustration. While I’m not a seamstress, I’ve taken enough sewing classes to learn that you want your interfacing (the lining inside of the garment) to be a flexible structure that properly supports and matches your outward facing material (the part of the dress you want to see).
This is analogous to how your lifestyle (your daily and weekly rhythms, margin, deep work intervals, and other life-giving habits) should be a flexible structure that properly supports and matches the goals you want to be living out. This means that your lifestyle must be trimmed so that it provides an attractive shape for your goals to follow, instead of tugging and pulling your goals out of shape.
Your goals also need to be neat and trim. It doesn’t do to have excess amounts of your outward facing material ballooning everywhere, un-trimmed and un-hemmed because you just love the fabric so much that you can’t bring yourself to use scissors on it. You want your goal to make sense and fit you as a person (just like a dress should), and you can’t let FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) prevent you from being realistic about the kind of goal that fits the size of your life and the needs of your lifestyle while still being compelling to you. You need to embrace that you, with your particular life, will necessarily infused a unique flavor into how your goals are actually accomplished.
The way a homeschooling mother of eight gets a book written will produce a different flavor than the way a professional single guy who can sit at a quiet desk for eight hours a day would. The flavors of her timeframes for completion, the scope of her book’s content, and the book’s reception in the marketplace will likely be somewhat different too. But, honestly, that difference of flavor will likely be what makes her book so powerful. Whether there are other homeschooling moms who need the words she’s writing, or there are non-homeschooling-moms who need the particular perspectives, insights, and data that only she can share, God gave her her circumstances and put the book in her heart and head, and He wanted it that way for a reason.
But for that busy mama to get her book to press, she’ll certainly have to snip away at the excess of both her goal and her lifestyle if she wants the garment of her vision to actually come to life, fit comfortably, and be functional.
So learning to say “No” isn’t about automatically declining every hard thing that comes your way. You would stagnate, be miserable, and waste the resources God gave you to steward with that attitude. Learning to say “No” is about snipping away at the excess of both your goal and your lifestyle so you can have the garment of your vision to actually come to life, fit comfortably, and be functional.
Optimizing Within Beautiful Limits
Let’s take a second and talk about this phrase, “Beautiful Limits.”
Looking at the tangled overwhelm in certain areas of your life would probably not feel like a “beautiful limit” to you. Your kids are loud and impossible to concentrate around, or your boss won’t allow you to pursue a certain avenue, or you have a personal issue that low-key nibbles at the fringes of your emotions, margin, and motivation.
Whatever your limits are, you may struggle to call them “beautiful.”
I hear you. I feel you. But just like a skilled seamstress can work magic with fabrics and folds to play off of and bring out the beauty of any figure, you can become a goal-and-life-crafting artisan in your own right. It starts with seeing the beauty in your life, embracing it, and building off of the frameworks you’ve chosen and been given. Yes, there are big changes that can be made to improve any life (just like big changes could be made to improve any figure). But oftentimes, those changes are complex and difficult to puzzle out, and/or they take time.
But remember this: improving your skills of tailoring goals to your lifestyle (and tailoring your lifestyle to support your goals) is how you begin to tackle the logistics of making those big changes.
Just like a dress that is neatly trimmed is more beautiful than one that’s bulging excess material in all the wrong places, BEAUTIFUL THINGS happen when you embrace your limits, trimming both goal and lifestyle so that they match and mutually support each other.
How All Of This Helped Me As a Work-From-Home Mom
When it came to working from home, there was so much excess to trim from both my goals and my lifestyle.
How I had to tailor my working-from-home goals:
- I had to get deeply in touch with my “why” for working from home. Helping to capitalize and stabilize our family and our long-term business and ministry projects was at the heart of my “why.” And since my “why” centered on deeply connecting with and providing for my family and our common goals, that meant that my work would need to facilitate both deep connection and adequate income.
- I had to embrace my unique “how.” I have small children to homeschool, a husband who works full-time while freelancing on the side, and issues with chronic illness. My “how” for getting work done will not look like getting into my office at 9am and having “make the needle move forward in my business” as my permanent top target until I go home at 5pm. In my life, I have to fit my work in around my mothering. I had to design solutions for my limited emotional, mental, attentional, and decision-making bandwidth. I ended up even helping to invent the perfect planner to act as a hub for my brain, so I could stop losing track of important details in the flurry of doing life alongside two small children.
