Long-Term Planning: How to feel like YOU & create long-term plans

December 11, 2023

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Whether you want to decide some long-term plans now or NOT, this episode is for you. 

You can download the accompanying guide (including more examples than I share in the episode) here

I also mention: 

  • Episode 25 of this podcast, “Current reality first – and then add in the aspirational change,”
  • Podcast episodes from Goli’s Lessons from a Quitter podcast:
  • Bonus tool (not mentioned in episode) for long-term planning: this blog article

To learn more about and sign up for the Bright Method 8-week program, click here: https://kellynolan.com/the-bright-method-time-management-course-with-kelly-nolan.

Full Transcript

Episode 33. Long-Term Planning

[Upbeat Intro Music]

Kelly Nolan: Welcome to The Bright Method Podcast where we’ll discuss practical time management strategies designed for the professional working woman. I’m Kelly Nolan, a former patent litigator who now works with women to set up The Bright Method in their lives. The Bright Method is a realistic time management system that helps you manage it all, personally and professionally. Let’s get you falling asleep proud of what you got done today and calm about what’s on tap tomorrow. All right, let’s dig in!


Hey hey! And welcome back. All right, so today I want to talk about long term planning and also kind of goal setting which, I mean, they relate, and so, that makes sense. But it’s a little bit broader than that, which will hopefully become clear as we dig in.

Three Caveats When it Comes to New Year’s Resolutions – 0:44

So this is coming out in December, and what’s prompting it is the kind of traditional New Year’s resolution-type stuff. But there are kind of two caveats I want to make to that before we dig in further. The first is, for some people (me included in this), I’ve kind of realized that January is not really the right time for me to kick off goal setting. Just especially once I had kids, I love a new year, but at the same time, coming off the holidays, January is just tough with little kids. There are just so many germs. Everybody’s sharing germs and swapping them after the holidays. It’s a pretty tough time to start something new and build momentum when you keep getting tripped up by life.

So, if you are similar for that reason or a different reason or you’re just not super motivated in the winter and other times are more motivating for you, consider setting goals, if you want to, at different times of the year. I am someone that a new academic year (the start of the school year) is — I don’t know, maybe it’s the nerd in me — super motivating. I love the idea of a new school year and the crisp fall. And even before I had kids, I was kind of still in that school mentality. And so, the fall for me is actually when I kind of look at the next year, including the next calendar year and think, “What do we want this year to look like? What types of trips do we want to take?” that kind of stuff. And while I’m in that planning mode, I don’t necessarily set my goals for the year, but it gets the wheels turning in that direction.

So, if you wanted to shift when you set goals for yourself, if you decide to do them, then that’s something to consider is that January’s mot your only option. And if January is a tough month for you because of circumstances or weather or whatever it may be, then picking another time might be the right answer. You can always — maybe if you want to set goals right now, great, and then you can shift next year. If you just want to wait ‘til the next year that you decide to do it, awesome.

Along those lines, I also want to throw out there before we dig into the goal-setting side of things, is don’t feel the need to set goals. The idea of constant self-improvement and always trying to be better and all of that kind of stuff, it does not resonate with me. There are times and periods in my life where I really want to accomplish things like build this business, grow this business. When I was an attorney, dig into that. I definitely have a lot of that in my personality as well. But I really resist this idea that to be worthy or something, we should constantly be striving for improvement. I think we need to soak in how far we’ve come, how wonderful your life might be right now, how much you’ve gotten through. Maybe you’re not in love with where your life is, but you’ve overcome a lot over the last year, and I think there’s a real benefit at times to just have the only goal you have to absorb where you’re at, to appreciate where you’re at, to rest into the contentment of that, to be still, whatever that looks like for you.

So I just want to preface that, that I’m gonna talk about long term planning here and goal setting to a degree, but I do not believe that all of us should always have a goal or five or ten. It irks me when I hear people kind of make those assumptions. So even though we’re gonna talk about this today, if your main goal for this year is to be still and to absorb where you’re at and just appreciate where you’re at and soak it in, whatever it might be. You have my full backing on that as well.

