Daily Shoring Planner blog

Welcome to the Daily Shoring Planner User’s Guide!  Click here to purchase from Amazon.com.

Using this system will help you define your goals, improve your productivity, and harmonize your daily living with your goals, values, and emotional well being.

To get the most out of your Daily Shoring Planner, follow the 10 steps below.

Be sure to fill in the weekly dates on your calendar.  I suggest using a binder clip to mark pages you’re referring to frequently, such as the current week and the current month’s “Goals by Category.”

You’ll find Notes and Misc pages at the beginning, end, and throughout the planner for lists, mind mapping, doodling, inspirational quotes, To Do’s for future quarters–whatever works for you.  I like options, so I’ve included both lined and unlined pages.

There are two unlined “Ideas” pages near the beginning of your Daily Shoring Planner.  Use these pages for Ideas you want to think about that are not yet Goals. This two-page spread is also a nice place for a Vision Board.

Annual Goals by Category–this is the place to start!

1:  Annual Goals are the goals you would like to accomplish over the next 12 months. I’ve delineated Categories for your Annual Goals to facilitate thinking about important areas of your life. You can add more categories to suit your needs.

2:  Once you have listed your Annual Goals, it’s time to allocate your goals by month. Choose the goals you would like to focus on for the next three months and designate a month for each goal on the Annual Goals–Monthly Allocation page.

Because you’re initially listing Annual Goals by Category, you are not expected to accomplish all these goals (these are annual goals) in the next three months. Circle any goals you’re postponing until a future quarter; you can designate a month or quarter if it makes sense.

At this point, start thinking about the types of goals you’re focusing on:

  • Short-term goals can be accomplished relatively quickly. Designate Short-term goals to the month that you will most likely have the time and energy to accomplish that goal.
  • Long-term goals require multiple steps and take longer–these are the goals that should be broken down into SMART Goals or Projects (SMART Goals and Project ACT Worksheets are at the end of the planner). Long-term goals may be listed in more than one month.
  • Ongoing goals are more akin to habits, systems, or routines. These goals don’t have an end-point, but it’s important to list them in your planner and track your progress toward integrating these habits into your routine. Ongoing goals should be included in all three months. SMART Goals are helpful in working toward ongoing goals.

3.  Once you’ve completed the Annual Goals–Monthly Allocation, move on to Monthly Goals by Category. (I recommend marking this page with a paper clip for easy reference over the next month.) Now, looking at this month’s goals on the Monthly Allocation page, start subdividing your current monthly goals by Category.

At this point, you may be asking “Why all the repetition in writing out these goals?” Several reasons.

  • It’s important to create a bird’s eye view of the next 12 months with a focus on Categories to create balance in areas that are important for emotional well being. Any particular month or quarter may require an imbalance in order to focus on an important goal, but you need to find balance over the longer term.
  • Many years of working with clients has taught me that goals which can be attained in 90 days are more likely to be accomplished. Further, 90 days is a reasonable timeframe for solidifying a new habit. The Monthly Allocation exercise helps you drill down on what can be realistically accomplished over the next three months. For long term goals, you will use the SMART Goals exercise to break tasks down into monthly objectives; this will provide focus and momentum.
  • Monthly Goals by Category forces you to look at where you invest your time and energy.   While every month may not reflect a balanced investment across each of these categories of well being, you should strive for balance over time.
  • The repetition of writing out your goals has a neurobiological effect–writing things out (particularly by hand) activates a different part of your brain than just thinking about your goals. Every time you write your goals, you’re engaging in positive neuroplasticity i.e., strengthening your cognitive connection to your goal and activating parts of your brain involved in achieving the goal.   If you would like, you can say your goals out loud for additional positive neuroplasticity.
  • The exercise of breaking down annual goals to quarterly goals, then quarterly goals to monthly goals, provides flow to your Weekly Planning–this is how you stay focused on your goals, week by week, as opposed to expending all your time and energy putting out fires. (More on Weekly Planning later.) 

4. Now let’s talk about SMART Goals and Project ACT. Worksheets are at the end of the Daily Shoring Planner; you should start utilizing SMART Goals and Project ACT techniques after you define your Monthly Goals by Category.

SMART Goals are used to create lifestyle changes habits.

SMART Goals specify the following:

  • Specific Goal
  • Metric
  • Attainable
  • Relevance
  • Time Specific

The first step is to take an overarching goal and identify any discrete components of this overarching goal. As an example, take the goal, “I want to live a healthy life.” My list of components for this goal include:

  • Eat a healthy diet
  • Maintain a healthy body weight
  • Engage in physical activity on a daily basis Practice mindfulness meditation Get enough sleep

If you’re just beginning to create a lifestyle change or new habit, it might be overwhelming to address each component simultaneously. If that’s the case, choose just one or two components for SMART Goals, and once those lifestyle changes become habitual, you can tackle more.

