Don’t Write Your Goals In Permanent Marker

By day, I am an IT project manager, and as such I normally am juggling multiple projects in various stages. Right now, I have three major projects going on.  One is just starting off (planning), one is midway through the setup and delivery (execution), and the third is just wrapping up (closing).

With multiple projects in different stages, all involving different people, t’s necessary for me to keep track of things so that I don’t lose track of any key tasks or dates.  I have a whiteboard where I write down key tasks.  Every day, I’ll check against my whiteboard to keep track of things that I might need to do or follow up on that day.

Every once in a while, things will get a little disorganized on my list.  One project might need more space, erasing and adding new things may have put things out of order, or a new project might need space.  When I do that, I’ll often erase the whole thing and start writing it from scratch.

Earlier this week, as I was re-writing my task list on my whiteboard, it occurred to me the mb-2015-05-whiteboardimportance of using a whiteboard, which allows me to quickly erase and make changes on the fly.

Goals change, and it’s important to be able to track these goals and the changes in your goals.  A whiteboard gives me the flexibility to track my ever changing goals.

If my list of goals was written in permanent, think about what would happen.

  • It would get messy very fast – Right now, when something changes, I can make a change relatively quickly and my whiteboard will stay ‘clean’ for a good long time. I can go days or weeks with it looking clean, depending on how quickly things change and how neat I am making the changes.  If I didn’t have the ability to make these changes, I would have to cross things off, add things out of order, and it would get messy fast.
  • My efficiency would suffer – In today’s world, all of my tasks for a project are listed in a clean order.  If things started getting messy, every time I wanted to look at my lists for a project, it would take me longer and longer to sort through my goals. There would be a lot of ‘noise’ that just wastes time.
  • I’d run out of room – Right now, I have a whiteboard that takes about half of one of my cube walls.  If I didn’t have the ability to ‘clean up’ but was left with the same space, I’d run out of room very quickly.  How would I ever be able to track new tasks if I couldn’t erase the history of tasks that are no longer important?
  • Or I’d have to use less effective methods – For my daily task list I print out a sheet of paper with all of the tasks I want to get done for the day.  This includes meetings I need to participate in, things I need to do, and recurring tasks.  This works because it’s day to day, but if I didn’t have my whiteboard, I’d have to use this not only for short term tracking, but for long term tracking. What works for a daily tracker would be a nightmare for a long term tracker.

The bottom line is that goals change, and whatever your goals are, they are going to change.  If your goal today is to get out of credit card debt, hopefully that’s still not going to be your goal in five years from now.  As such, you need to make sure that however you track your goals will accommodate the changes that are going to take place.  Whether you complete a goal, change a goal, or add new ones, you have to be able to track it and align it with your other goals.

I’m not saying that you have to use a whiteboard, but the concept remains the same.  Use a tracking method that will allow you the flexibility to make changes, additions, subtractions, and move things around.

Spreadsheets are a great tool.  There are apps for mobile devices that allow you to consolidate your goals and add, subtract and complete goals with a swipe of a finger.  Paper might work for some.

Or, you can always use a whiteboard!

Readers, how do you track your goals in a way that makes it easy to adapt your list to the changes that will result from life, time, and circumstances?  Have you ever missed a goal simply because it wasn’t being tracked properly?

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10 thoughts on “Don’t Write Your Goals In Permanent Marker

  1. I try as much as possible to do everything to achieve what I included in my New Year’s resolution. And, if there’s no other way, I just readjust and do some changes similar to a whiteboard and marker to keep on.

  2. I constantly have a list on my kitchen counter of things I need to do for the day – those are short term goals. The major longer term goal that I have going on frequently is marathon training. I follow a marathon training guide – if I didn’t follow it, if it wasn’t pinned to my cubicle wall constantly reminding me how far I have to run each day, I’d never be ready for a 26.2 mile run!

  3. Great post! Heeeeee…ain’t it the truth, too. If my goals were graven in granite, I’d be in deep trouble. Actually, nothing would get done, because I’d soon be ignoring them all.

    The whiteboard is God’s gift to the list-maker. I love mine — in fact, now have two. One on the kitchen/garage door at eye level, where I have to LOOK at all the things I’m supposed to do today every time I walk out to the car, and one on the office door. The office whiteboard features the larger, business-related goals to be done over a given month. The kitchen whiteboard lists the “things to do today.”

    There’s something sooo satisfying about erasing all those things at the end of the day. 🙂

  4. My husband and I both have health problems, so I know all too well how quickly rigidity leads to madness.

    As our health goes up and down, our ability to function also fluctuates. Our priorities constantly shift as things come up, whether that’s an unexpected medical bill or just a month where we can’t function well and so spend more money.

    Being (somewhat) flexible has allowed me to stop hiding under the covers each time we’re presented with a new bill.

  5. I’ve used just about every different tracking method for project work I’ve done. Spreadsheets, Word, MS Project, JIRA, etc. I like using the Reminders App for my personal stuff bc it syncs to my laptop and my phone. Whiteboards are a lot of fun to use too for reminders that I don’t need on the go. Wiping things off a whiteboard is probably the most satisfying of any method though! 🙂

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