Friday, January 15, 2016

Purposeful Planning

Starting a new year brings me a lot of joy for many reasons, and one of those reasons is that I get to start using a new planner! I LOVE planners, and I am definitely finding more and more each year that I am not the only one who loves planners. There are more planners coming out every single year, created by people who love planners, for others who love planners.

There is something about a planner that helps give focus in the midst of a busy, and often distracted life. And as a follower of Jesus, there is even more reason to live with focus, and with purpose. There are too many things that pull our hearts away from what is most important in this life. And a planner can be a great help to keep us on track.

I know that this post is a bit late, as we are halfway through January already. But I will share a bit of my planning process, in case it is helpful to anyone reading this. It is never too late to start with planning ...

I have used many different types of planners over the years, and this year I am using a Simplified Planner for the second year in a row. I love this planner because of it's simplicity. It holds a calendar for each month, and a page for each day of the year (though Saturday and Sunday are combined on the same page). That is it. Simple. Each day I have it opened up to the current day, with the current day's events and tasks written on it. Nothing else to distract me ... just focusing on one day at a time.

In addition to my Simplified Planner, I use a smaller notebook which I purchased at Target (behind my planner in the photo above) to keep a running record of things I want to remember for each month and week of the year. I have a page for each month, and also for each week. (I use three of these notebooks throughout the year, one for each quarter.) Also in this smaller notebook are pages for whatever I need to keep track of through the year. It fits right inside the front cover of my Simplified Planner. I then take from this notebook to write ideas/tasks on my daily pages in my Simplified Planner.

In addition to these planner notebooks, I am using a new resource for the first time this year ... Lara Casey's Make It Happen PowerSheets. This is a goal-setting resource that I am finding to be very useful. Though they are sold out already for this year, you could use other resources, or read the book Make It Happen, or follow along on Lara Casey's blog, or use other resources. You can also read through my Planning with Priorities series (which I also keep in mind as I plan my goals/priorities for each year).

The purpose of setting goals/priorities is to help us keep on track during the year. To be able to more clearly see what God is calling us to focus on, and then, to keep those things in view during the days of our year. Personally, I find this very important, as there are so many things to be distracted with.

In discovering the unique ways that God has crafted us, and the ways He most likely wants to use us, here are just a very few of the questions that have been useful to me (from multiple resources I have read):

What are the things that ignite energy and passion in me? (Perhaps I should pay close attention to these things, as they may be purposes and callings that God has created me for.)

What are the things that brings tears to my eyes, things that reveal what I care deeply about? (I should pay attention to these things, as perhaps God has given me a deep-rooted desire and calling to take action on what affects me deeply.)

Where do I desire to be at when I reach the age of 80 or older? What will I wish I had focused on in my life? What will I wish I had accomplished? (Instead of having the urgent crowd out the important, why not take steps to focus on what is most important?)

And so, this year, and each year, it is important to take steps, even baby steps, towards these goals and passions that God has placed deep within us. Priorities that He has given us in His Word ... and individual passions that He has placed in each of us. To be used for His glory.

If we wait until we think that we have the time, some things may never happen. So it is important to break these goals/priorities down into small, practical, possible steps. Even 15 minutes a day focusing on something of importance to us can take us a long way over time. If we don't take time, even a little time on a consistent basis, we may find out that we missed out on things of most importance.

Planners are useful tools in helping us live in focus, on purpose, for His glory. And always, we need to be flexible, listening to Him even above all our plans. Which is our greatest goal: following Him, listening to Him, and living our days for Him.

As our greatest goal and purpose in life is to listen to, learn from, and follow closely after God - loving Him with all our heart, soul, and mind - my most important notebooks are ... my spiritual journal notebook, and my prayer notebook.

The notebook on the left in the photo above is my journal where I record what I learn as I read His Words, as I listen to the messages at our church, as I read through books. It is where I process through thoughts and questions that I have from experiences and trials that we go through, through lessons learned. The process of writing out what I learn helps give me clarity, focus, and purpose for each day. Writing is essential for me, and it also becomes a record of what God is teaching me. I fill up one of these journals about every two months. 

And coupled with my journal is a smaller notebook that fits inside the front cover of my spiritual journal notebook (both purchased at Target). This smaller notebook is also of huge importance to me ... my Prayer Journal. Though many of my personal prayers are written out in my journal, this notebook is where I record things that I am praying for, for others - my family members, friends, and others that God puts on my heart to pray for. Faithful prayer for others, for our world, is one of our highest callings. I have found that writing requests and prayers down helps keep me focused. It helps me to be more faithful in prayer for my family and for others.

Planning for 2016 - 
focused first of all, on seeking after God ... 
and then on living out what He calls us to be and to do,
depending on Him, one day at a time.

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