Tips & Tools to Grow Forward

With online tips and tools from Paul Casey at Growing Forward Services, you can apply these skills to improve your goal achievement, productivity, and leadership.

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When you feel stuck, your world seems very small and closed-in, and there doesn’t seem to be any visible path forward.

It’s essential to have options in order to feel hopeful again. Spend time along with a coach/friend brainstorming as many potential solutions to your current dilemma as you can. There are no ridiculous options in brainstorming. In fact, some of the most out-of-the-box, zany ideas often have a hint of a solution in them. Don’t stop with three or four options; get 10-20 options on the table!

Then, only after you have exhausted your list, begin to evaluate the options as to which one or two seem most viable, most able to commit to. And begin playing with those ideas until an action plan forms.

As you make your decision to commit to putting your priorities into your schedule, think of your day in time-blocks. At work, you have a morning and an afternoon block; off-work, you have an evening block and six-weekend blocks. Map out your week intentionally by putting your priority action plans into these available blocks so that distractions and wasted time don’t crowd them out.

Specific  (You have to be able to see the action in order to do it.)

Measurable  (You must have to be able to know when it’s done.)

Attainable (It must be doable.)

Relevant to your vision (It must matter.)

Time-dated (It must have a specific deadline.)


Heartfelt (You have to have an emotional connection to it.)

Animated (You have to be able to visualize it completed.)

Required (It has to be part of what you must do.)

Difficult (It has to be a stretch.)

Ask yourself, “Is what I’m doing (or proposing to do) going to get me closer to my goals (or vision for my life), or farther away from my goals?”

Before you launch something: pretend your endeavor failed and list all the potential reasons it did. Then, mitigate those reasons upfront to avoid failing.

Need helping to make a decision? Check out my 7 step process for decision-making!

The 3 most important words relating to time management are Narrow Your Focus! Make the shift from doing many things well to doing fewer things with greater excellence. What must you stop doing to ensure that you complete your priorities every day?

Take my Time Management Assessment

Self-affirmations help you blast away the self-condemning messages you tell yourself in your head. Here are some examples to repeat often in order to replace the bad with the good; customize specifically to combat your negative thinking–to what you need to empower yourself: “I will take my next step in that area.” “I will speak only positively about others and myself.” “I will stay in my strength zone, yet be willing to leave my comfort zone.” “My creativity will shine.”

Sometimes your brain is so cluttered with everything on your plate that it bogs you down, and you find it hard to know where to start. Overwhelmed? Take 30 minutes or less and write down everything on your mind: to-do items, what you are worried about, events coming up, aches/pains, your wish list…  Just getting it from your brain onto paper somehow clears your mind and puts all those things into a format that you can work with.  If you are ambitious, sort the brain dump into categories (including what you can/can’t control!). Then if you are really ambitious, make the things within your control into tangible action plans, rank them by importance, and put the first ones on your calendar.

Brain Dump Template

As you evaluate your time management, list 5 things you shouldn’t have spent time on in the last 3 days, and 5 things in the next 3 days that you shouldn’t have committed to. Then start making changes so that next week, you get different results!

Take a sheet of paper and draw a line down the middle. At the top of the left column, write the word “Fills”; below it, write 15-20 things that fill your emotional tank and make you smile, and give you energy. For me, it’s waterfalls, reading, listening to music, golfing, dates with my family members, vacations, a clutter-free desk, etc. Then, find ways to put some of these items every week into your schedule deliberately. This is essential if you are in a funk and need to brighten your spirits.

At the top of the right column, write the word “Drains”; below it, write 15-20 things that drain the life out of you, suck away your energy, and put a downer in your day. For me, it’s traffic, wind, people who are negative or bullies, bills, etc. Then, you have 3 choices with these drainers: put boundaries around them so your distance from them as much as possible, create an action plan to deal with them, or emotionally let them go (a la the serenity prayer), realizing they are out of your control and thus not worth worrying about.

Fills Drains Template 

In your mind’s eye, clearly picture what your preferred future looks like if your goal is reached.  It must be specific and it must be compelling.

Then, make some boxes that lead toward that vision, and some boxes that lead away from that vision. In the boxes that lead toward it, begin writing tangible actions within your control that get you closer to your goal. Make them specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-dated (SMART). In the boxes leading away from your goal, begin writing tangible actions that sabotage yourself from attaining your goals.

Then begin living out your best version of yourself, and building up boundaries against the less than best version of you.

Click here for my Free Storyboard Download!

Visualize 3 of the roles you play in life (like spouse, supervisor, parent, community member) . In each “ring,” describe metaphorically which circus performer you are currently playing: ringmaster, lion-tamer, trapeze artist, juggler, etc. and why. Determine if that is who you want to be, or not.

Then determine the next action you must take in each role to turn what is in your control into a win-win for both you and those you interact with in the ring.

Draw a large circle. In the middle of the circle make an “X” and make a “+” so that it looks like there are 8 spokes of a wheel. Make 10 notches on each of the spokes. On the outside of the circle, at the end of each spoke, put one of these core areas of your life: mental, social, spiritual, physical, family/friends, professional, financial, and emotional. Rate your satisfaction on each spoke with a mark by the notch, with a “10” being totally satisfied and being on the edge of the circle (closest to the center would be a “1” or “totally unsatisfied” response). Then connect the dots. The closer your shape is to a circle, the healthier/more balanced you are right now. It reveals areas where you might need to spend more attention on setting action goals.

Wheel Of Life Template

Make 3 columns on a piece of paper (or 3-columns on an Excel sheet). At the top of one column, put Do; 2nd column put Have; 3rd column put Be. Before you actually make action plans, determine what you really want to Do, what you really want to Have, and who you really want to Be. Then, make those into SMART goals with action plans. If you aren’t clear where you want to get to, you’ll stay stuck.

What I Really Want Template

On a sheet of paper (or posterboard), make a graph of your life from your teen years until now, putting your age along the bottom, and putting peaks where great things happened in your life and valleys where negative things happened in your life–labeling the happenings as you go.

Then, using colored post-its, put yellow post-its where key people (or a key event) came into your life that impacted your life-trajectory. Put pink post-its where pain or crisis re-routed your life. And put blue post-its next to the season of life where you learned a key life lesson.

Chapman’s The Five Love Languages book helps you figure out what fills the emotional love tank of those closest to you and what you need the most as well. Good indicators of your love language are what you complain about not having the most and what you like to give to others the most. But usually your love language is different from those you care about; so it truly is an act of love to give someone what he/she needs most, even if it’s not in your typical comfort zone.

1. Quality time

2. Acts of service

3. Physical touch and closeness

4. Words of affirmation

5. Receiving gifts

Take this quick assessment to determine your primary/secondary love language:   5 Love Languages Test

Take this 5-minute assessment to figure out if you are more of a lion, otter, golden retriever, or beaver.

Personality survey

Clearly define your big goal and write it at the top of a large white board.

Brainstorm all the big and small tasks (as specifically as possible) that come to mind to get that goal accomplished and write them on post-its under the goal.

Group the post-it tasks by similar themes/categories. When you do this step, the list begins to seem more manageable, less overwhelming. Try to get it down to about 4 categories.

Type up the tasks under the categories, and rank them by what needs to be done first along the critical path to getting other tasks done in succession.

Put the first task in each category into your calendar and obey your calendar when it’s time to tackle it. No procrastination anymore!

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