Tag Archives: planning

Why Just Setting Goals Isn’t Enough

So you’re putting together a plan for 2019? You’ve outlined some goals you’d like to accomplish. Let’s talk about why just setting goals isn’t enough.

Creating goals is actually the easy part. Reaching them is much harder! Even if we’re not one to make a list of resolutions, or journal a year’s worth of goals, most people have things they strive to do better; a level of success they want to attain; bad habits they vow to break, or good ones they want to make. And many people re-evaluate where they are with all of that at least once or twice a year.

No matter how you set your goals, they are little more than mere dreams if you don’t provide ways in which you plan to accomplish them; outline the things you need to do to make them happen. Which is one of the reasons why goals should be specific. 

I share this idea a lot with my students. I tell them, if their goal is to graduate college, and they do little else other than state those goals, or even write them down, then they’re not likely going to accomplish them without many hurdles. Why? Because if all we do is to state what we want to do, and don’t outline a plan, or create strategies on how we’re going to get it, then one day we wake up from that dream, still struggling to reached that goal.

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For instance, it’s not enough for students to say, when asked, that they want to graduate from college. They need to go a step further and outline what strategies they plan to put in place to help make that goal a reality. They must know which courses in their major they need to register for. They must strategize their study habits, class attendance, and know what they need to do to have success on their assignments so that they receive passing grades in each class.

If a woman lists among her goals that she’d like to run a marathon, but doesn’t outline a running plan; doesn’t research and follow an eating plan; doesn’t make a point of purchasing the right kind of running shoes to train in, she will likely not succeed with that goal. Another year will pass and she’ll simply tell herself that she wasn’t able to do it, when in reality it wasn’t that she couldn’t do to, but that she didn’t make a plan to do it!

What is the saying? “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.”

So how do you avoid letting time pass you by — again — staring at the same old list of goals you didn’t reach — again?

First, write your goals down. Be detailed with them. Don’t say you want to lose weight in 2019. Because if you only lose one pound, then you technically accomplished your goal to lose weight. Say instead how much weight you plan to lose. But keep your goals realistic.

Second, create strategies for each goal. Again, if your goal is to lose weight, then one strategy might be to find a diet plan you like and start following it. Another strategy for that same goal might be to start exercising. You might have a strategy to join a gym, or hire a personal trainer, or purchase home gym equipment.

And third, it’s not enough to write your goals down, or create strategies for them. You need to also establish a timeline.

Let’s go back to the graduation goal. Most students don’t come in as freshmen and say “I want to take at least 10 years to complete my undergraduate degree.” The majority of them start off with the four-year plan in mind. If you say your goal is simply to graduate college, and it takes you 20 years to do so, then, again, technically you’ve accomplished your goal. But perhaps not in the time period that was part of the original plan. If your goal, instead, is to graduate college in four years, then your strategies would be built around what it takes to reach that goal within your timeline. So you would set the specific strategies based upon when you want to accomplish it. Your strategies might involve taking the right courses, attending class, keeping up with the assignments, studying for tests, and anything else that’s involved with successfully passing each class and moving on to the next level each year so that you are finished within your four year plan.

So if you want to run a marathon, that’s great! Write down when? Determine where? Ask yourself is what you’re wanting to do realistic? If you’ve never run before, trying to train for a marathon that’s four weeks away would be seen by most as unrealistic. Whereas starting to train in January for an October race might be a more realistic goal. With a timeline in place, your strategies should be designed to support getting you to that goal.

But even strategies need a help. They require tactics, your specific “to-do” list, to help keep you on track.

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It’s Another New Year. Now What?

Many of you stayed up late on New Year’s Eve, reflecting back over 2018, thinking about some of the things that you said you wouldn’t do, but found yourself at some point over the last 12 months doing it. Or perhaps you were taking note of all the things you said you were going to do in 2018, but now realize how many of them you didn’t take the time to follow through on.

Others of you woke up early New Years Day, grabbed your journal, and started outlining your resolutions for yet another new year; making promises to yourself to check off each one of the items as an accomplished success over the next 364 days. You had the same good intentions last year, and the year before that, and before that.

For most of us, it’s so much easier making resolutions than it is fulfilling them. There are many reasons for this. Sometimes we’re on our way to success, and LIFE gets in the way. We may resolve to save more money this year, and then end up in a car-totally accident, forced to purchase another vehicle, gaining monthly car payments, because that insurance company you’ve been paying premiums to will only give you about half the cost of another reliable vehicle. Maybe you resolved to look for a new job, and before you land that dream position, you lost your old one. Now, you’re just trying to figure out how to pay the bills, while searching for any new job to provide a paycheck.

