I like knowing what to do with my time. I’m a fan of schedules and boundaries. I love productivity and intentionally relaxing. I’m the nerd that loves a new year, a fresh start. Whether it was the beginning of a new school year, a birthday, or a traditional new year, I’d take any opportunity to cruise the notebook sections of target or Staples to seek out the perfect planner partner to tackle the new season in my life.

When things are less organized, I find that I waste a lot of time. Anyone else guilty of the mindless Instagram scroll? I’ve definitely fallen prey to the time suck that is my phone. I know my minutes are precious, but without clear goals and plans, I get trapped in an endless cycle of wasting my time. And fun fact–did you actually know that spending time absorbing information on your handheld device can actually zap your energy? No wonder we all feel totally depleted by the end of the day, productive or not.

We all want to accomplish big things. We have ideas, dreams, desires. But without action supporting those things, that’s all they’ll ever be. And I don’t know how you operate–but I need to know what action steps are required to make something happen. It can be a slow progression, but I like to be consistently working towards any certain goal. So, that’s where plans have to come into play. Setting goals is great, but without a plan, that goal is just a wish.

So, how do you live with intention, set goals and make realistic plans?

Ask yourself what you want.

As basic as this sounds, I’m willing to bet it’s been a while since some of you have taken the time to really reflect and decide what you want. Maybe you’re operating out of old, leftover desires. Or maybe someone else put expectations on you for your life that you’ve been working hard to carry out. Whatever your situation, the first step to living with intention is to know what you actually want.

Get to dreaming

If you could accomplish anything, what would that be? If you had the time, the resources, the drive, what would you do with your life? Now, write those things down. Maybe it’s a few smaller projects like to really decorate your home or run a race. Maybe it’s something bigger like launch a business or write a book. Have fun here but also be realistic. Dream the dreams you actually want to dream. Not the dreams someone else suggested for your life. Not the dream you only want to accomplish because it’ll make you a lot of money but you’re otherwise completely disinterested. Not the dream that’ll make you well-known but otherwise empty and alone.

Measure desire & drive and prioritize

Okay, now figure out how you actually feel about what it’ll take to make those dreams a reality. Because guess what, those dreams are going to take sacrifice. You’re going to have to introduce new habits, and more than likely, you’ll have to give some things up. So, how important is this dream to you? Why do you want to accomplish this specific goal? What are you willing to do to make it happen? What aren’t you willing to do? Write it out. Once you’ve done that, rank the goals in order from most important to least.

Break it down

Dreams are typically pretty broad statements. I want to become a motivational speaker. I want to host a podcast. I want to be a published author. I want to become a business owner. You get my drift. So now it’s time to figure out next steps. What exactly is it going to take to make those things happen? Research will play a key role here. Maybe reach out to others who have done the same things and pick their brains. Learn from their experiences and mistakes. But the point here is to get very specific with what you need to do. I’m talking clear, actionable steps. Want to become a business owner? Okay, decide what kind of services you’ll provide. What are you going to call your business? Research what type of entity best suits your business. Register your business name. Fill out the proper forms. Get your EIN number. I mean, I could go on and on. You get my point.

Organize & schedule

Take what needs to get done and organize them into daily, weekly, monthly, or yearly goals. Put a timeline on your accomplishments and set deadlines. This is where things start to really take shape.

Be prepared to work hard. Understand that big dreams take time. Instant gratification is nice, and we all get supercharged from that fast hit of dopamine. But imagine what it’ll feel like when you make these big goals for your life a reality. Breaking the big picture down into small, actionable steps invites the opportunity to feel instant success and progress. Just keep repeating the process! And before you know it, your dreams will turn into realities!