How to Set Goals for your Simple Life Journey

Whether we are just starting out on living a Simple Life, or are well into the journey, we still need to know what direction we want to go next. That’s when you need to set goals for your Simple Life Journey.

Setting goals may sound complicated, but they really aren’t. They do, however, take time and thought to get them written down.

Having them in place will help to keep you focused and allow you to see your progress.

a table with an open notebook surrounded by a plate of chocolate chip cookies and pink flowers

Types of Goals to Set for a Simple Life

Long before you begin to set goals for your Simple Life journey, you need to know how to define what that means to you. It is through this definition you will know how you want your Simple Life to look like, what direction you want to go, and when you can accomplish each step.

If you aren’t sure how to create a definition for your Simple Life, you can listen in at the Living a Simple Life from a Back Porch View podcast here:


Once you have your definition in place, then use that to help you set goals for your Simple Life journey.

Some goals you may set are:

These are only a few things you may want to incorporate when you set goals for your Simple Life journey. But for each one, you need to know how to get started. That’s where making goals comes into play.

Keep in mind – you may already have either tried some of the things on your list, or already do them. In that case, you may want to set a goal to improve your skills or take them to the next level. Having a goal in place for that still helps.

A Simple Life eWorkbook

Notes to Help You Set Goals for your Simple Life Journey

When you set goals for your Simple Life journey, make sure you make them as clear and specific as possible.  Don’t just say you want to learn how to garden. Instead, list the ‘why’ (to provide fresh food for my family; preserve the excess; share with others), and the ‘what’ (beans, carrots, corn, squash, tomatoes).

To help you, I am including an example below of how to set up your goal worksheets, using a goal of gardening. Keep in mind, your goal entries may differ, but this may help you to get started.

If you keep a Simple Life Notebook, include a Goals tab. Create a Goals worksheet for each goal you want to make and keep it in this section.

When it is time to work on a specific goal, take it out and put it somewhere you can see it every day, such as on the refrigerator or a bulletin board. Each week, look over the goal or goals you are working on. Make notations in your planner or on your calendar as to which Action Step you will work on that week.

Each day, review your worksheets and check off any Action Steps you have completed. Be sure to check the Incentive/Rewards section and choose one! When you have completed the overall goal, take it off the refrigerator and place it back in your Simple Life notebook. Then, take the next one out and get started on it!

Example 1: Goal Worksheet

a worksheet to help you set goals for your simple life journey

Example 2: Budget Sheet

a budget sheet to help you set goals for your simple life journey

How to Structure your Goals

Goals are divided into seven sections, starting out broad, and then narrowing it down.

Main Goal

Your main goal needs to be written at the top on each page. Some goals are usually specific (Free up 3 Hours a Month for Family Time). Others can be rather broad. If it is, narrow it down. Instead of ‘Grow a Garden’ make your goal ‘Start a Vegetable Garden’ or ‘Start a Flower Garden for Craft Purposes’.

Deadline

The deadline is the date by which you want to accomplish your goals. In the example, I simply used ‘Spring, 2022’. Since this is usually one of my goals each year, I simply add the season, due to the heavy rains we receive starting in March.

Ordinarily, a general rule of thumb is to plant on or after Good Friday, when all chances of frost have past. However, there are some years we can start planting as early as March 1st. Since I have no way of putting in a specific date, this is one time I allow myself some leeway.

Other goals may have a more specific date. If you want to free up your calendar to find an additional 3 hours a month to spend with family, you will pick a firmer deadline, to encourage you to eliminate any unnecessary commitments you have already made.

a man tilling leaves into a garden

Action Steps

Every goal you set will have different things you need to accomplish in order to reach your goal. These are called Action Steps.

Action Steps gives you a concrete idea of everything you need to do. For instance, in the example above, your first Action Step would be to locate (and stake out) the best place to put your garden.

Some Action Steps will be quick and easy to accomplish. Others may take a bit of time, money and effort. You can start building a compost pile the same day you stake out a location for your garden but getting to the point of finished compost can take up to a year.

The same may apply for purchasing a tiller. This is where the notes and budget section comes in handy. On the budget portion, you know a good tiller can cost you up to $700 or more. But then you remember that Uncle Bob has a tiller. Since he is no longer able to garden, there may be a chance he will be willing to sell it to you at a reduced price.

If Uncle Bob is willing, you may be able to check off that Action Step as completed within a week. But if not, then you may have to wait awhile to save your money.

Either way, Action steps help to keep you moving forward, shows progress, and reminds you of what you still need to do to accomplish your goal.

packets o seeds including peppers, cucumbers, squash, tomatoes and more

Resources

Resources are broken down into 2 categories: Available and Needed.

Available Supplies – Before you start on a goal, it helps to make a list of items you will need to accomplish the goal. For gardening, you will need basic supplies, such as gardening tools, gloves, plants, and seeds. Many of those you may already have. Make sure you do, then add them to your Resources Available List on your goal worksheet. 

As with anything, the more resources you have, the less you have to spend.

Needed Supplies – For any supplies you need but do not have, add them to the Resources Needed section of your goal sheet. From there, do a bit of research on the cost, and transfer both the item and amount to your Budget sheet.

As with the example of Uncle Bob, make a note in the notes section of where you may be able to get the item free or at a reduced price, but still add it to your budget – just in case.

Budget

The Budget is a separate worksheet and lists out everything you need to accomplish your goal, and how much it will cost. Knowing how much you will need to spend may help you decide when you can get started on it.

