Seasonal Effective Goals: Re-Post

Note from Leanne: Hi everyone! As December is such a busy month, I’m running a series of my most popular past posts from the past year alternating with new material every week. This one, published early in 2015, is once again a subject for me to ponder as I plan my goals for 2016. 

Related: Take A Staff Meeting… With Yourself, my latest “Be Well, Write Well” column for DIY MFA, will help you take a hard look at your habits and goals for the previous and coming years. (It also encourages you to split your personality! Doesn’t that sound intriguing?)

And now for the post…

Seasonal Effective Goals

Did you make New Year’s resolutions this year?

Did you set goals for all of 2015?

How is it going so far?

I hope you have better answers to those questions than I do. My answers are: yes, I did make resolutions; yes, I set goals for the entire year; and no, that wasn’t the right approach.

There is a fact about myself that I seem doomed to re-learn every single January. I get taken in by the fresh-start feeling, New Year’s hoopla, and use that energy to make big commitments. The commitments themselves aren’t the problem; I generally have the discipline to follow through with things. The problem comes when I neglect to break those commitments down throughout the year, and more importantly, take the seasons into account in my planning.

What does the season have to do with it? you wonder. Well, it may not matter for some people, especially those who live in more temperate climates. But I’ve finally grown to accept the fact that winter, as I experience it in New York, is not the best time for me to be super-productive. I must still be carrying strong cave-woman genes, because when it’s cold and dark out, my body goes into energy-saving mode. That means I need more sleep, more good food, more time with my family, and fewer extra commitments (even the ones I make with myself).  On the other hand, I know I can amp things up in the spring and summer, when I have more energy. Recognizing this biological fact will, I think, make me more likely to meet my goals for the year, not less.

This past weekend, I sat down and divided up my year into seasons:

Winter: January 1- March 30

Spring: April 1- June 30

Summer: July 1- August 30 (a shorter but more productive time, because I’m on school break for the entire two months)

Fall: September 1-November 30

(I’m keeping December separate as a month to focus on the holidays and all the tasks that go along with them, including the annual writing of my Christmas short story.)

The next step was dividing up my goals and dreams by the season. Some overlapped, but for the most part, I was surprised to find that the projects I wanted to work on slotted well into two-or-three month periods. (I did not invent this idea, by the way- it’s a concept stolen from the business world, where performance is evaluated by the quarter. It was first brought to my attention as a tool for the self-employed by productivity guru Laura Vanderkam in this post.)

Beyond suiting my work to the season, the other benefit of seasonal goals is that they allow me the flexibility to adjust my timelines if I accomplish more or less (for example, if life circumstances change, or other projects suddenly arise).

Does anyone else organize their work by season? How does it work for you?

6 Responses to “Seasonal Effective Goals: Re-Post”

  1. Tracy E. says:

    Hi, Leanne! *waves* It’s nice to see you on your page this week, as well as over at DIY MFA. We’ve talked about this a little already, but of course I learned something new: leaving December as it’s own month and deeming it the Christmas + Goal-planning month. Thanks for that idea 🙂
    I also discovered bullet journaling today and I think I could tweak it a bit to fit seasonal planning.

  2. Leanne Sowul says:

    Ah, now it’s your turn to teach me something! What’s bullet journaling? I feel like I’ve heard the term before, but don’t know the concept.

    • Tracy E. says:

      It is a method of planning that can be made with pretty much any basic journal and a pen without having to find The Perfect Journal. Here are the two resources I’ve found on it that are helpful:

      1. The Bullet Journal’s website. There are also YouTube videos the creator, Ryder Carroll, has put together. And he offers *the* bullet journal for sale through the website for 20 bucks, which I don’t think is a bad price.

      2. Twirling Pages. What I liked about Alexandra’s post is she shows her creativity in her journal. Also, there are two aspects of her journal that differs from Ryder Carroll’s version: the months are shown as an actual calendar as opposed to a list, and before each week there is a little section of weekly goals.

      I have not explored anything further – like other blogs or Pinterest – for ideas, but since I do already have a journal I’m going to try this out for the rest of December and 2016. This is where I recommend you get started 🙂

  3. Kathy says:

    I love your idea of organizing goals by season (I think I’ve mentioned that before), but I haven’t been able to implement it yet myself. I think it would work well for me. I have the opposite experience: Much of the year here in FL is hot and humid, which drains my energy and makes me struggle with my mood. Fall (when we have one…no luck so far this year) is my favorite time of year when I start to get my energy back, and winter is close behind. I need to figure out a way not to let myself be so influenced by the weather or I’ll never get anything done.

    I did try a slightly different approach to goals this year. I made a “50 in ’15” list–50 things I wanted to do in 2015. The goals included everything from taking my horse to the beach, to painting the dinette set, to setting up my writer’s website. I started the year with a good number of the goals made out, but kept adding to it as the year progressed, until I had 50. Even with that approach, I’ve probably only done about half of the things on the list, but that’s still a lot better than past years when I’d set goals and forget all about them. Or not set goals at all. Maybe I’ll do a modified version of this again next year, and break it down by season this time.

    • Leanne Sowul says:

      Kathy, I’m of the opinion that it’s better to work around the weather than to make the weather work around you. Plan your outdoor, energetic activities around the times of year that make you happiest to be outside, and your indoor nesting activities for the other months. I’ve tried fighting winter before (if I were in Florida, probably summer like you) and it never works. I just get frustrated and tired.

      I do love your “50 goals” approach though! That’s a nice thought- that whatever you accomplish is still better than you’d have done without the goals.


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