Wednesday, October 21, 2015

How you can utilize quarters to frame your personal life

This year I've dabbled with personal quarters, and I'm excited to use them next year with even more intention. Personal quarters are time-wise aligned with tax quarters or fiscal quarters, but for the purpose of your growth, individually. 

1st quarter: January - March
2nd quarter:  April - June
3rd quarter: July - September
4th quarter: October - December 

I've done an imperfect job this year of trying on the personal quarter. Regardless, I've really enjoyed the new perspective. 90 days is that sweet spot.  It is enough time to get big things accomplished, but it isn't so little time (like a month) where stopping to plan and reflect gets in the way of actually doing the work.

Here's a specific illustration of how the use of personal quarters helped me this year. My 3rd quarter was very medical.  We had ER visits that led to the boys' diagnosis of hemophilia. I had a lot to learn. Essentially, think crash course in hemophilia. There were numerous, numerous long conversations with specialists, our pediatrician, our at-home nurse, and our insurance company. I walked through a bit of the grieving process to readjust expectations and let my momma heart breathe.

Then, I was looking at the last three months of the year & felt joy. I've become accustomed to new starts every three months.  I was able to frame July, August, & September around this positive sense of learning lots about my boys and hemophilia, something waiting in them for two years for us to discover.  Even though that aspect of our lives is not neatly tied up and put away, there won't be the same intensity with which we had in this specific chunk of months. I was able to start October fresh & joyful.  I was able to look forward and not feel stuck, to readjust and feel renewed to keep going.

That's why I love stopping every 3 months to pull everything back together to rewrite the plan. It makes room for the unexpected, but also helps me remember not to get distracted from my original intentions.

Here are some ways you could use the personal quarter framework for you. Pick and choose what you want:

1.  Use a personal quarterly review guide.  You are welcome to use this one that I created. (I modified it from something I found on another site and as soon as I find that site I'll give her due credit here.) You also could create a simple one for yourself that's essentially directed at reviewing the previous quarter and planning for the quarter ahead.  I get such a sense of pleasure in taking pen to paper, but you can also walk through these questions with mind maps or talking through them with someone else.

2. Block out a 2 - 3 hour chunk of alone time to think.  Journal at Panera. Go on a long hike. If you are in a survival season, maybe just a super long soak in the bathtub, candles lit and lights dim. Just pick your flavor of whatever that will allow you space from everyday life and especially that long to do list.  This is time to think big picture.  Replay scenes from the last three months. What did you feel? What did you learn? Now visualize what you want the next three months to look like, to feel like. Are there things in your value system that need fed? You don't have to write down a single thing to make use out of personal quarters. Sometimes the best growth happens when we stop to be still and listen.

3. Retool the budget. Where our money goes is a good indication of our values.  Security. Friendships. Time with family. Flashy, nice things. Freedom.  It will show up in the numbers, so updating a budget also serves as a way of thinking about your value system as well.  Then there's changes. Salary changes. Changes in family size. A notice that your mortgage bill went down. New opportunities that cost or bring in more money. Just on a practical level, I've found updating (as in actually revisiting what amount we are allowing for each area, not in making sure the numbers are accurate) the budget every three months is the most realistic.    *I would love to share how we use our online bank, Simple, to budget (it's flipping awesome--the best!), but I need to figure out how to do that tech-wise and if there's any interest, so let me know if that's something you would like to see.

4. Celebrate! If you don't take time to acknowledge the great things that you accomplished or ways in which you grew, you are robbing yourself of extra energy to take on even more.  I've found celebrating insights, new skills, and achievements to give me both gratitude and contentment. It isn't all about being goal driven. It's about seeing that life is both good and bad and that there is always good to be recognized. Life will go on. There will always be difficult things. We should take time to savor the good things too! Date night. A special, related purchase. A bottle of wine and a special meal made side by side at home with your husband. Stop, celebrate and be glad.

5. Keep it simple with answering this one statement-- "I need____________________"
How would you finish that statement? For me, right now, I need everything in its place in our home. That's why I'm reorganizing all the spaces in our house for my 4th quarter.  This need was really "highlighted" as soon as we started homeschooling.  What this statement really delivers is tackling your biggest problem.  If you can take on your big problem, other things will fall into place as a benefit.  Do you need to feel healthier? Do you need to have more time? Do you need to reconnect with your spouse? Do you need to feel happier at work?

Now answer this question: What needs to be true in order for _____________________ ?
 & fill in your need. Ex: What needs to be true in order for us to feel peace in our home? What needs to be true in order for me to have time to be creative? What needs to be true in order for me to get a promotion?

How do you set goals? Do you set monthly, quarterly or yearly goals? Have you every tried to use some version of personal quarters?


  1. This is SO good. You've got my wheels turning with how to incorporate this along with my monthly goals. Thank you!

    1. Ashley, I think I should probably do monthly goals as well but pared down. You have a monthly goals sheet on your blog, right? I think I printed it off once and used it. I actually love when bloggers share their goals so much. I'm very, very goal oriented, so I love seeing what other people are striving for too.

  2. First off, I just want to say I'm sorry to hear of your sons' diagnosis, but sounds like they have an on-top-of-it mama to help them in every way possible! I REALLY enjoyed this and it has given me much food for thought. I have never heard of doing this before! I like it when someone gets my sluggish mind to start churning! :-) I think I'll share this on my FB page! :-) Thank you!

    1. Thank you for your kind words. God is pouring on the grace like he always does. :)

  3. Ashley, no clue about your kiddos and the genetic disorder. Hugs! No doubt that you and your hubby are managing them well and being mindful of their diagnosis and how that is interwoven into your kids' daily lives. I never thought about doing quarter goals. I have goals and know I work towards them, but probably not near as systematic. I work in higher education and am pursuing my masters, so that might be why. But financial goals I have in mind...but there more like 6 month goals etc. Great resource though, and advice! I wish I was closer so we could have coffee!

    1. Shanna, somehow I forgot to respond to your comment. Thank you for your virtual hugs. :) Warmly accepted!

      I definitely wish we could chat over coffee. It would be so fun catching up. If you ever come to Springfield, let me know!