(Inspired From the SMART Approach)
Check Your Head
The perfectionistic, high-energy, high-capacity ideal feminine fantasy is worshipped in our circles. Striving to be the ideal American mother is a burden that isn’t required of you. And it is most certainly a burden that stands between you and what actually is yours to accomplish.
So if you don’t have to be perfect, what tasks do you really need or want to do next?
What isn’t getting done in your world? Finishing an old project that lost steam? Cleaning out a closet, tracking your spending (darn you, Target!!), trying out a new exercise program or learning to do something you’ve always wanted to do (art, music, starting a business)? Name your goals. Choose one or two for now. Personally, I need to finish painting and decorating my living room.
Make It Measurable
Write it out like a business plan: How will you accomplish your project? When will you work on your project? What materials do you need? (They probably have them at Target.) Whose help do you need? How much will it cost?
I will need a baby sitter so I can focus on the task next Friday. I’ll need a design-savvy friend to help me choose paint. I’ll need new picture frames, a new coffee table, a lamp and two larger wall accents.
Make sure it is something you actually can accomplish. Are there time and money constraints that could make your task impossible? Can you revise your goal or break it into phases to make it more attainable?
I can’t spend more than $100 on the project and I know that will go fast. I will shop my closets and basements for frames I can re-use and put my money into paint and a nice quality lamp. I’ll focus on that coffee table this summer.
Why do you want to do this job? Why would you do it now? Is it worth your precious time and energy? How does it contribute to the overall goals of your life and family?
My unfinished living room makes me nuts. I do have a few professional projects that keep bumping my personal projects so I have to get intentional and disciplined about finishing my home. A finished living room would increase visual peace and decrease the borderline chaotic feel of our main level.
Reframe specific tasks within your time constraints.
I want to be finished before spring break. What can I do today? Research paint colors. This week? Go buy paint without my kids. This month? Rummage my old stuff stored in the basement in search of treasures. When can I schedule a painting day with child care? Not until next month. When can I expect to be completely finished? March 20!
Beware Common Derailments
Waiting for the mood to strike will thwart you every time. We have to make ourselves honor our own calendared projects just like we pony up for everyone else’s. It’s true that neglecting your goal won’t disappoint anyone but you … but aren’t you tired of putting your desires dead last?
I’ll do it later is a common automatic thought we obey without even realizing we’re obeying anything. I’ll do it later isn’t a time. “I’ll do it this Tuesday at 10 a.m.” is a time. Put that automatic thought on notice and see if you can actually do it now. Putting even a minor task off until later is forcing your future self to handle an extra hassle in a potentially far more stressful situation. Do your future self a solid and just change the darn lightbulb right now.
Enjoy Your Payoff
Doing is the only way we develop positive self-activating feelings like competence, confidence and accomplishment. Getting things done is so very satisfying and rewarding. Small tasks and accomplishments lead to bigger ones. And every enormous task is just a series of small tasks, faithfully executed.
*SMART is commonly attributed to Peter Drucker’s Management by Objectives concept. The first known use of the term occurs in the November 1981 issue of Management Review by George T. Doran.
Kelley Gray has been a private practice psychotherapist in the Denver area for 15 years. She is married to Brian Gray and is passionate about promoting growth, healing and making messes with her daughters.
This article currently appears in the spring issue of The MOPS Magazine.