[2022 Plan] Ultimate Guide to Creating a Life Plan Journal
With New Year’s right around the corner, many people are thinking about the goals they want to set for the upcoming year. However, 80% of those people who make New Year’s resolutions will fail by the second week in February (Ma, 2020). So, why do so many people give up after just a few weeks?
- Lack of consistency – Creating new habits takes an average of two months of consistency before they become second nature. If you consistently work towards your goal for at least two months, you will be more likely to continue working towards your goal throughout the year.
- Setting vague or unmeasurable goals - If your goals are vague, you will have a hard time tracking your progress which will likely lead to you constantly feeling like you aren’t making any progress.
- Setting unattainable goals – If you have never run a day in your life, you can’t expect to run a marathon every month. If your goals seem unattainable, you probably won’t even try to work towards them.
- Setting goals that you don’t really care about – If you set a goal just because your friends did, you felt pressured, or because you think it is what someone else wants, you won’t truly be motivated to work towards your goal.
- No flexibility - If it becomes apparent that a goal you set is going to be unattainable, don’t just give up. Modifying goals should not be viewed as a failure.
- Not tracking progress – If you set a goal for the year and view it as a pass/fail final exam that takes place next December, you will likely become discouraged. It is important to track your progress throughout the year so you can be encouraged by your progress and periodically assess your goals to see if they need to be modified.
In JournalOwl's 2022 Edition of Creating a Life Plan Journal, we will walk you through (step-by-step) how to create a life plan journal that will help you set and track your goals throughout the year. The journal challenge breaks down some of the information in this article over 21 days and includes journal prompts that will help you set personal goals as you go along.
What is a life plan journal?
In short, a life plan journal is a journal where you set goals, develop action plans to meet those goals, and track your progress. Some people prefer to create or buy life plan planners that include daily, weekly, and/or monthly calendars, so their goals and daily tasks are all in one place. This is beneficial because they are more likely to look at their goals every day. If you are interested in purchasing a planner, I recommend Prayerful Planner or Christian Planner. Both of these are created specifically for Christians and include daily scripture and space for prayers and sermon notes, as well as a typical agenda format and goal planning sheets.
Some people include meal planners, grocery lists, budgets, bill schedules, savings trackers, gift lists, cleaning schedules, prayer requests, and more. What you include in your journal will depend on the goals you set and what is important and useful to you. Regardless of the supplemental information, you choose to include in your planner, you should include information for all areas of your life – faith, health, family, relationships, work, finances, hobbies, self-development, and home.
Spiritual goals are often overlooked, but they are the most important goals you can set. You can’t fix or improve the other areas of your life if you don’t first focus on your relationship with God. Many times, the issues we are experiencing in another area of our life work themselves out or just don’t seem as important to us as we strengthen our relationship with Christ. Setting faith-based goals should be the first goals you set.
Spiritual goals may include things like improving your prayer life, reading your Bible more, participating in Bible studies, attending church regularly, serving in the church, or being intentional about your giving.
Losing weight is one of the most common resolutions set every year but setting health goals is about more than just your weight. Health goals should consider your physical health as well as your mental and emotional health.
Physical health goals may address diet, exercise, sleep, or alcohol/tobacco/drug use. Mental and emotional health goals may include self-care, mindfulness, meditation, vacations, counseling, or journaling. (If you choose to set a goal regarding journaling, check out our list of available JournalOwl journeys here.)
Family goals often overlap with the other goals you set. Things like eating at home more, praying or studying the Bible together, spending time together, vacations, home projects, etc., impact the whole family. Any of your goals that impact the rest of your family members should be discussed with your family so you can make sure you are all on the same page. Include goals for your marriage, children, and any close relatives such as parents, in-laws, and siblings.
Other family goals may address extended family like mending relationships, making time to visit family members, or setting boundaries. Perhaps your goal is to start a family in which case you may want to include a fertility tracker, adoption/foster checklist, or nursery prep checklist.
Setting goals for your relationships can be difficult because you need to make sure that what you want out of a relationship is what the other person wants as well. It can also be hard because sometimes the goal needs to be to set boundaries or cut ties if the relationship is unhealthy.
Relationship goals may include spending more time with friends, enjoying girls/guys nights, getting to know your neighbors better, serving others, setting boundaries, or pursuing new friendships.
Work goals may range from doing your best at your assigned job to planning a whole career change. When setting goals for work, consider these things: what do I enjoy/not enjoy about my job? Am I in the career I want to be in? What is my work environment like? How can I glorify God through my work? What does success look like in my current job?
