Goal Planning with Chronic Illness

How I set goals nowadays is drastically different than how I did when I was “healthy” or “able-bodied” if you want to put a label on it. When I became house/hospital bound, stopped being able to drive, and using a wheelchair in 2017, I gave up on goal setting. It hurt too much to set goals and not be able to reach them in the timeline I expected or reach them at all.

I feel that over the past (almost) three years I have finally gotten into a reliable, healthy, grace-filled goal setting system that works WITH my broken body and not against it. I am going to spill all the details about the products I use and the mentality I approach them with.

Before I talk about the products I use, there are a few rules that I follow when goal setting:

  1. Intentionally reminding myself that the amount of check marks and completed tasks do NOT equate to the value I bring to society or amount my worth
  2. Live DAY BY DAY not by your to do list- listening to your body is crucial and allowing God to guide your day is even more vital
  3. I rarely do a yearly overview with specific monthly deadlines because that is just opening the door for frustration and disappointment
  4. I give more time than necessary for goal deadlines and breakdown goals into extremely small action steps that allow me to work at a goal little by little (and getting ahead when I can is important)
  5. Appreciate the good days or weeks and find peace in days or weeks of planned or unplanned rest (and yes I know this is SO hard to do especially in the moment)
  6. In order to successfully accomplish goals while living the chronic illness life means that you live by the principle of grace over guilt

I am going to break down planning strategies from quarterly to daily.

Quarterly Planning

Defining & Refreshing your Goals

A month before the new year starts, I dive into my Powersheets Goal Setting Prep work for the upcoming year, and create my goals for the quarter and a vision for the year. Every three months I evaluate each area of my life, create/refocus my goals, and prepare for the season ahead.

want to see how I tailor the powersheets prep work to fit my life with chronic illnesses? Click here for the Spoonie’s Step by Step Guide to powersheets

Want to see a quarterly refresh? Click here for my Spring refresh, Summer refresh or Fall refresh

Content Planning

So I do not work anymore which has been a hard pill to swallow, but that’s a post for another day. Every quarter I tentatively plan out the upcoming quarter’s content such as what topics I was to discuss each week on the Chronically Cultivating Podcast and a couple times a month on the blog here. I don’t do anything fancy I just keep an excel sheet with each quarter’s ideas and I try to be one quarter ahead in case so I have wiggle room if my body changes my plans.

Monthly Planning

Cultivating your Calendar

The first thing I do before a new month approaches is go over my calendar. Jared and I use our digital calendars to stay on the same page. We color coordinate each area, but it is NOT complicated or over-designed, we are fans of simple organizing. We chose four areas to document: appointments, family events, church life, and time with friends.

Tending List

Each month I determine what I want to focus on that month for monthly, weekly, and daily goals in my Powersheets. Each month they change, but it allows me to break down goals.

For an example of my tending list click here

Content Planning

Each month I go back to my quarterly idea list for blog posts and podcast topics. I then make a goal of when I want to have that post or episode go live on my platform. I use a simple blank monthly calendar and I write out where I hope projects will be finished by.

Weekly Planning

Content Planning Break Down

A big part of my week is identifying what monthly/weekly larger (typically content related) goals I am going to work on. This is where I break down each big goal into small action steps. For example:

Writing a Blog Post Action Steps: writing outline, writing draft, proof reading, adding photos, scheduling post, and then posting about the blog going live

Identifying Tasks

Now this is probably been the BIGGEST game changer for me. I used to just assign tasks to certain days and keep going- but that is hard to do when you live day by day. I started using the weekly sticky notepad from Cultivate What Matters. Every Sunday night, I try to write down all that I would like to accomplish throughout the week some examples would be: fold laundry, inventory med cart, content action steps, send card, pay car bill etc. This way I have all week to accomplish these goals. Some days get filled with 6 completed tasks and other days are blank, and yes often certain tasks get moved to the following week because I am more focused on progress not perfection. I am focused on maintaining my body over check marks, because nothing is more important than my health.

Tending List

There is a weekly area to tend to in your powersheets and typically I just follow that and check them off as I go- giving myself LOTS of grace.

Daily Planning

Utilizing my Planner

I have been using the same Day Designer daily planner for about four years I think. I prefer the one they sell at target or office max compared to the signature collection they have. I like having the timetable, to do list, and a notes section next to it whereas that feature is not in the signature collection (and it’s cheaper so that’s an added bonus!) I do not write anything in my daily page in advance. I wake up, brush my teeth, and do all the morning meds/ vitals and by that time I can typically assess how my body is doing. Then I will write down the tasks I think I can accomplish that day. It’s not a perfect system, but so far it is working quite well.

Also as a side note…. this page in my planner looked pretty, but was WAY to overzealous and there were many tomorrow arrows made (but this is how we learn, right?)

Habit Tracker

Maintaining my body is a full time job, and it can be hard to keep track of it all, so I use a habit tracker. I have been playing around with trial and error since July and I have to say I really like it. I place my habit tracker in one of the wildcard pages of the powersheets.

Tending List

There is a daily section in the tending list, which I have a love hate relationship with. Sometimes goals work out, and other times they don’t. If you are going to make daily goals you need to become best friends with grace.

May Tending List

This will take time…

There has been SO much trial and error over the past 3 years and it took me a long time to get here. I used to overcrowd my life when I was at my healthiest, yet I have found that goal setting this way is mentally healthier. At first after becoming symptomatic, I planned like an abled bodied person but had a disabled body. Then I went to the other spectrum and limited my goals to what I thought of as disabled body approved, and put myself in a box. Now I have imperfectly found a balance that works for me, and I use only pilot friction erasable writing utensils so that nothing is permanent or set in stone (links below.)

Setting goals with a chronic illness is dependent on GRACE filled goals.

Do you have a goal setting trick? Let me know in the comments below!

Happy Planning!

Products I Use:

Powersheets: the 2020 powersheets come out NEXT WEEK on October 16th!! Once they sell out they will not be restocked so make sure to get yours at 10 am here! I am team #blooms!

Top Left: Confetti, Top Right: Teal Linen, Bottom Left: Pink Linen, & Bottom Right: Blooms!

Day Designer Daily Planner: Click here to buy from Target or Office Depot

Weekly Sticky Notepad: Click here to get one

Pilot Frixion Everything:

Slim Erasable Pens

Regular Black Clicker Erasable Pens

Gel Erasable Pens

Erasable Markers

Pastel Erasable Highlighters

Cassie Nolin is a married spoonie who lives the chronic illness life with EDS + Co. (Ehlers Danlos Syndrome and it’s comorbid conditions.) She challenges others to choose grace over guilt in goal setting, and is in ministry part time serving the online community through The Spoonie Study. She loves planting, hand lettering, and sharing the hope she has found in Jesus. Her blog, Living the Chronic Illness Life, is in the top 100 chronic illness blogs and her podcast, Chronically Cultivating, is produced by Speaking to the Heart Network. Cassie encourages women to live authentic and intentional lives through their diagnosis’ not in spite of them. You can learn more about her at www.livingthechronicillnesslife.com

This post contains affiliate links

20 thoughts on “Goal Planning with Chronic Illness

  1. TalesOfAScottishLassie says:

    This was a very interesting post you seem really organised. I have bad health also and I dont work. I feel like my life is just down the drain and even tasks like cooking and doing my washing are tireing but maybe I should start making lists.


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