Yes, unexpected things come into our lives. Some times we have to change our plans of doing more traveling this year; or put off registering for that foreign language course you’ve been promising yourself; or we may be forced to spend from our savings account to cover medical expenses we didn’t see coming. Life definitely happens.

But many of us fail to reach our goals because we don’t put a plan in place for how to accomplish them. We start talking about all of the things we want to accomplish and think that just writing them down is enough to keep us motivated and focused. In reality, writing resolutions or even setting goals, without including a list of strategies on how you plan to accomplish each goal, is little more than just dreaming. And strategies alone won’t do it, unless you’re willing to follow through with your plan.

If you desire to get out of debt this year, but you don’t do anything to change your current spending habits, then it’s unlikely that you will accomplish your goal.

A couple of weeks ago, I was astonished after reading a post by a woman who was asking advice in one of those social media forums where the focus of the group was on sharing ways people become more financially responsible; how they’d gotten their finances, credit scores, budgets, and other things under control. After reading what she posted, I saw MANY things that was obviously out of balance with her thought process and actions, beyond what she intended to be the main focus of her question.

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This woman was writing for advice on whether or not she should ignore her phone bill (amount in the several hundreds of dollars) until after she got back from an international vacation she had planned because she didn’t have enough money to do both — pay her bill AND keep her plans for the trip. Her reasons were both humorous and sad to read. She had already paid for the actual trip and had saved up money to use for spending (presumably for meals, tips, excursions, etc.). A couple of weeks before she was suppose to leave, she gave her sister that money to get her car out from repossession. Then she talked about how her phone bill, now due, was so high because her sister and a cousin were also on her plan, and that neither one of them had paid their portion of the bill. She went on to mention that her sister said she didn’t have the money to repay her for the car or her part of the phone bill; etc. etc. You know where this is going.

Perhaps traveling outside the country was a dream of hers that she’d planned for all year. She did the right thing paying for it throughout the year, and then saving up for spending money. But the other things she was doing with her finances is what’s baffling. Having other adults on your phone plan is risky. I seriously doubt that the December bill was the first time one or both of those family members failed to pay their part of the bill. I could write five more blogs on the dangers of extending too much financial grace to grown adults. The title of the first one would be “Stop Being an Enabler!

Then there’s the question of giving up your hard earned and saved money to help someone get a car out from repossession. Is it unfortunate that her sister won’t have access to her car for a few days or weeks? Yes. Is that an emergency worth spending her money on? No. There are other ways for the sister to get around, including getting rides with friends, family, and other forms of transportation. Is it her responsibility to bail her sister out of a situation like this? NO. If you’re ever considering doing something like this, first ask yourself how did that person get to the point that their car got repossessed. And then ask yourself, can you afford to go without ever seeing your money again, since it’s likely that they’re not going to have the financial resources to pay you back anytime soon, if ever. 

What disturbed me the most about this scenario was how many respondents on the page actually told her to go on her trip on not to worry about the phone bill; someone suggesting she just cancel the service. Their advice was that the phone bill could wait, and that she “deserved” to do something fun. One respondent even said (when challenged by someone else who felt otherwise), that people “can’t just work all the time;” that paying bills wasn’t everything in life; and that everyone deserved some time to have some fun and enjoy themselves.

Even as I write this, I’m still baffled by a response as financially ignorant as this one. You’re not only messing with your credit score when you fail to pay your bills, but the bill will still be waiting on you to pay when you return, only it’ll be higher. And depending on how much time lapses, there’s also the possibility that the phone company turns your account over to a collection agency.  Then there’s the reality that if your family members can’t afford to pay you back, AND you just left to go out of the country for vacation, spending the rest of the money you have, how are you going to make good on that bill when you do get back?

Unless your financial planning includes putting aside money each paycheck to use to bail other people out of their financial problems, then don’t do it; at least don’t unless it’s a real emergency. This is especially important if your attempts to help someone else with their financial crisis then creates a financial crisis of your own.

If you want to make changes to how you approach your resolutions, then start by creating a Plan. Don’t just journal thoughts in a book. Write down your Goals. List your strategies. Create a timeline. And outline the tactics to keep you on  point.