Work goals may include landing a job, working towards a promotion or raise, attending training or continuing education classes, traveling more or less, or changing careers. If you are still in school, replace work with school goals or include another section for school if you do both.
Financial goals require a bit more research and planning on your part. You should consider your income and expenses before setting any goals. Do not set goals based on what you think your finances will look like over the next year, instead set goals based on what your current financial status is or even a little below where you currently are.
Financial goals may include things like holiday or vacation funds, setting up savings or retirement accounts, creating a budget, paying off debt, donations/tithing, or limiting spending by cutting out unnecessary or frivolous purchases.
Hobbies are the things you enjoy doing outside of your work and relationships. This may include sports, the arts, volunteer work, building/tinkering projects, etc. Setting goals for hobbies should consider how much time you have available for hobbies and what you enjoy doing.
Self-development goals include anything that you think will make you a better person that aren’t already included in other areas. This may include going back to school, reading more, researching a topic you are interested in, or learning more about current events.
Home goals are one of the areas that won’t be included in everyone’s life plan. These goals focus on home improvement projects or regularly scheduled tasks such a cleaning, grocery shopping, and meal-planning.
How do I set goals?
The first few pages in your journal will be brainstorming pages that answer many questions to help you figure out what kind of goals you should set. On these brainstorming pages, you will consider what is important to you, where you’re at right now, where you want to be, and how you will get there.
The following is adapted from Daniel Harkavy of Building Champions.
What is Important?
The first step in setting goals is to figure out what is most important to you. If your goals are not based on what you care about, you will lack the motivation to achieve them. To figure out what is important to you, consider your purpose in life. Your chief purpose in life is to glorify God, that is why He created you (Isaiah 43:7). So how do you glorify God in each area of your life? Below is a list of things you can think about when answering this question:
- What are your gifts and talents? I encourage you to take a spiritual gifts inventory like this one www.gifts.churchgrowth.org.
- What are your strengths and skills? Are you extremely organized, great at math, an eloquent speaker? Think about some of the things you would put on a resume when you answer this question.
- What life experience do you have? How has that shaped your core beliefs?
- What needs do you need to meet for yourself and others? What obligations and responsibilities do you have?
- What do you enjoy? What brings you joy and satisfaction?
As you answer these questions, you should notice a theme or see how the things that are important to you fit into certain areas of your life.
Where are You at Right Now?
Setting goals isn’t just about looking to the future, you also need to assess your starting point. Consider the nine areas of your life that were described previously and rate yourself in each area on a scale of 0-10, which 0 being not well at all, 5 being neutral, and 10 being the best you could be doing. Consider all the relationships, responsibilities, and subcategories that fall under each area.
On one of your brainstorming pages, log how you rated yourself and include a few notes about why you chose the rating you did. Look at the areas you rated higher; how does this make you feel? Now look at the areas you rated lower, how important are those areas to you?
Where Do You Want to Be?
Based on what you identified as important to you and how you rated yourself in each area of your life, what are your priorities? What areas of your life need the most improvement? What areas of your life are you most motivated to work on? What do you want to be known for or remembered as?
Once you have identified your priorities, consider what success in each of those areas looks like to you. For example, does success in your job look like making a lot of money, enjoying what you do, helping people, and/or using the gifts and talents God gave you?
How Will You Get There?
If you try to work on every area of your life at once, you will likely become overwhelmed and discouraged. It is best to choose three to five areas, based on your priorities, to focus on for the year. This doesn’t mean you can’t make improvements in other areas of your life; it just narrows down what you will be tracking and stay most focused on. Once you have those three to five areas selected, write a general vision statement for each area. You want your vision statement to briefly state why that area is important to you, what you want to improve, and what success looks like to you. You also want your vision statement to be written in the present tense.
Here is an example of a vision statement for health:
My body is a temple, the dwelling place of God and I keep it pure and holy for His glory (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). I am conscientious about what I put into my body and how often I exercise. I recognize that my mental and emotional health is just as important as my physical health. I prioritize my health because I know being physically, mentally, and emotionally healthy allows me to better serve God and others. I pursue healthy choices to follow God’s design for my body and to feel more energized and alert.
