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Making lists is one of my favorite things–if you could take a look around my work space(s)–yeah, I tend to spread out through my office and the dining room–you’d see probably like twenty different lists. Now, admittedly, I have ADD and can’t remember everything I should. But having written things down actually puts those things in front of my face multiple times a day, reminding me that I don’t actually have time to sit and watch another episode of whatever I have on my DVR.

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So what’s the benefit of writing down goals if I CAN remember them? Well, according to Mark Murphy, author of HARD GOALS, writing down your goals is beneficial two different ways: external storage, and encoding.


1. External storage is explained by Murphy as, “storing the information contained in your goal in a location…that is very easy to access and review at any time.” Like printing a beautiful page or poster with it and displaying it where you see it all the time to remind you, “THESE ARE YOUR GOALS–EYES ON THE PRIZE!!”


2. Encoding. Murphy describes this as, “the biological process by which the things we perceive travel to our brain’s hippocampus, where they’re analyzed.” From that point, the brain decides what to toss and what to keep. So, he states, “when you write something down it has a much greater chance of being remembered.” Anybody else remember being able to retain things better when taking notes in college? Yeah, me too. Also I wrote down “Take notes in class so you’ll remember better” and posted it on my bathroom mirror. Just kidding.

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Joking aside, writing down your goals does help keep your eye on the prize–life happens, things go awry. Your list will keep you focused on what you want instead of what distracting things may be happening in your life right now.


3. Helps you prioritize. Once you see those goals listed, you’ll be able to objectively think about which ones need to go in a specific order (because you can’t get #3 done until you get #5 done, for example); and also which ones take priority for other reasons. Some of my goals listed this spring included getting parts and repairing the playset, rebuilding our garden that got destroyed by a tornado last year, and rebuilding the herb bed. We HAD to get the playset taken care of first because we host an annual Easter egg hunt/brunch and couldn’t take the chance that the kids there would get cut on a rusted ladder rung on the playset.

Figure out how and why you need to order your goals, and then start your planning process.


4. Combats avoidance. There will always be that little voice in the back of your head that says, “Oh, one more day won’t hurt.” Except that one day turns into three, and three turns into a week, and so on. If you procrastinate even once, that just sets the stage to allow yourself to continue putting it off.


5. Helps figure out steps needed. Just seeing those words on paper will make you start putting together a plan of HOW to get there. Put those steps down on paper, too, and before you know it you’ll have a list of things you need to do to get that one thing done. The next step from there would be to actually put those ‘to do’s’ in your calendar and actually DO IT.

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6. Forces you to clarify what you want. This one can be a bit tricky, because it’s more psychologically deep than the others. This one is more about knowing yourself and what your true endgame goals are. Once you write things down and they’re staring you in the face, you can really reflect on them to determine if you really do want/need that one thing.

My example of this is that I really do want a garden, and every year we commit to planting one. My husband is included in this process, and is verbally all for it. But what happens every single year is that I do all the planning, planting, weeding, watering, fertilizing, etc, etc, etc, until I get burned out doing it all by myself, and then I just quit.

The plants get a fungus, or bugs or whatever the hell circulates in this Godforsaken humidity around here, and I just don’t care that much anymore. And then I get really annoyed with myself, because I spent all that time working on something I was too burned out to finish when I could’ve been doing something either way more productive work-wise, or spending time with the kids on their summer break. It wasn’t a well-thought-out plan, and I should’ve learned my lesson the first year. (Sigh.)


So have you written down your goals yet? How do you set yours up? 5-Year goals? 1-year goals? Monthly? If you need help, this is the perfect time to start using the SMART Goals model to define your steps!

Click the image below to download the FREE SMART Goal Setting workbook!

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