I also want to throw in a third caveat. As I’ve talked about in a prior episode, and I’m gonna link to that episode, I also want to just say that if you are in a place where you’re still trying to get through the week and the month and you feel like you’re underwater, and the idea of thinking long term is just too overwhelming and your brain shuts down, just know that I have been there and that that’s very normal too. And so, what I would encourage you to do is listen to the podcast episode on current reality first and then aspirational. Again, I’ll link it in the show notes. But know that is a completely acceptable place to be. If you don’t want to think long term for a while and instead get a hold and manage the current reality that you’re in before you have the mental space and the capacity and the interest in thinking long term, I fully get that as well. So if you want to table this conversation and really focus more on getting a hold of the now, I fully, fully understand that too and back it as well.

How Do I Want My Life to Feel? – 5:24

If you would like to go through this type of analysis, even if you’re deciding, “I don’t know if I want to have a goal this year,” let’s just talk about how you might want to think about it. And as I get older, the most guiding thing that I think of always comes back to how do I want my life to feel. I think that I am a pretty type-A, linear-type person, and because of that I am maybe naturally attracted to more of a prestigious-type thing, I kind of let my ego take over a little bit. That’s been my history, and it brought me some joy.

Don’t get me wrong, I loved practicing law for a long time. I took pride in my position in law. I’ll just be honest, when I was at a dinner party and I could say, “I’m an attorney,” especially as a young woman where you kind of know what they’re thinking, and then you get to say what you do, and you could see them do that double take. I enjoyed that, don’t get me wrong. But what I have found is that when I was setting goals when I was younger living in those places and those mentalities, some of the goals I would set were more of the “should” goals. For some reason, the kind of stereotypical, “Lose weight, get in shape, learn a language,” that kind of stuff that I think is very accessible because it’s talked about and it’s almost talked about so much that we don’t even feel the pressure to do it, but it isn’t super exciting when you talk about it, really. You can kind of acknowledge that it’s maybe not where you really want to go because you’re not super excited about some of these goals that you might set.

I realized that a lot of that came down to the shoulds and what do I want my life to look like. When I shift more into what do I want my life to feel like in a year or three years or whatever it might be, what do I want my life to feel like, that brings me back to me. That brings me back to not what society says, what the shoulds are, what prestige I would get, all that kind of stuff. It typically brings me back to me and knowing what would make me feel happy or, to me, it’s often like a solid feeling, like I feel like myself is really what I’m going for. And so, I just share that with you, that as you’re thinking about do I want to set goals next year, what might those goals be, a real guiding principle for me that has worked very well and brought me back to myself and what truly would make me happy and my family happy versus everything else is how do I want my life to feel.

Again, you can think about this in terms of, “In one year how do I want my life to feel?” You can think about it in terms of, “In the next quarter, how do I want my life to feel?” You can even think about, “What do I want my life to feel like in the next three years?” This timeline doesn’t have to be firm. It’s not like, “By next end of year, this is how I want to feel,” but use it as a guiding principle.

Brainstorm a List – 8:17

The next thing I would do, once you kind of get some clarity around that, and what I would do is journal about this a little bit. I’m not a big journaler, but I do have one notebook that I really like to kind of have these deeper thought times in, and I can just write it all out. I have no judgment about what I write out. I write a lot down in there that I ultimately don’t end up going for, but it’s helpful to get it on the page, out of my mind, and just really think, “What do I want my life to feel like? In this season of life, what do I want my life to feel like?” knowing that next year I can pick something else or in another season I can pick something else. But for this season of my life, what do I want my life to feel like?

Then I want you to bring a little bit more logistics to it in the sense of what has to be true for my life to feel that way. Again, write down whatever comes to mind, as much comes to mind just get it all out so that you can think about that.