For this example, let’s choose “Eat a healthy diet.” Even this subcomponent of “I want to live a healthy life” can have dozens of applications! Do you want to eat more vegetables, prepare more food at home, avoid transfats, cut out soft drinks? This is why it’s important to break things down into specific, manageable components! Doing any one of these is great, but trying to do all of them at once may not be sustainable. So choose one or two and identify a Specific Goal. In this example, let’s say you choose “Eat more vegetables.”

As you’re deciding on your Specific Goal for your SMART Goal, you should be incorporating the other SMART Goal concepts:

  • Metric: How will you measure progress toward your goal? Identify specific behaviors and put a number on them. In this example, you could say, “I will eat fresh vegetables twice a day.”
  • Attainable: Your SMART Goal has to be attainable within a reasonable amount of time. It’s usually best to set SMART Goals that are attainable within a week or a month. For our example, eating more fresh vegetables is certainly attainable within a week or month.
  • Relevance: Your SMART Goal must harmonize with your values, overarching goals, and stage of life. If the goal is not currently relevant, you can designate the goal for reconsideration in the future (make a note of it under “Annual Goals by Category”). Also, if the goal is relevant but would be a particular challenge this month, consider postponing the goal. For our example–eating more fresh vegetables is always something to work toward, but if you will be travelling away from home a great deal over the next month, it may be hard to establish this as a new habit. It’s fine to wait a month until your routine settles down–but consider working toward another goal instead that is more relevant and harmonious.
  • Time Specific: One of the basic tenets of goal setting is that goals should be time-specific, i.e., there should be a point at which you want to accomplish the goal. How does this work for habits and lifestyle changes? Identify the timeframe you are working with, i.e., this week or this month. Then, identify the behaviors you expect from yourself, incorporating the specific goal and metric. For our example, the Specific goal is to “Eat fresh vegetables,” the Metric is “twice per day” and the Time could be “twenty out of thirty days this month.”

And that’s how to create a SMART Goal for a lifestyle change or new habit!

SMART Goals are great for building habits and lifestyle changes, but incomplete when applied to projects.

The best way to start a project is to list out all the steps in the project you can think of.  This accomplishes two things:
  • The list allows you to capture all the parts of the whole in one place–creating this Gestalt will help your brain organize the project and get a sense of the time and energy involved in the project
  • Breaking the project down to each step makes it easier to begin–crossing just one thing off the list creates momentum.
Project ACT is an easy project-based To-Do list. Project ACT has three columns:
  •  Accountability:  How will you hold yourself accountable to complete this step?  Do you need to report to someone?  Or, if you have delegated, who is accountable?  Maybe you’re using the reward system; if so, list the reward you get when you complete this step.
  • Concrete Task:  This is where you list all the steps.  There’s plenty of room for notes and specifics.
  • Timing:  After listing all the steps, you might rank them in terms of importance or order for completion.  Alternatively, you can list a date for when you want to complete the step, or simply check it off with the date when completed.

5.  Weekly Goals and Activities: As you approach each week, refer back to your Monthly Goals by Category. Choose the goals you want to focus on that week and list them in the “Weekly Goals and Activities” boxes at the top of the Weekly pages. Also, add any additional activities that require your attention for the week.

6.  To Do’s: After completing your Weekly Goals and Activities, break these down into “To Do’s” by day of the week. Also, identify the additional responsibilities you have for the week and designate a day to accomplish that responsibility.

The biggest obstacle for people working toward goals and establishing new habits is trouble with realistic expectations regarding time management.   A simple example–a client states, “I want to run three times this week.” I respond, “Okay, let’s figure out how you can fit that in.” As we look at the client’s schedule for the week, it becomes clear that a seemingly simple goal will actually not work–because of work commitments, child care, other appointments, etc. If the client does not look at how realistic the goal is, and reconsider, then it becomes another failed goal.

There’s a psychological attribution error that leads us to think we’re going to have more time in the future than we actually will, so people are overly ambitious with future commitments–even if that future is only a few days away! By looking realistically at the goal, and preexisting commitments, you can modify your goal and realistically calendar it in–for example, the goal may become “I will run Wednesday morning and Saturday morning, and I will do yoga at home on Tuesday evening.” Or, being more aware of your commitments, you can take the necessary steps ahead of time to make this goal work, i.e., “I will cancel my morning coffee with a coworker on Wednesday so I can run that morning.”

The Daily Shoring Planner is designed to help you avoid this attribution error–by listing your Weekly Goals and Activities, you’re keeping what’s important in the forefront. You should also list things that have to get done that week in the Weekly Goals and Activities section. Then, work each of the items in your Weekly Goals and Activities down to your To-Do’s–designate a day to complete each goal and activity. (You may also designate a specific time–this is where Time Blocking comes in.)