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Not Another Women’s Conference!?

As we close out another important month — National Women’s History Month — I couldn’t help but take the timing of the ending of March to announce the kickoff plans of Catching Raindrops in Water Buckets “house events” later this year!

My “adjusted lifestyle,” hasn’t just been about journaling and starting a website. It has been about making some real changes in my life that impact how I am living. Our finances are a big part of the way we live. There are financial issues you control (spending, utility usage, entertainment and luxury items, etc.), and there are financial issues you can’t control (the economy’s impact on your 401K, increase in property taxes or insurance, loss of a spouse or loss of a job, and many other things.). Regardless of the source, when something impacts your financial life in a negative way, you’re the one who suffers the financial consequences. Those consequences can be huge and long-lasting if you don’t face the reality of your new normal and make some adjustments.

The impact can be even harder on those who only have one income. Whether it’s a married couple with a stay-at-home spouse, a single person with no family or roommate, or an older couple in retirement, when your “normal” changes, you have to change with it, or get caught up in the financial repercussions.

One of the things I learned through the process of going through my last nine years of change, along with decades of watching my own mom figure out how to make ends meet during trying times; especially with a large family, is that planning is key.

People plan to finish school; plan to go to college; and plan to get a “good” job. But most people don’t plan, financially, for what happens when one of those other “plans” get interrupted. Ignoring the possibility that it can happen doesn’t change the reality when it does. So why not be ready.

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The Catching Raindrops in Water Buckets conference is designed to Inform, Educate, Encourage, and Challenge women of all ages on how to plan for a successful adjustment when life throws unexpected surprises at them. 

INFORM attendees on ways to save money, stretch dollars, and invest wisely simply by planning ahead.

EDUCATE attendees on resources available to offer assistance during their adjustment period.

ENCOURAGE attendees to try new things; be creative in finding or creating secondary sources of revenue.

CHALLENGE attendees to step out of their comfort zone; start a new business; turn a hobby or a passion into extra income.

While we can’t control many of the circumstances that may happen to us, we can have some control over how well prepared we are to handle those stops, detours, and many times life-altering events when they happen.

We’ll be kicking off the larger conference (launching in 2019) starting first with doing small group house events. 

Ultimately, the conference is designed for women to meet, network, learn, feel encouraged, and for some, to come to the realization that they need to stop trying to live the lifestyle they used to know, and start learning how to live a changed life, adjusting to their new normal

Stay tuned!

What is Catching Raindrops in Water Buckets?

As we approach the sixth year anniversary of the start of Catching Raindrops in Water Buckets, I want to revisit its beginning. It’s interesting how things seem to work in a cycle. Once again, we’re watching the stock market, as it plunges one day and then regains points one or two days later. While the unemployment numbers look good, people are still underemployed, working jobs for less money today than they were 10 years ago. The rising cost of housing and the new mortgage laws have kept some people from attaining that American Dream, while struggling to find reasonable cost of rent in many markets.  And while the interest rates are rising, and the cost of living is higher, most people haven’t seen a significant increase in their paycheck since before the economic crash a decade ago.

I started Catching Raindrops in Water Buckets first as a writing assignment for myself. I used journaling as a way to process the massive changes that were happening in my life, particularly the time period following my change in jobs. Change, itself, was new to me. I had many other jobs before, having started working part-time as a young teenager, and full-time right out of college. But all of my positions were “upwardly mobile.” They weren’t all financially mobile, but each one prepared and positioned me for something that built upon the next level – until reaching that level where the financial rewards started paying off.

I was brought up to always live within whatever means I was in at any particular time in my life. Whether I was saving money for high school band trips; or to pay my own college tuition; or buying my first car after only a year at my first job, I learned how to practice discipline, patience, and planning in order to take care of the things I needed to take care of. And while I wasn’t perfect at it, I worked hard to be smart with my finances. I opted to live at home during college. I had three roommates when I finally got into my first rental house after Graduate school. And my first car was safe, boring, and inexpensive!

But in December, 2008, things changed. And those changes didn’t line up with my plans. They were a shift away from my otherwise, upwardly mobile status in life. And it was playing out in a non-temporary way.