Pick One Thing to Work On – 9:09

Once you’ve brainstormed that list of things, some could be big and some could be small, what I’d love for you to do is pick one thing to work on, maybe one thing in your personal life and one thing in your professional life that you’re aiming for. My hope is that if you’re using a system like The Bright Method, you see how full your days already are in a very concrete, visual, objective way, and you can see, “I cannot add in what would be required of me to accomplish five goals. So let me pick one,” and we’re gonna then back those goals out into our calendar.

There’s another podcast I listen to by Goli. She runs Lessons From a Quitter. She’s also another attorney who left law and now is a life coach, and I really love her podcast, and I’ll link it in the show notes to the specific podcast episode of why you pick one goal. She gets at some of the reasons I think about, but she also just makes the point that I really love that we often think the decision is between one goal and five. Like, “Should I go for one goal, or should I go for five?” And especially in American culture we’re like, “Obviously we’ll go for five! Let’s just go for all of it. More is better.” Where she points out, really, the reality is one goal or zero because if you pick five goals, you will accomplish none of them.

And so, that really is I think just such a helpful point here because I think those who use The Bright Method will understand why you really need to just pick one goal at a time. You see how full your plate is. You just know you can’t add in a ton more stuff. But also, for those who don’t use The Bright Method, I think that’s an important thing — and even those who do — a really important clarification to make that really you’re not comparing one goal to five. You’re comparing 1 goal to 0 or maybe 0.25% done on 5 goals, and not accomplishing any of it. I think that’s such an important point to realize when you’re in these moments is being honest with yourself on that front and picking the one.

The episode that I’ll also link does a great job also of helping people who struggle to pick the one. If you really are torturing yourself over which of the things to pick, she gives you some frameworks and questions to ask, but also knowing that you’re not really gonna go wrong, whichever one you pick. There’s no right answer, and so, pick the one that is most — to me, I would pick the one that you think will get you to that feeling in the biggest way (the feeling that you wanted when we talked about how you want your life to feel ) and also that you’ll enjoy, that you’ll enjoy doing more.

Kind of as we were talking about, sometimes when you pick those “should” goals, they feel a little flat and discipliney, where, when you can pick something that’s exciting, that you can see the potential of, that is a feeling I would follow.

Okay, so I’d just like to recap where we are so far. When we are thinking of long-term planning and, in relation to that, kind of New Year’s resolution goal setting-type stuff, first of all, pick a different time if you want. It doesn’t have to be right now into January. If you do decide to do something right now, one option is also to just soak up where you are. If you have to think about where you want your life to feel, if one of that is just you don’t see a huge need for logistical change, you just want to enjoy your life more, that can be a goal is to just soak it in more, appreciate where you are, things like that. When you’re deciding either if you want to set a goal or not and what that goal might be, I really encourage you to, especially just the type of woman I know who’s likely listening to this, really shift into, “How do I want my life to feel,” not shoulds, not look like, that kind of stuff. How do you want your life to feel? Knowing that seasons can change, knowing you can pick a different feeling down the road.

Another way I’ve heard this said is, “What is the pace of life you want right now?” That is not my saying. Somebody else said that. I’m drawing a blank on who, but I think it goes to the similar point is how do you want your life to feel? What’s the pace of the life that you want to feel right now, and then think about what has to be true for me to have that feeling. You can brainstorm a lot of things and then you pick the one (maybe one personal, one professional that you want to pick) on what that would look like for this upcoming year.

Get Out Your Calendar – 13:27

At that point, then, I do want you to break out the calendar. You don’t have to necessarily plot out the whole year. But maybe the next quarter, the first quarter, how are you going to get to that goal? What are the bite-sized steps you’ll take on a daily basis or a weekly basis or an every-two-week basis? Whatever it might be, how are you going to use your calendar to help you bring this goal to life? What will be required for you to accomplish it?