Remember that longer term goals and activities should be broken down into manageable steps, via SMART Goals and Project ACT, so Weekly Goals and Activities should be accomplished within one week.

As the week goes on, add any additional To Do’s, but be careful not to overwhelm yourself with a list that can’t be accomplished in one day. Check off To Do’s that you complete. For To Do’s that are not completed, place a circle next to the item and find another day for that To Do. If you decide to discontinue a To Do, place an X next to it.

7.  Time Blocking can be used in two different ways-Proactively or Retroactively.

  • Proactively: You can use Time Blocking to plan how you want to allocate your time for each day of the week. First, block off mandatory activities such as work and appointments, then backfill other activities that are important to you–family time, exercise, etc. This forces you to be practical about what you can actually accomplish in a day. Using the Proactive Time Blocking method, you can see at a glance how busy you will be on any given day and avoid the time attribution error! Before adding additional items to your Goals, Activities, or To Do’s for the week, you have to figure out when you will be able to accomplish that task. Engaging in Proactive Time Blocking teaches you to be a better steward of your time.
  • Retroactively: Time Blocking can be used as a post-mortem to understand how you are actually spending your time and how that aligns with your goals. In this approach, you note, at the end of each day, how you actually spent your waking hours. Then, compare that to what you set out to do for the day. To use Retroactive Time Blocking, I still recommend that you use Proactive Time Blocking (because of the benefits listed above). If you find that you primarily use an electronic calendar for managing your schedule, then incorporate Proactive Time Blocking into that calendar and use your planner’s Time Blocking for a post mortem. Or, you can do what I do–use an electronic calendar for detailed work appointments and other scheduled obligations; in my Daily Shoring Planner, my work hours are simply blocked off as “Work” and I use Time Blocking to calendar the other priorities of my day.

Notes can be used for anything you want. :)

8.  Weekly Routine:

At the end of each week, review your progress toward goals and how you utilized your time. For unfinished or ongoing goals, carry forward to the following week–write these out in the top section, “Goals and Weekly Activities.” Also, look back at your “Monthly Goals by Category” and decide which of these goals need to be addressed in the upcoming week; likewise, write these goals in your “Goals and Weekly Activities.” Next, fill in obligated time on your Time Blocking (so you have an idea of when you are more likely to have time/energy for extra projects). Then, considering your “Goals and Weekly Activities,” start to designate when you will accomplish activities related to your Weekly Goals and Activities by using To Do’s and Time Blocking. Finally, note any extra To Do’s, according to the appropriate day.

9.  Daily Accounting and Positivity Focus:

While not a time management technique, these exercises are very effective for improving personal habits, building self esteem, and rewiring your brain for happiness (positive neuroplasticity).

The Daily Accounting technique:
Each day, you are to write down three things:
  • What did you do today that you’re proud of?
  • What did you do today that you’re not proud of?
  • What is something concrete you can do to try to avoid repeating the thing(s) you’re not proud of?

The items you record don’t have to be spectacular–they can be small victories or minor disappointments in yourself.

Here’s an example:

Proud: Ran for 30 minutes, even though I really did not want to.

Not proud: Poor eating–had fast food for lunch.

How to correct: I will take 20 minutes tomorrow morning to stop at the grocery store and pick up healthy food. I will make a good choice at lunch–either something I picked up at the grocery or a salad.

This may sound boring, but that is the point–-our lives are primarily made up of the small decisions we make day-in, day-out. These decisions are often mundane, but it’s the additive effect of these decisions that moves us toward the positive or negative, and prepares us to make good decisions when weightier issues are at hand.

By keeping a Daily Accounting, you’re mindful of how you’re choosing to live your life, and you will likely find that your mental compass and self discipline improve.

It’s important that your “Corrective Action” is concrete. Don’t make vague, all-encompassing proclamations such as “I will start eating healthier tomorrow.” That’s simply stating what you want to do–your Corrective Action is how. You should be specific and concrete, but not overly ambitious–-one step at a time.

The Corrective Action item forces you to reflect on why you did something you’re not proud of–were you short on time, tired because you didn’t get enough sleep, upset about something else? Be very honest with yourself in examining why you did what you did so you can create an honest Corrective Action. As you go through this process, don’t beat yourself up over little things–coming up with a concrete plan to address the issue is the goal.

As you’re working on your Daily Accounting–you certainly want to note any significant items, but even small things are important to note. This exercise reinforces the traits and habits you want to exhibit.

About the Positivity Focus:

 First, a short lesson on neuroplasticity:

Every time you have a thought, your brain changes.

How is this possible?

“Neurons that fire together wire together.” With each thought, a synaptic connection is formed or strengthened.

