Opportunities to Act on Goals

or How I Tamed my Morning Glories and Made my Garden Flourish

More musings on Succeed: How We Can Reach Our Goals by Heidi Grant Halvorson

I have often felt that I just didn’t have time to achieve my goals.  Partly because I have lofty and numerous dreams, and also because of what I have believed in the past was a fatal flaw.  My flaw – one of my most difficult and most related to not achieving my dreams – is that I’m very challenged when it comes to maximizing my time.

I now believe I was right and wrong.  And I’m learning how to handle both.

I was right about having too many goals – and Heidi’s book deals with how to recognize when to give up on or postpone a goal; I’ll leave that for another time.

I was wrong that I don’t have time to meet my goals.  I now have the confidence that I absolutely can meet them, and that I have what it takes to do so.

Some strategies may need revising, some traits like willpower and time optimization need strengthening — but one of the things I’m so excited about is that I know I can do all of those things.  In fact, I’ve already started to and am seeing glorious results.

Some things I’m doing that I wasn’t a short time ago:


Exercising daily.

Purposefully moving my body at least every two hours.  (Research shows that’s important for optimal health.)

Getting the dishes done more frequently.

Responding to more of my email.

Taking better care of myself in areas like eating more raw vegetables and going to bed earlier, among other things.

Doing the difficult or not-as-fun stuff before I go off on curiosity expeditions.

And – for the first time in years – my garden is not co-opted by my beloved morning glories.

And the more I do them, the easier it is to do them again, and – most importantly – the more confidence I have that I can do even more: that I can ultimately do what it takes to meet my goals and even make my dreams come true!

And if I can do it, you can do it.

Some tips:

1. Make it easy

Make it as easy as possible to make progress on your goals. 

 – Have a system by the door to deal with physical mail and papers. 

 – Set out your exercise clothes and equipment, both to remind you and to make it quick to change and get going. 

– Place items for errands where you can’t miss them on your way out (I put mine on the floor right in front of the door) — so library books get taken back and I actually take my reusable bags to the grocery store!

2. Be clear

Know what you want to accomplish, and where that is in the list of other things you want to do.

When you think of something that needs doing, write it down – get it out of your head so your mind is free to be creative and do higher-level thinking.

Have a system for prioritizing your to do list.  Depending on the length of the list, your schedule, and your personality, you might want to review the list daily, weekly, or monthly — the important thing is that you do it on a regular basis.  Cross off what’s been done, move things around according to shifting priorities, list the three most important things to get done.

Ah!  Feel the peace of knowing you’re working on the most important tasks, and that nothing essential is falling between the cracks.

3. Customize your schedule

Work on difficult or challenging tasks when you have the most energy; save the fun or ‘mindless’ tasks for when you’re more fatigued.  Do small tasks during little breaks between appointments, or when you’re waiting to pick up your kids or sitting in the doctor’s office.  Which brings us to:

4. Take advantage of opportunities

We all have dead space in our days – minutes here and there that we could be doing something if only we knew what it was.  Plan for those: look at your to do list to see what you can do as moments arise — can you make a couple phone calls, answer a few emails?  Think how nice to get to the end of the day or the week with so many items checked off!

Here’s how I used these tips in my garden this summer:

My gardens and courtyard are very important to me, small as they are.  They help me connect with beauty and nature on a daily basis for much of the year.  It’s my retreat, my place to mindfully get in touch with my spirit and my thoughts, a place to disengage from hassle and connect with joy.

For years, I have had a major problem out there: I have had morning glories for so long, they have dropped their seeds into every square inch of my yard and gardens.  If I don’t tend them often, they overwhelm everything else.  As much as I love them, I want to see other plants and flowers as well, and want space to move around.

My granddaughter Nicolette walked into my courtyard last year and said, “Looks like a morning glory bomb went off in here!”  Because I hadn’t pulled up the strays when they were small, they covered everything in my yard — you couldn’t see all the beautiful flowers I’d carefully planted in the spring, and they grew out of cracks in the cobblestones, taking up precious ground.

This year there are gorgeous, lush morning glories climbing the fences and trellises, but there are also zinnias and coreopsis and impatiens and begonias and marigolds and coleus and more: all beautifully blooming in the open.  My cobblestones are free of intrusive vines and I can use all the courtyard.

A huge difference, but what I did to make that change didn’t seem huge at the time.  I simply went around with my bucket and pulled up the stray morning glory plants [the ubiquitous volunteers], or trained them up the fence instead of over my flowers at least several times a week. 

How did I make that happen, when it seemed like such an unmanageable task in the past?

1. Made it easy

I have a pretty bucket with garden scissors sitting near the faucet in my courtyard; the bucket has a big crack in the bottom so I can leave it out and water drains away, I keep the scissors in it.  It’s easy to grab and deadhead a bit whenever I have a few minutes.  This seemingly small thing has made a HUGE difference in the appearance of my garden this summer.

2. Stayed clear

I had “water and tend gardens” on my to do list every day.  It was a priority for me, yet often not the most important one.  It got done regularly but not every day, which was ideal for this task.

3. Customized my schedule

I started my day in the courtyard with a cup of coffee or two and would pull up unwanted plants while my coffee cooled, or after.  I also took activity breaks every couple hours: a good way to get something done while moving around. 

4. Took advantage of opportunities

I saw the morning glory starters when I’d sit outside with my coffee, so it was easy to remember to grab the bucket and do some tending.  This was something I could easily pick up and put down as time allowed, and it was surprising how much got done during those little pockets of time. 

I got so much more done than in past years when I’d schedule bigger segments of time, that may have not worked because of energy or time issues, or weather.  Wonderful lesson for me.

I have many other things where I’m increasingly using these strategies, and I’m looking around my home and my work for more ways to ‘keep my bucket ready.’

What else could flourish in my life if I give it regular care?

How can you use these tips to – progressively, mindfully, and more easily than you may think possible – create what you want in your life?

I would love to hear from you – what did you try and how did it work for you?  What ideas did you come up with to make it fit for you?  What questions do you have?

Go, create, customize, and flourish!!

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