- I had to trim my “what.” This was the most practical, results-driven part of my goal-tailoring journey. I had to get still, get real, and get focused on what mattered most to me in my career. I wanted to be a fully present mama, but I also wanted to be excellent in my work and serve others deeply through my efforts. So I had to become a ruthless editor of what I considered important when I was sitting at my desk. Excess social media (even if it was the “working” kind) and unnecessary time in my email inbox were the first things to go. I had to become honest that my trajectory as a freelancer did not align with my goals as a present mama, so I had to find and train someone to replace me there. Chasing every single shiny new idea wasn’t fruitful: I had to find the small, vital few things that only I could do to really serve others in the marketplace. I had to learn how to stop procrastinating on my most wildly important tasks with busy-work. I had to figure out what was truly valuable by learning about the people I was called to serve, and focus on delivering those things. I just didn’t have time to waste on pretending like I was working. I had to zero in on the things that would really move the needle forward on my work goals, every single time I sat down at my desk, because time was limited.
How I had to tailor my lifestyle to support my work goals:
- I had to create daily and weekly rhythms. I had to create time-blocks for my hours and themes for my days, turning my chunks of time into buckets that would make organizing my tasks a lot easier. I had to automate as much as I possibly could, turning the mundane everyday things I needed to get done into automatic habits (so that not only would I stay on top of things, but so I could also free up a ton of emotional and decision-making energy for my work). I had to proactively make provisions for time with my kids, time to clean my home, time for working, and time for my community so that I could allow myself to be totally present for whatever I had scheduled instead of feeling guilty that I wasn’t doing something else (because I knew that the time to do those things would come.)
- I had to anchor my pivots. I had to know when it was time to transition from one thing to another. To anchor these transitions so that they could become a framework a sustainable lifestyle. I had to know what time was best to get up in the morning or go to bed at night, know when to transition into homeschooling or “room-time,” know when we’d be eating meals, and know when I had to wrap up my work in order to show up for my family. After experimenting and figuring these things out in one’s life, knowing is half the battle. Visualizing the consequences of not sticking to those anchor points is usually the final kick-in-the-pants you need to pause one task and pick up another one, knowing that because of your rhythms, you’ve provided time to keep the ball rolling in every area.
- I had to schedule deep work intervals. Probably the most stressful seasons in my working life (outside of agreeing to insane deadlines) have happened because of my attempt to do work that needs 80% of my focus in the middle of a ton of distractions. Carving out time for deep work means making space for legitimate progress. This is time when I’m not on full-out-mom-duty (because the kids are sleeping or being cared for by Daddy), I’m not letting my phone distract me, and I’m not just pulling random work tasks out of an invisible hat. Deep work time is time spent fully focused on getting to a specific milestone of a wildly important project. Crafting a lifestyle that makes space for me to have at least 2 hours of deep work per day (and at least 4-6 hours on the weekend) has meant that I can make tangible daily progress in my work, and keep vocational commitments, even with a very busy household.
- I had to create supportive habits. Morning and evening rhythms, proper self-care habits, healthy boundaries around technology, regularly talking positively about my work with my daughter (so she could become passionate about it too—which she has), good communication habits with my husband, techniques for sorting out my priorities and choosing what I allow to go on my schedule, and, of course, a strong habit of decluttering my brain and getting organized around my goals by leveraging my planner.
- I had to make sure I had margin to breathe. I had to embrace that every choice came with a trade-off. I didn’t need to try to squeeze ten things into a space where only one thing should go, and I realized that my perspective would determine whether the trade-offs I faced were really such a bad thing. God only gave me a limited amount of time—and it was enough time to get the really important things done. But in order to get the really important things done with that limited time, I would have to prioritize. And I would have to support my energy, bandwidth, and sanity with MARGIN. A small e-book about margin by Michael Hyatt was actually my first experience with life-changing productivity literature. Michael Hyatt proved in that book how MARGIN is necessary to have the time, flexibility, and wherewithal to actually make progress on the things that matter most. You can’t sustain a breakneck and packed schedule for long. Margin is the oil that keeps your gears from stripping, and allows you to actually enjoy your family and your work, instead of only ever feeling stressed and drained by them.
How to Get Started
How do you begin optimizing your goals and lifestyle? Start by asking what’s doable in both. By asking what’s doable, you get your first glimpse of the lines you need to draw and excess you need to trim in your expectations.
In the Goals Workbook we’re developing, I’ve included two worksheets that will help you begin to wrap your mind around what’s doable in your lifestyle, so that you can craft compelling goals that are both sustainable and supportive of the kind of growth you most want to see in your life. Working through these exercises is a great place to start.
You need a strong planning habit & the right tools in order to fully dive into the ROOTED Goals goal setting mindset. We created the Evergreen Planner System to support this mindset in a way that is entirely customizable. It can be used in so many ways to support the goals & dreams you are chasing, while also crafting sustainable life rhythms. The Getting Started Kit is the perfect way to try two of our core products – the Annual and the Monthly. Don’t wait until we launch our next subscription box – get the tools you need today!