Scattered Goal Setting: Just Do It

I suck at structure and routine. It’s my kryptonite.

Every day planner or daily journal I’ve ever had, was lucky to be utilized for more than a couple of weeks. Organized goal setting? Forget about it. I’ve tried. I’ve taken classes. I’ve been mentored. I’ve learned strategies and used templates. Nothing sticks. It’s just beyond me.

Maybe it’s a Gemini thing. Maybe it’s a Bipolar thing. Maybe it’s a PTSD thing. Whatever it is, it’s a ME thing. I have felt like a failure because, no matter how hard I try or how much I want to, it’s just not something I have been able to achieve and maintain. I’ve had people who have done their best to teach me and guide me into doing this, give up on me, with the false belief that I am not interested in growing and achieving success . . . or their idea of success.

I’ve had mental health advocates and therapists explain and teach methods and techniques, stressing the critical importance of structure, order, and routine in the recovery process. Service providers for my daughter, who experiences the world through the autism spectrum, have campaigned for me to do these things for her well-being.

I’ve tried. I really have.

I’m coming to a realization: I’ve been doing the things, just not in recognizable ways. I have a loose routine and keep a schedule, sort of. Every appointment, class, and commitment goes into my phone’s calendar. If it isn’t in there, it doesn’t happen. So, I show up to just about everything I say I’m going to. There’s one thing that’s a constant. Every Sunday, I go in early to help set up for the worship and teaching service with my faith community. The rest of the schedule varies from day to day and week to week. But, it’s all in my phone.

My personal care routine revolves around those appointments. The ADLs (Activities of Daily Living): specifically the personal hygiene ones revolve around the things in my phone. If there’s an external commitment where I’m going to be around people, then it happens. If it’s just me, myself, and I staying home . . . well, it may or may not happen. I’m working on that. Definitely room for improvement. Baby steps.

As far as goal setting goes, I’m not so SMART. Do you know what SMART goals are?

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Attainable
  • Relevant
  • Time-based

Written down, with steps and actions laid out, in small, manageable bites.

I’ve tried. Haven’t been able to keep up with it. I get overwhelmed with the planning, my brain starts spinning, I lose focus, and get lost in the details.

Here’s the thing. I’ve been recovering anyway. Guess what else? I’m on the right path and trajectory for what I want to be doing.

I decided that, after five years of focusing on my mental health recovery and eight years of working to stabilize my youngest child, who is on the autism spectrum, that I’m probably ready and able to hold down a job. At least, I hope I am.

Get a job. I didn’t write it down, exactly. I’ve written about wanting to get one, but, it’s not in a diary, journal, or planner. I got a little specific – Peer Support Specialist. Not written down, but continuously on my mind.

I didn’t write an action plan. I just decided that, after seven years of not being employed, I needed to refresh and update my office computer skills. After all, there really isn’t a job in many industries that doesn’t require knowledge and ability to use some computer skills to document the work being done. So, I went where I knew to start the process because it’s where I’ve started in the past.

There was a calendar of classes and for updating those skills. It also had job readiness activities listed: Workshops for Resumes, Job Search, Interpersonal Skills, Interview Skills. So, I signed up for all of them and plugged them into my phone calendar as appointments, so they would happen. No concrete plan going in; just find out what was being offered and take advantage of it.

I figured if I want to do Peer Support work, I should probably continue and increase my participation in mental health group programs. So, I signed up for NAMI’s Peer to Peer class. Through that process I discovered they have a training for the job I want. I applied, but didn’t get in. Since I hadn’t planned and counted on it, not getting in didn’t derail me. I just looked at the reason I didn’t get in: I needed to be currently engaged in a job or volunteer position doing the work. When a volunteer opportunity presented itself, I jumped at it. No planning. I just did it.

I heard about another training opportunity and called about it the next day. Heard back the following day and discovered I have less than a week to submit and application and a letter of reference. I happened to run into my therapist while waiting for one of the groups and asked for the letter. We’re doing it later today when I see her for my appointment. I submitted the online application yesterday.

The point is, that I haven’t done any planning. I just decided and followed through with steps that made the most sense in the moment they presented themselves. I’m not going to lie and say that none of the things I have been taught and told about goal setting, time-management, planning, and organizing haven’t helped the process along. They absolutely have. Just not in ways most recognizable to the gurus of goals.

If you’re anything like me and planning for a goal or developing a structured routine don’t work, then, as Nike suggests . . .

Just Do It.




  1. I’m glad you’ve found a way that is working for you right now. Who knows, in the future it might change, but for now you’re getting things done. Each year I usually go through 3-4 daily planners and none of them prove to be the “right one”. You’d think I would have learned after the first few years of doing this 🙂
    For 2 years I’ve been using the Cultivate What Matters intentional goal planner and it has made a huge difference in my life. I’m not fully disciplined at it yet, there are still lots of empty pages, but there has been growth and major accomplishments as a result.
    For daily tasks I use a minimalist, undated planner and write down what needs to get done and that’s it. Keeping it simple works best for my ADHD, anxiety filled mind.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This is one of the reasons I started doing Ta-Da lists as well as To-Do lists. Sometimes other stuff comes up and as a special needs Mom, you know how it is – they come first and your whole day can turn into advocacy and putting out fires. It isn’t easy! So Ta-Da’s… noting what GOT done, is so much healthier. I still have my top 3’s. It’s what keeps me coming back to my highest priorities. 🙂 Love this post!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I think I am a bit of the opposite – I like EVERYTHING planned out. That is not to say I am not spontaneous of spur of the moment, but I like tracking everything and planning it out. This is similar to what you said when you put everything in your phone on your calendar app. I do the same.

    Nothing happens without it being in my phone/calendar. I even have a calendar appointment program linked to my calendar so people can book time with me. The beauty of that is that it sees if I am busy and if so, it does not offer up a time.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s great, Paul! Your process sounds like the process which enables many people to be successful.

      I started using my phone when I was in the beginning stages of my mental health treatment because I needed a way to get through the symptoms and show up to appointments and such. I would always lose the reminder cards. For me, it’s a survival tool.


  4. I had a short interview yesterday to help a coach understand how my introvertedness affects running my own business. One gem that came out of it was that sure, I may be routined and have my To Do List – but am I doing the right task at the right task and aligning it with my energy and purpose of the moment? Huge A-Ha for me. I think there are lots of different ways to accomplish things in our life, we just need to figure out which way is OUR way.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. EXACTLY!!! This was my “A Ha!” I’ve had so many people who are successful in traditional goal setting ways shake their heads and actually judge me for not doing things their way. I think there were times when that disapproval played with my mental health issues, deflating me and lowering my self esteem and self confidence. Tho was the first time in a long time that I’ve sustained the motivation and forward momentum in this way.


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