My New Year’s resolution is to make no more New Year’s resolutions. I’m going to stick with “new week’s” resolutions from here on out. Why is that?
Well, to begin with, God gave us the seven day week as our primary time marker. We hardly need to cite the Creation story in Genesis 1 as evidence that God Himself created the concept of a seven day week. Even when He established yearly feasts, these were usually organized according to the rhythm of a week or a determinate number of weeks (see Deuteronomy 16 for several of these).
There’s also something practical about goal-setting in weeks.
First, we tend to think of our family lives and activities in categories of weeks, not years or even months. Kids, especially, have repetitive events and meetings on certain days of the week, and they go to school in weekly intervals. Those of us who are bound to children and their needs thus have weekly schedules; we’ll deal with next week’s problems when next week comes. Right now, we have to make sure we have enough milk to get us through the week.
Also, as adults, our lives and schedules are week-bound in many ways. We work in weeks, we plan and take vacations in increments of weeks; we evaluate how much we accomplished in a week because most things (like Rome) can’t be built in a day. Yearly goals and objectives are important, but most of humanity lives week to week. There’s a reason why “week-at-a-glance” is the most popular weekly planner.
Once you decide to plan seven days at a time, you will find that there is a very effective way to plan a week: in threes. Here’s what I mean. Take a simple 3x5 note card at the beginning of the week and write down the three main things you propose to accomplish that week. Choose three serious goals that are not matters of your common routine – for example, “go shopping” is not a goal, it’s a routine! The three goals have to be something about which you will experience a deep sense of accomplishment when you look back on them seven days hence. They don’t necessarily have to be arduous or earth-shattering goals, but they have to address substantial issues, meaningful activities, or things that you have put off for some time. Then set your mind to accomplishing those three things – and only those three things – in amidst all the routine things you must do that week.
On the back of that same card write any number of other, secondary, goals that you may wish to accomplish once the three main goals are completed. If you get your three main goals finished in four days or five, you have the rest of the week as a grace period to start whittling away at the others. And everyone likes grace periods. They remind us that time is grace and that everything God gives us is grace. That’s a good way to think and live.
On Sunday, the Lord’s Day, sit down for a brief period of time with your 3x5 card and evaluate your performance. Did you actually accomplish your three goals? If not, why? What do you need to change in your life in order to get just three significant things done every week? If so, did you do them well? Did you give glory to God in their accomplishment? Who has benefitted from your sacrifice? Your Sunday evaluation should be filled with such questions about quality and real benefit in order to break the “tyranny of the urgent.” Based upon your evaluation, then, take a few moments to reflect upon three follow-up goals for the coming week and write them down on a new 3x5 card.
Seven days. Three goals. This plan is better than New Year’s resolutions, which we all forget about sooner than later. Yearly goals also suffer the loss of the healthy accountability of a weekly evaluation – the very thought of 365 days of goal accomplishment can be overwhelming. There is the added emotional benefit of this system too: every week is literally a “new week.”
Now, something occurs to me: seven and three are biblical “perfect numbers.” Well, if they’re good enough for God, they’re good enough for me.