There I was, along with hundreds of thousands of other people around the country, trying to deal with the impact of a Recession that few people saw coming, and most people had no idea how much it would personally impact them. I woke up one morning, and realized that the “normal” life I’d built for myself had been uprooted. So the only sanity I could hold on to was through writing. It was my means of processing the entire episode. Through that, I realized I was going to have to change some things; not just for this moment, but forever.

book with coffee cupAs I was going through my own world of “adjustments,” I watched others trying to make it through theirs. Not every life adjustment had to do with a job loss – but all of them impacted financial stability in some way. Friends going through divorces; neighbors impacted by a spouse’s inability to work; loss of income after the loss of a spouse; people dealing with unexpected medical diagnosis amidst inadequate medical insurance; unexpected legal issues that were emptying bank accounts; and a host of other issues, including people working fewer hours, or dealing with a cut in pay to prevent layoffs.

There were people around me who were trying to just “deal” with the things happening to them. Not all of them seem to understand that part of dealing would need to include an adjusted mindset. It was what I learned through journaling. I realized I couldn’t continue to focus on what was “normal” in my life prior to the major changes that had just happened. That normal didn’t exist anymore. I couldn’t keep doing the same things; at least not in the same way. I had to adjust to the new situation I found myself in. And I wanted to help other people; namely women, to do the same.

That’s why I took Catching Raindrops in Water Buckets off the pages of my personal journal and onto the Internet with this blog site and Facebook group page to share information and to encourage peer-to-peer participation. Women helping women work through issues and situations that they may not be ready for, or could use an extra perspective in dealing with.

Catching Raindrops in Water Buckets focuses on teaching, sharing, and learning how to use what you have today to help plan for what may not be there tomorrow. I hope there are some of you willing to share your story too!

Adjusting Your Life to Your New Normal.

Spring Break at the Beach

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Isn’t it beautiful?! There’s nothing quite like spending some vacation time at the beach, sitting on the warm sands, watching the sunrise in the morning. And then returning that evening, after  full day of doing nothing, to watch it set. One of the things I’ve missed about leaving South Carolina for Tennessee is that the once two-and-a-half hour drive to the Atlantic ocean now takes over ten!

I invited myself to the beach with them once I learned their spring break was the same week as mine! It’s the first time it’s happened since I started teaching, and my schedule became dictated by semesters instead of calendar years. I knew they wouldn’t mind, and after the last six months, I needed a real break; not the kind you take over the holidays, where most of your time is spent decorating the house, visiting people, attending events, and hosting family and friends. I wanted, no needed a REAL break! I needed to see the ocean again, feel the warm sunshine on my face while digging in to the sand between my toes. I wanted to not set an alarm clock, wake up to the sounds of the waves, and listen to the high pitched screech of the water birds, drowned out only by the laughter of young children running from the water’s edge. I didn’t want to wait until summer. I needed it now!

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But somewhere along the way, what I wanted; what I needed; and what actually happened didn’t line up!

Okay, yes, I agree. It was the grown-up thing to do to call and UNinvite myself from a week in (almost) paradise. But that was the point. I didn’t want to act like a grown up. I wanted some ME time. Sure there were papers to be graded, which I knew would be a challenge to do sitting pool side, most likely distracted by the splash of the swimmers, and the lure of the lazy river that meandered beside the swimming pool. And while taking long walks down the beach would have been just the kind of medicine I needed to help destress and refocus my mind, and de-tense my body, I probably would have been thinking about all of the other stuff that needed doing at my house — like sorting through stacks of papers, preparing my taxes, cleaning my den and home office, and picking up all those twigs and small branches that keep falling over into my backyard from my neighbor’s overgrown and unkept trees that line our border!

But none of those things are the real reason why I’m sitting back here in Nashville instead of chilling out there, in North Myrtle Beach this week! The real reason for my grown up decision came down to the most basic of things — money! I was forced to count the cost of engaging in this “free” vacation, in light of something more significant that I’m saving for  happening later in the year.

Under normal circumstances, I would not have thought twice about spending the money in gas (for the 1400-mile round trip journey), snacks, meals on the road, and sharing in the costs of food and entertainment once I got there. But that’s just it. Most people don’t think about all of the extra money it takes to take advantage of something that’s FREE. If you’re on a budget, or just watching your spending, you can’t just count the things you want. Money spent is money spent. What goes out today isn’t going to be there tomorrow.

