I’ve been thinking alot lately about the reasons why some of the best laid plans can fail.   Aside from the fact that I have a curious, cutie-faced one year old, a chatter-box sponge of a five year old and a husband who works twelve hour shifts and countless overtime, I find that sometimes the lists I write and goals I set don’t have a chance to take flight even with the best of intentions.

After taking stock of what has worked for me and what hasn’t, I wanted to give you something to think about so you don’t let these pitfalls happen to you.

Here are a few reasons why the best laid plans can fail, and ways to avoid them!

1. Unrealistic Expectations
Many plans are created with the best of intentions in mind.  We write lengthy lists hoping that we will be able to check all hundred items off the list immediately.  I know I do.  My quest to complete items on my list sometimes fails to take into account the stuff like the spilled milk right before I have to walk out the door, diaper blowout and dog poop on my carpet kind of days!  Long lists and unrealistic expectations can be overwhelming. Don’t set yourself to fail before you even have a chance to get out of the starting gate.

Instead, as you create your plan, focus on each item one at time. Where does it belong in the grand-scheme of your life today and beyond? Write priorities for today, this week, this month and the year in separate groups.  Setting milestones at various check points can do wonders for your motivation and momentum.  Think of mile markers on a marathon. They don’t help you get there faster, but rather keep you focused on where you are going. The more realistic your lists and goals, the more likely you will be able to be successful.

2. Focus on the wrong things

There’s probably no such thing as the WRONG things to focus on, but I do believe we can get focused on the wrong ORDER of things or placing too much importance on things that really don’t matter.

Put the most difficult tasks right up front. I am the biggest culprit of putting unimportant things on my list just so I can have the satisfaction of crossing them off.  This is not an effective method. I share it with you not so you will follow this method, but rather to say…don’t be like me! Getting sidetracked by focusing on the unimportant can happen to the best of us.

3. Little or No Motivation
Lists are often written and then tucked away on a desk, shelf or purse.  A list without the get-up-and-go is just a collection of words.  Clumping together related tasks and moving through quickly can be the catalyst to get your motor going.  Before you know it,  You’ll be moving and crossing things off your list in no time.

4. Don’t know where to start
Creating a list or setting goals can be intimidating and overwhelming.  So much so that we just don’t do it.  Try sitting down somewhere with minimal distractions and think about what is important to you.  Ask yourself things like, where do you want to be in a year, five years, how do you want your home to look, what kind of parent do you aspire to be, when should you go back to school or reenter the workforce, what debts do you want to payoff, what do you want your savings to look like?

Those questions can help shape what  your “list” will look like.  Without goals of any kind, you are likely to remain exactly where you are at…stuck and stagnant!   If you still have no idea where to start after an exercise like that, then talk to a trusted friend who did what you want to do, and ask her for things to think about. Remember that her goals are not your goals.  Be true to yourself in your plan.

5. Too Detailed
List and plans are not supposed to be a diary of everything you ever wanted to do in life today or ever. Although some of us treat them this way.

Instead, your list should focus on what tasks are to be completed, priorities by importance level such as goal dates (completed by Friday…completed in 2013).  For immediate items like, making a menu plan you can easily scribble in something like, “by Friday”. For other goals (like one of mine regarding our house fund), you may want to write in, by 2014 (with milestones along the way).

Another trap that can derail your efforts is having too many lists  I don’t mean the separate lists I talked about above for the immediate, mid term and long term (which I support).  Rather,  I mean a list on your iPhone, a list on your kitchen table, another one in your desk all competing for your attention.  Park it all in one place and you’ll be surprised how quickly you stay on track.

6. Not Updated
Your life is dynamic. Your family needs change, responsibilities change, careers change based on the seasons of life.  While your daily lists that include things like household items and do-it-now items will be accomplished pretty quickly, you should regularly update your mid-to-long term goals to make sure they still fit into your larger family plan.

7. Not Shared
A plan that you keep in your head or sitting on your desk is of no use if you can’t see it.  It’s also not great if the only person who knows about your goals is you.  Accountability can serve as an amazing motivator.  Just the mere idea of having to tell someone (my spouse, a friend, my mom) how I did on my list is motivation enough to do something about it. The people I care about know about the plan.  They are part of the plan and are key to achieving what is on the pages of the goals of my life.

I guess the last question that is left to answer is, where to keep your list, your plan.  That is entirely up to you and what fits your style.

I’m a “hard-copy” kind of girl, but you can keep your plan anywhere, even electronically, as long as you keep it somewhere it’s handy and you can see it and refer to it often.  Otherwise…print it, share it, stare at it…and then do it!