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Why Planning Your Ideal Week Is The Best Goal Setting Tool Of All

I’m not a big believer in new year resolutions. Resolutions are fine, it’s just the new year part is a little arbitrary and forced. Everyone has their own rhythms.
I am committed to making and keeping promises – but ones I make at the right time and for the right reason. 


Last week, I got self-indulgent and took myself to Sligo for some surf, reflection and planning. Truth be told I did less planning than I’d planned. The irony.

That’s life and I consciously made the decision to just enjoy where I was and stay in the water longer when I wanted. Being over doing.

When I’m doing this sort of reflection and planning, I use five tools – all just simple templates with words or questions to prompt me to think at different levels, over horizons and across various areas of my life. I’m trying to tap into my heart more recently as well as just my head.

These are the five tools I use to do that.


Tool 1 – A Life Canvas

This prompts me to ask about my definition of happiness, my strengths, my values, all the important areas of my life and the roles I play in those areas.

It’s the anchor for all the planning and action that follows – because it summarises the motivation and reasons for all that I do.


Tool 2 – A Vision Statement

For each area from my Life Canvas I write a vision statement (expressed as if it’s already happened) of how I’d like to see my life in about three to five years.

I use the acronym PROMISE to think about different areas – physical health, relationships, occupation, my development (character), intellectual (learning), spiritual and experiences (adventure!). I then start to think about how I can move toward them. 


Each four week plan should progress towards a bigger goal on the roadmap.


Tool 3 – Roadmap

This is not a plan for the year. It’s a loose brainstorm and capture of ideas which I may or may not act on. First I capture anything in my head. Only then do I place into one of three categories: 

  • ACTIVE (those I am now committed to)
  • THINKING (those that may become real soon)  
  • PARKED (those I’ve explicitly written down so that I can stop thinking about them for the moment).


Tool 4 – Four Week Plan

I’ve tried 12 week plans, reduced them to 8 weeks and finally settled on 4 Week Plan. That’s just the commitment cadence that works for me when aiming for specific goals.

It doesn’t mean I don’t work on things that take longer than 4 weeks. I’ve just found little value in planning beyond that in any detail.

Life changes too frequently that it renders planning beyond that less valuable given the effort. Each four week plan should progress towards a bigger goal on the roadmap.


“How do you know if you’ve had a good week if you cannot define one?”


Tool 5 – My Ideal Week

Last but not least is a picture of a good week on a page. This is possibly the most important of all. It’s a great place to start making changes in your life. When I became more conscious of the way I live my life I started with this for a few reasons:

  • Resolutions are meaningless without actions, and habits and rituals are more important to making progress. Your weekly plan is where your rituals live.
  • It’s also the easiest place to start. It has the easiest questions to answer. “What am I doing with the 168 hours this week?” is much easier to answer than “What is my definition of happiness?” or that old chestnut “What gives my life purpose?” (I still don’t know).
  • Most importantly, it’s where the rubber hits the road. All the dreams and plans mean nothing without action. And you act every day and every week. If you observe and become aware of where you spend your time and energy, you will become more conscious and deliberate in deciding what’s best for you.


“Want to know what your future looks like? Look at your day today.”


When you reflect weekly you naturally start to ask the questions from a ‘higher’ level. Do I really watch six episodes on Netflix in one sitting? Did I really pick up my phone 123 times today? What type of person do I want to be?

Think about the parts of Christmas that you really enjoyed.

There’s no reason similar experiences that made Christmas special for you cannot be part of every week. By moving from passenger to driver, from default to deliberate, you can have that special time with family, catch-ups with friends, walks in nature, time to reflect – every day. 

So go ahead! Draw your ideal week. Then try to have it. Fail and try again. Get closer. Maybe you might not ever manage it. But you will move inexorably towards a better life – one baby step at a time.

So take some time to yourself each week. Schedule a weekly ritual – just 20 minutes to start. Try the same time every week in a beautiful place, where nobody can find you and draw your line in the sand. 

“Nothing changes if nothing changes.”


About the Author

James Parnell The Wellbeing Gym

James is founder of – a resource for returning emigrants or those coming to Ireland for the first time. A New Dawn in Ireland is the first blended online and offline training/coaching programme to inspire and help people create their ideal life in Ireland.

James is also founder of The Wellbeing Gym and creator of the MAP model for personal wellbeing and peak performance. The Wellbeing Gym provides online, offline and blended life design, self-leadership, performance and productivity training programmes to individuals and businesses.

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