When I talk about budgets in class, I start by having my students write down the amount for everything they currently spend in a month. I think it’s important to have a visual of your habits so that reality sets in before you make out a budget. I remind my students that they have to include everything — every cup of coffee, pack of gum, bottle of water, smartphone upgrade, oil change, new shoes, hair cut, mani-pedi, and pair of sunglasses they just couldn’t resist. For me, that would have meant adding about $200 in gas and probably another $100 for food; not including money for going out.

So while I would rather be curled up in a chair on the balcony of the condo right now, reading a good book and taking in all of the fresh salty smells of the coast, I know that putting off instant gratification today means being able to do something bigger and better later; like maybe this summer, when I’ll have  an entire month to chill!

What about you? When’s the last time you’ve taken a visual of your spending habits? Why not do it now, instead of waiting until you’re ready to take off for somewhere.

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Why You Should Make a Plan to Get Prepared this Year

Last month I started seeing commercials from a popular grocery store chain advertising several  non-perishable items. It wasn’t a standard store advertisement about the latest promotion, sale, or couponing opportunity. To paraphrase the tagline for this campaign, it was about stocking up the pantry with essential items (canned goods, bottled water, etc.) to remain prepared. I think one of the line was “Winter’s coming. Be prepared.”  It caught my attention because it’s the same thing I’ve been saying for years. Last year’s unexpected winter ice storm that hit the South, definitely caught many of my college students off guard and unprepared. Some people, however, feel that if they don’t live in tornado alley, along a hurricane coastline, have a house at the lake, or live in the upper Midwest during the winter months, then they don’t have to worry about weather related issues. The truth is that a natural disaster can strike at any time, almost anywhere. But it still surprises me how many people don’t take that reality very seriously; some just refusing to take the time to plan ahead.

So as I’ve been watching the news coverage of the flooding in Missouri over the Christmas holidays, I was reminded of the Nashville floods of 2010, and watching the creeks around my neighborhood flowing over and covering streets and highways. And hearing of people trapped in their homes; some calling out for help because they had children in the home, but no groceries in the house. Who knew that just five years later, I’d be watching the same thing happening to my hometown of Columbia, SC, including my college alma mater (University of SC). Two days into the flooding they were on a boil water advisory due to contamination of their water supply. After checking up on several friends, I learned some were without both water and electricity.

My sister woke up to discover her house completely surrounded by water, with both streets into the neighborhood flooded over. She and her boys were trapped for a few days. But because of our upbringing, she was prepared, having gone shopping the day before after hearing of the possibility of excessive rainfall and flash flooding. She was fortunate to have only lost power for a couple of hours, and not a couple of days, as some did. I wasn’t surprised at her level of readiness.

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I contacted a high school friend of mine after the worst part of the flooding event was over, and asked her to share with me her family’s story of how she prepared for that October event.

I’m typing this on my tablet as I sit under the hair dryer at my beautician, which is where I was when I really started paying attention to the weather reports.

My husband and I had talked earlier in the day and he told me he would go to the grocery store and pick up some things. When I got home late that evening, I found he had picked up a few things, but not enough to be stuck inside for a couple of days. So by the time we went back to the store that Saturday morning, the only bread left were a few packs of hamburger buns. The checkout lines were down the aisles; but we got what we needed.

Since our water supply comes from a well and not the city we made sure we had enough bottled water, because we knew if the power went out, the pump wouldn’t be able to pump water for us. So I also filled up one of the bathtubs, along with some jugs with water to be able to flush toilets. You gotta be able to use the bathroom, right?

While I was never a girl scout, my daughter was, and her troop leader had taught them a lot of survival skills. Having to prepare for this weather was kind of like preparing to go camping; primitive camping. You have a checklist of things you need: sleeping bags, tent, snacks, flashlight, lanterns (the wind up, battery-operated kind) oil, and a Coleman. 

By Sunday morning, when I heard church services were cancelled, I realized how bad it was in some places. Although we were blocked in due to streams and creeks flowing over the bridges we needed to cross to get out, our area of town was basically ok. We experienced no loss of power, had safe water supply, and our house did not flood.  The only ting we need was some roof work.

We were truly blessed. We had everything we needed. My philosophy is that it is always best to be prepared even if the predictions don’t come to pass. I know there were many people who weren’t, and unfortunately, suffered as a result of it.

My New Year’s wish for everyone reading this is that you make a resolution to make a plan for your life this year. That plan should include things to do to remain prepared in life; prepare for those things which we can do, since there’s certainly many other things that happen that we can not control. Increase your chance to truly have a Happy New Year!

“If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.” Benjamin Franklin