I’ll throw out there that some goals are less action oriented. So the stereotypical example that’s coming to mind is if you’re gonna run some sort of race, then you might be like, “For the first quarter, I’m gonna run this many hours a week, and let me calendar those into my calendar along with any other things I need to do like stretching and maybe joining some sort of running club.” Calendar those types of action tasks that you need to do. But some goals are less that way. They might be more like, “I want to drink less this year,” or “I want to listen more.” That’s something I’ve been considering doing given how much I talk on things like this podcast and with COVID I feel like my listening skills, not in a professional setting, but socially, are a little not where I would like them. And so, that’s something I’m considering doing.

But those types of things are less action-oriented and more what you might want to do is still use your calendar to remind you of them. So even setting a reminder once a week to remind yourself that you want to listen more, or setting a reminder, I don’t know, every day for the first month that you don’t want to drink tonight but you have all these other options in your drink fridge that are non-alcoholic and things like that, whatever it might be. Remind yourself why you don’t want to drink more. You want your energy to be better and your sleep is better without it. You can use your calendar to still give you the reminders that will help you follow through, even if it’s not necessarily an action step you’re taking.

So play with that a bit. There’s no right or wrong. You can always experiment, and you will adjust. That’s the next point is, one, know that you’ll adjust over time. You might put something in that looks great right now and two weeks from now you’re like, “This is not working, so let me play with it.” That is completely fine. Again, that’s the beauty of a digital calendar. You just drag things around, change how frequently they happen, and there you go, play the new plan out. But also adjust your expectations as you’re putting it in your calendar.

This is something that happens to me a lot where I’ll be like, “Yeah, to do this, I need to work out –,” let’s say it’s a workout-related thing. “I’m gonna workout five times a week to accomplish this goal,” and I calendar that in my calendar. And then I see how it interacts with everything else in my life that’s in my calendar, and I’m like, “Yep, that is not gonna work.” And so, maybe you shift to working out twice a week or just less frequent of what you envisioned. That is a critical thing to figure out on the front end. It’s wonderful and can be frustrating, but I would much rather you figure that out on the front end than beating yourself up every day for not doing the thing you thought. And also know that you might need to then adjust your timeline.

Be Flexible With Your Timeline – 16:28

So you might have thought, “I want to do this thing in a year, and I know it’s gonna roughly take this much time,” I mean, you don’t really know but you’re guessing it’s gonna take this much time. But then you realize you don’t have that much time to give to it to get there in a year. Adjust your timeline. You might say, “This is something I’m gonna do in 18 months or over the course of 2 years,” instead of a year. That, again, can be frustrating, but you’re setting yourself up for success to actually do it, than to try and cram it into kind of an arbitrary year deadline and burn yourself out and never get there because you’re gonna quit after four weeks of some crazy intense thing that doesn’t actually match your life.

Now, that kind of addresses the proactive goal-setting side of things. Again, it’s like, “How do I want my life to feel? What has to be true? Let me pick something. Let me bring it to life in that calendar.”

What to Do When New Opportunities Pop Up – 17:19

What I also want to address here, though, is the reactive side of this where we know, throughout the next year, opportunities, options — we’ve talked about that before, but just these options of things are either going to come to you or you’re gonna get ideas to do something over the course of the next year. What I want you to also keep in mind is, in addition to things we’ve talked about of evaluating opportunities and thinking about whether they fit in your calendar and playing them out and how do you feel with them in there is bringing yourself back to that intentional decision you made of how you want your life to feel. Because, often, things in a vacuum sound pretty awesome, and it’s very hard to say no to them. But, if you put them in your calendar and see how that plays out (we’ve talked about that in the past), that can be very valuable. And in relation to that is the question of remember how you wanted your life to feel over the next year and does this new thing, new idea, whatever’s coming at you that you’re reacting to, does that thing get you closer to your life feeling that way