The example above uses scripture to acknowledge God’s authority over this area of my life and that it is important to Him. It names the areas that will be developed into goals – diet, exercise, and recognizing mental and emotional health needs. It states that my health is important to me because it allows me to serve God and others. Finally, it gives an idea of what success looks like – I will feel more energized and alert. Notice that describing success in this way puts the focus on being healthy, not on reaching a certain number on the scale or on what society deems as successful.
After you have gone through this foundational work, you are ready to actually set some goals. It is important that the goals you set are SMART – Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound. You may recall that a lack of each of these things is what causes most people to give up on their resolutions within the first six weeks.
- Specific – What will you do? Who is involved?
- Measurable – How will you know if you have made progress? How will you track this goal?
- Attainable – Is this goal realistic? You want your goals to be challenging but not impossible.
- Relevant – Why is this important to you? What will keep you motivated to work towards this goal? What is your “why”?
- Time-bound – When will you complete this goal? Your overall goal will be set for the end of the year, but you should also set action steps that can be measured daily, weekly, monthly, and/or quarterly.
Some goals will need to be broken down into multiple, smaller action steps. Action steps are like mini goals that are short-term and help you reach your main goal. It is important that each action step is SMART as well.
Here are some examples of goals and actions steps for each area of life:
Goal: By December 31, 2022, I will grow my relationship with God by spending at least thirty minutes per day with Him in prayer and reading His Word.
Goal: By December 31, 2022, I will improve my physical health by increasing my endurance by 50% as evidenced by the time it takes me to run one mile (going from 20 minutes to 10 minutes).
- Action Step 1: By March 31, 2022, I will run one mile in eighteen minutes with three two-minute walking breaks.
- Action Step 2: By June 30, 2022, I will run one mile in fifteen minutes with two two-minute walking breaks.
- Action Step 3: By September 30, 2022, I will run one mile in twelve minutes with one two-minute walking break.
- Action Step 4: By December 31, 2022, I will run one mile in ten minutes with no walking breaks.
Goal: By December 31, 2022, I will increase quality family time by implementing monthly family nights (such as game nights, movie nights, family dates, etc.) that will be no less than two hours in length.
Action Step: Action steps for this goal could be specific to what you will do each month i.e. By January 31, 2022, I will spend two hours with my family during a designated game night. During this time we will not have our phones or any other devices.
Goal: By December 31, 2022, I will make an effort to mend broken relationships with my friend, John and with my father by seeking forgiveness and reconciliation.
Action Step 1: By June 30, 2022, I will ask John to lunch to discuss the disagreement we had. I will tell him I value our friendship even when we disagree.
Action Step 2: By December 31, 2022, I will call my dad to tell him I forgive him and no longer carry a grudge. I will invite him over to see the grandkids.
Goal: By December 31, 2022, I will complete the steps required to apply for a promotion.
Action Step 1: By April 30, 2022, I will complete the in-class training required to apply for the promotion.
Action Step 2: By August 31, 2022, I will complete the online class and examination required to apply for the promotion.
Action Step 3: By December 31, 2022, I will submit the application and supporting documents required to apply of the promotion.
Goal: By December 31, 2022, I will put $1200 in my savings account.
Action Step 1: I will put $100 in my savings account every month.
Goal: By December 31, 2022, I will participate in three activities outside of my normal responsibilities and relationships.
Action Step 1: On March 5, 2022, I will participate in our town’s annual chili cook-off.
Action Step 2: From May 1, 2022 through August 31, 2022, I will volunteer at the local food bank once per week.
Action Step 3: On November 24, 2022, I will compete in the annual Turkey Trot 5k.
Goal: By December 31, 2022, I will read these twelve books __________
Action Step 1: By January 31, 2022, I will read this book ________ (and so on for each month)
Goal: By December 31, 2022, I will decrease eating from five nights per week to two nights per week.
Action Step 1: Each month I will prepare a meal plan for the month.
Action Step 2: Each week I will use my meal plan to create a grocery list for the week.
Action Step 3: Each morning I will prepare the needed ingredients for that night.
As you read through each of these goal examples, you should have been able to see how they were specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound. When you begin creating your own goals, make sure they are SMART and tie into the priorities you set and the vision statement you created for each area you will be working on.
How do I track goals?
Before You Start
Before you begin working on your goals, you want to establish how you will track your progress. Take a look at the Before you begin working on your goals, you want to establish how you will track your progress. If you need to, set reminders on your calendar to track your goals, especially if it is something you won’t be tracking as frequently.