Our brain cells, called “neurons,” communicate with one another via synaptic transmission.  Neurons have microscopic space between them, called a “synapse.”  One neuron releases a chemical (neurotransmitter) into the synapse and the next neuron absorbs the neurotransmitter–this is how they talk to each other.  This process, known as “neuronal firing,” creates a “synaptic connection” between those two neurons.  When neurons communicate frequently, the synaptic connection between them strengthens, which allows communication between those neurons to become more efficient.  As a result, messages traveling the same pathway in the brain over & over become faster and more efficient.

With enough repetition, messages become automatic.

That’s why we practice things like hitting a golf ball–-with enough repetition, the brain goes on automatic pilot.  Psychologists have long known that negative thoughts follow this pattern–-the more we think about, or “ruminate,” on a negative thought, the more entrenched the negative thought becomes. Fortunately, the opposite is also true–focusing on positive thoughts and experiences strengthens the brain’s tendency to fire up the neuronal circuitry involved in happiness and well being.

So, you can shape your neuronal architecture by choosing what you focus on–this is known as “self-directed neuroplasticity.”

Research in the field of positive psychology finds that, unfortunately, human beings are hardwired to focus on the negative–to ensure survival, ward off disaster, etc. Even in less stressful times, our minds tend to focus on problems to solve, things that need to be done, or mistakes we’ve made rather than the positive moments that occur throughout the day. To some extent, this focus can help us improve and stay on top of things.  But, an unbalanced focus on problems contributes to negative emotions, and crowds out the positive experiences of the day. Changing this takes conscious effort–this is where a daily “Positivity Focus” comes into play.

The Positivity Focus technique: At the end of each day, reflect back on at least one positive moment and write it down.

Your positive moment can be significant or something as small as hearing a favorite song. The point is to train your brain to notice, appreciate, and spend a little more time with positive things you experience throughout your day, even if they are just small things.  With dedicated practice, here’s what you will find–recollecting positive moments will become easier as time goes on (it can be surprisingly difficult when you first start out–our brains are not wired to focus on the positive!).  Then, you will begin to consciously notice positive moments during your day–almost in an “Oh, I can write this in my Positivity Focus” kind of way.

Noticing your positive moments as they occur is when the real change begins.

As you notice a positive moment, take 30 seconds to let it soak in. Articulate the moment in your mind, take in the visual, and form a mental snapshot. Also, notice any sounds, smells, or physiological reactions you have–smiling, relaxation of tensed muscles, and so forth. What you want to do is imprint this experience in your mind, using as many sensory modalities as possible, thereby strengthening positive neural pathways in your brain. 30 seconds may not sound like a long time, but try it–you will probably be surprised at how long that feels compared to how quickly you usually move on to the next thing.

Positive neuroplasticity helps prune the connections in your brain to weed out unnecessary attention to the negative and strengthen your focus on the positive.

A brain that imprints positive emotions becomes more resilient–you bounce back quicker from negative experiences and disappointments. And, a focus on positive emotions dials down the release of stress hormones, which lessens the negative physiological effects of stress.

Note: What the Positivity Focus is Not:
  • Not a positive affirmation, i.e., “I’m a good person.” There’s nothing wrong with positive affirmations, so say them if you like, but the Positivity Focus exercise focuses on something that happened to you that day.
  • Not a gratitude focus–gratitude is good, but different from your Positivity Focus. You are not thinking of what you are thankful for as much as you’re recollecting a positive experience. Example–gratitude is “I’m thankful for the nutritious food I had for breakfast.” A Positivity Focus is “It was so nice to have a leisurely breakfast this morning. I loved smelling the freshly brewed coffee, hearing the birds sing, and how the early morning sunlight dappled through the trees.” Note–you probably won’t write out the complete experience in your Planner, simply for time’s sake, which is fine.  But, be sure to recollect the experience in your mind as vividly as possible.  Then you might simply write–“Leisurely breakfast–coffee, birds, sunlight.”
  • Not mindfulness–this one is tricky, because creating a Positivity Focus begets mindfulness. However, for the purpose of the Positivity Focus exercise, the point is not (just) mindfulness. The Positivity Focus exercise begins with simply recollecting a positive experience and recording it.  This will likely develop mindfulness of daily positive experiences, which further contributes to positive neuroplasticity.
 You don’t have to write out a long description in your Positivity Focus log.

Feel free to be brief.  The most important component of this exercise is to cue up the neural pathways associated with the positive experience.  Recall and re-experience that moment as vividly as possible, then you can shorthand your description when you write it down.

10.  Monthly Review:

At the end of each month, work through the Monthly Review and Goal Tracking pages. Then, you’re ready to start on next month’s “Monthly Goals by Category!”

You will also find emotional well being tips  and inspirational quotes in your Daily Shoring Planner.  If you have any suggestions, please let me know!