To me, that has been a very valuable component of this because, again, I hear about something in a vacuum and I’m like, “Oh, that’s amazing! Let’s go for it!” Where if I can just slow myself down and be like, “This is what I actually want for my year when I was slowing down and not living in the weeds and in that frantic day-to-day mode, when I was slowing down, this is the feeling I wanted for this year, and if I’m honest with myself, this other opportunity, option, whatever it may be, is not going to help me feel that way.” Then I’m not saying you have to say no, but you will make a more informed decision, and if you still decide it’s a once-in-a-lifetime thing and you’ve got to go for it, which is more rare than we tend to think, but let’s just go with that for now. Let’s say it’s a once-in-a-lifetime thing, and you feel like you need to go for it, then you are making a more informed decision about intentionally shifting away from what you decided you wanted your life to feel like. I just think it’ll help you pause and not jump into things without that informed decision making, and then when you decide to break it, you can really own it because you’ve made that thoughtful choice.

Set Aside Time For This Practice – 19:28

All right! I hope this helps. I know it’s a little bit simple, but it’s actually not always the most simple to implement or at least it can take a lot of time to really dig into all of these different things. I’ll put a little downloadable PDF with these steps in the show notes. I’ll make something up just because I know that there were a couple steps to this that I think can be helpful to have in a written format. If you want it, great. If you don’t, great, feel free to skip it. But just know that this stuff, I would really protect maybe two hours of time to go through all of this.

So, obviously, you can’t think about necessarily all of this right now as you’re on a commute or washing dishes or whatever it may be but consider calendaring two hours of time where you think about this stuff, reference this podcast episode or the download, whatever works for you, and really come back to it and have that time. And if you need to, try and do this kind of in a more special setting. Do it when you’re not in charge of kids, if you have them. You have a little bit more special surroundings that kind of bring a little bit of ceremony to it if you want.

For me, I’m not gonna be able to before the end of this year, but if I’m in Colorado in the summer and I can go sit by a river, that is the magical time for me because I just feel like myself. I feel solid in who I am, and I can make these decisions coming from that spot. We can’t always get that. So, to the extent you can protect two hours of time to really work through some of this, bring it to life in your calendar, things along the lines that we’ve been talking about. I really think you’ll benefit, and my hope for you is that your 2024 will help you feel more like you and enjoy your life in whatever way that looks like for you but feel solid in who you are and  motivated to work towards whatever it may be, even if it’s nothing, that will help you enjoy you and your life in this process.

Join The Bright Method Program – 21:22

In addition, if you would like further help on that front, on the more logistical, day-to-day type of stuff but still with the same end goals in mind, please know that my January through March eight-week time management program where you learn the whole Bright Method is now open for enrollment! I would love to work with you. In short, it’s eight weeks where we work together on implementing and tailoring this method to you, so you walk away with a system that is up and running and will serve you for years and decades to come. It’s a system you can leverage when you’re making decisions like we’ve been talking about today, to really leverage this system, to bring those decisions and goals in your day-to-day life to life.

I also wanted to share, as we’re talking about this, that if you’re listening to this, you’ve listened to probably a lot of the podcast episodes, you might follow me on Instagram, you might get my email newsletters, and it can be hard to — I mean, I like to provide a lot of value. I hope you feel that way. And so, it can be hard to see — you know, it’s a big investment. Like why should I spend so much money to take a program when you’re getting a lot of value in other places. So I just wanted to share what someone said who’s taken the program. She said:

“Confession: the cost made me gulp. I waited through a couple of programs and had such a hard time justifying the expense. I even read practically every article Kelly ever wrote and tried to piece The Bright Method together for myself. What I learned really helped, but I kept hitting barriers. After finally enrolling in the program, I can say 100% worth the investment.”

So I hope you join me! Let me know if you have any questions. You can learn about it at  www.kellynolan.com/bright. I’ll put that link in the show notes. And if you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me. If you can’t tell, I really love talking about this stuff, and so, I’m happy to talk to you about it to help you know whether the program’s the right fit and so much more. So my email is ke***@ke********.com, and I’ll catch you in the next episode. Thanks for being here!

[Upbeat Outro Music]

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