You should also set aside time periodically to do a self-evaluation. Are you meeting your goals? Are they too easy or too difficult? Do your goals still address the areas that are most important to you? If you see that a goal seems unrealistic, modify it. For example, if you are unable to volunteer once per week due to your schedule, modify your goal to volunteer once every two weeks or once per month. Remember, this isn’t a failure, it is simply reassessing your goals to make them attainable.
Another important part of tracking goals is accountability. Even though some goals may be very personal, I encourage you to share them with at least one other person who will check in with you to see how you are doing and who will pray for and encourage you as you try to meet your goals. Accountability increases motivation because you know you have someone to answer to other than yourself. Sharing your goals with someone else is also a great way to ensure the goals you have set are actually attainable.
Setting Up Your Journal for Tracking
To set up your life plan journal, start by adding a page for each goal. At the top of your page, include the fully written goal. Below that, use bold headings for the types of logs you will use for that goal. For my health goal, I will be logging daily and doing self-evaluations monthly and quarterly.
If you miss a day logging, don’t leave it blank. Write a note about why you missed that day. This will be helpful when you do your self-evaluations. Maybe you aren’t seeing much improvement, but you remember you were sick for two weeks. Or you might realize the goal isn’t that important to you and you are no longer motivated to work towards it. The more detailed your log is, the more helpful it will be in understanding why you are or are not meeting your goals.
Here is what the main page of my Life Plan Journal looks like. You can see that I can access each page, or “entry”, that I created but they are all grouped together under one journal.
Creating a life plan is definitely a lot of work, but I hope you have learned how beneficial a life plan journal can be. Remember, if you need help, you can always reach out to one of our trained professionals or share your journal with a counselor who can answer your questions and give you feedback.
As you begin creating your own life plan journal, leave your tips and comments below to let us know how it’s going. The JournalOwl team would love to cheer you on and support you any way we can!
1. What is a life plan journal?
A life plan journal is a journal where you set goals, develop action plans to meet those goals, and track your progress. Some people combine their journals with planners. Aside from goals, life plan journals may include other supplemental information such as meal planners, grocery lists, budgets, bill schedules, savings trackers, gift lists, cleaning schedules, prayer requests, and more.
2. Why do so many people fail at keeping their New Year’s resolutions?
Lack of consistency, setting vague or unmeasurable goals, setting unattainable goals, setting goals they don’t really care about, no flexibility, and not tracking progress.
3. What areas of my life should be included in my life plan?
Faith, health, family, relationships, work, finances, hobbies, self-development, and home.
4. How do I set goals?
You begin by brainstorming what is important to you, assessing your gifts, talents, skills, and experiences, how you currently are doing in each area of your life, and what you think success looks like in each area. Once you have this information, you can create a vision statement for each area of your life.
5. What is a vision statement?
A vision statement briefly states why that area is important to you, what you want to improve, and what success looks like to you. You want your vision statement to be written in the present tense.
6. How do I know if my goals are good?
They will be SMART – Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound.
7. How do I track my goals?
You need to determine how frequently your goals need to be tracked – daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, or annually. You should also set aside time periodically to do a self-evaluation.
8. How do I start a life plan journal?
JournalOwl's 21-day journey to creating a life plan will help you get started! Each day gives you prompts that walk you through the brainstorming and goal-setting process. It is a great tool to use with this article to help you start your own life plan journal.
About Kailey Lentsch, MSW
Kailey Lentsch is the Chief Editor of JournalOwl. Her goal is to incorporate her knowledge of mental health and evidence-based techniques with sound biblical theology to provide readers with well-rounded, Christ-centered information and advice.
Prior to becoming a writer, Kailey worked as a community social worker providing counseling and case management for clients. She also taught special education in the autism unit for two years. Kailey stepped away from the classroom to focus on her growing family and to better serve her church and community through volunteer work.
Kailey is a graduate of The University of Central Florida with a master’s degree in Social Work and a certification in Children’s Services. She currently is enrolled in theology courses to expand her Bible knowledge and follow 2 Peter 3:18 by growing “in the grace and knowledge” of Christ.
Kailey and her husband are Florida natives and enjoy spending time with their three kids. They love being outdoors or doing anything sports related.
JournalOwl is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis, medical treatment, medication, or therapy. Always seek the advice of your physician or qualified mental health provider with any questions you may have regarding any mental health symptoms or conditions. JournalOwl is not authorized to make recommendations about medication or serve as a substitute for professional advice. You should never disregard professional psychological or medical advice, or delay in seeking treatment, based on anything you read on JournalOwl’s website or platform.