It can also show you ‘work arounds’. If your goal is to start a vegetable garden to feed your family, but don’t have a tiller to break up the ground – you now have a choice. You can either grab your shovel and start digging it yourself or put it off for a year or two until you are able to purchase a tiller.

But here’s a note: Be careful of putting goals off until you ‘can afford it’.  There are too many financial variables that can come into play within a year. Some goals, such as buying a new (or new to you) car may have to be put off for financial reasons.

But other goals, such as growing a garden to feed your family shouldn’t be -unless you have very good reasons, such as health issues. By growing your own food, you can start working on other goals such as ‘Saving Money’ (gardening can reduce your grocery budget tremendously); ‘Get Healthy’ (there is a lot of exercise involved in gardening, as well as having food that is more nutritious), and ‘Learn to Preserve Food’ (a healthy garden will provide plenty of ingredients and practice!)

Having a budget is a necessary part of any goal. It gives you a clearer financial picture of what you need and where you need to either cut expenses or find ways to save for the more expensive items.

a weathered wood gate with a new brass padlock

Obstacles

At some point in your process, most goals will have obstacles you need to overcome. It can be a time issue, cost, or even skill level. Knowing in advance what those obstacles will be can help you avoid them or find ways to get around them.   

Overcoming the Obstacles

When you have an obstacle in your way, it helps to brainstorm ideas on how to circumvent them. If it is a time issue, take a hard look at your calendar. Find commitments that can be eliminated. For instance, if you got roped into sitting on a committee for something you have no interest in, find a way to graciously remove yourself from it.

If it is a cost issue, look at your home budget. See if there is anything you can do to reduce what you are currently paying or eliminating an expense altogether. Another option is to either find a temporary way to gain income (garage sale, etc.), or start searching for less expensive ways you can accomplish that Action step.

To improve your skill level when you set goals for your Simple Life journey, you can do several things. Do an online search for authoritative articles, go to the library and read books, or see if there is a local college or group that offers classes.

You can also talk to someone who knows how to do what you want to do and ask them if they are willing to become you mentor.

What ever the obstacle is, know that, in most cases, there is a way around it. Some ways may take longer than others but have faith that you can still accomplish this goal.

a parfait glass filled with orange sherbet and mint leaves

Incentives/Rewards

When you set goals for your Simple Life journey, never underestimate the power of incentives and rewards. It just makes you feel great when you complete an Action Step or goal. You may find a sense of contentment. And you may even find yourself smiling and ready to tackle the next step.

However, offering yourself a reward will just add to that feeling of accomplishment! And who doesn’t want that little extra ‘Good Job!’?  

As for the difference between the two, an incentive is something you work towards. A reward is something you get for accomplishing the task. On your goal worksheet there is an Incentive/Reward Section.

The incentive is something you want to have, so it encourages you to accomplish the task at hand. Once you do, then it turns into a Reward, and you can enjoy the hard work you have done even more.

Incentives and rewards can be tangible or intangible. As an example, the Country Boy had an intangible incentive to do some clean up down at the pond. This would provide him with better fishing access, plus have a better line of sight for hazards and snakes. Since it’s a big area, he divided it up into grids.

a pirogue on the bank by a pond with a red dog standing beside it

The first grid was the peninsula that juts out into the pond and the adjacent area where he launches his boat. He cleaned up debris, trimmed limbs, and cut the grass. His intangible reward was satisfaction with a job well done, with an added bonus of encouragement to complete the entire goal.

However, he also had a tangible reward, and that was sitting down and resting on the prayer bench with a cold drink.

Not all incentives will be tangible. For some of the smaller ones, such as scouting a location for the new garden. Something that small and incentive may only warrant a ‘Good Job’ or patting yourself on the back.

Some options you can use as incentives to small tasks include:

Tasks that Take a Little More Time and Effort

  • 30 minutes in a hammock with a good book
  • A ‘forbidden’ treat (such as a piece of candy, cookie, etc.)

a gray and white cat taking a nap on a cement bench underneath a shade tree

Larger, or more difficult Action Steps may call for a bit bigger incentive, especially if it is something you are dreading. The trick is matching the incentives and rewards to the task. For instance, your incentive wont’ be ‘buying a whole new wardrobe’ for a simple Action Step of locating a space for your garden. 

Another consideration for incentives is to combine all the Action Steps you complete into one larger, end of the week reward. This can be something fun, such as inviting friends over for dinner, or even a bubble bath, facial, and main/pedi.

If the entire family is involved in the Action Steps, consider a Movie Night, picnic, or even an outside game day. Another option would be to have an Ice Cream Sundae feast, complete with whipped cream, sprinkles, and a cherry on top.

Here are some other incentive/reward options for bigger tasks:

  • A play day
  • Coffee/lunch with a friend
  • One-hour break/nap
  • Celebration Meal (with a favorite dessert!)

an enamel pitcher pouring water into a small mug with a rabbit on the side, which is overflowing into a white teacup

Start Today – Set Goals for your Simple Life Journey

Setting goals, no matter what lifestyle you choose, is beneficial. According to PositivePsychology.com, one of the benefits is being able to measure your productivity, which in turn helps you to better manage your life.

So, go ahead. Settle into your comfy place, grab your notebook and get started. To know you are making progress, being able to see the improvements you are making, and to feel a sense of personal achievement and contentment is one of the best reasons to set goals for your Simple Life journey.

Julie Murphree is a blogger, newspaper columnist, and speaker on all things ‘Living a Simple Life on the Farm’. She is the author of \\\'The Farm Wife – Living a Simple Life on the Farm. She and her husband have 60 acres in NW Louisiana where they actively work on living as sustainable as possible.

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