The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

Developing long term goals

List of long term goalsIf you're a type A person overwhelmed by the nitty-gritty of realizing your dreams, one solution is to draw up a realistic timeline.  I found it very useful to sit down with Mark and write out a list of big projects we want to accomplish on the farm.  These tend to be the expensive and/or time-consuming goals that make me twitch when I gaze out over our homestead and realize we haven't even begun to work on them, things like growing our own meat or becoming more energy independent. 

If you're playing along at home, this is your chance to get everything that keeps you up at night off your chest and onto paper, so write every little thing down.  The image to the right is this year's incarnation of our big picture goals.  I broke our farm goals down into four categories, mostly to make myself pay attention to things other than the garden (which I've channeled most of our energy toward over the last four years.)

After listing everything we ache to achieve, Mark and I each rated the importance of the goals within each category.  So, for example, Mark and I both felt that dealing with our creek crossing was the most important goal in the Other category, but Mark wanted to improve the driveway next while I wanted to finish burying our water line so that it wouldn't freeze in the winter.  I averaged our two ratings for each goal to give us a list of priorities within each category.  For the record, here are our prioritized long term goals in each category:


  1. Biochar toilet
  2. Finish the storage building
  3. Bathing room
  4. Fix fridge root cellar
  5. Build another woodshed
  6. Insulate the trailer floor
  7. Build a second fridge root cellar
  8. Porch on the north side of trailer with summer kitchen
  9. Barn roof repair
  10. Porch on south side of trailer with steps
  11. Hobbit caves (underground sleeping area)


  1. Find a way to keep constant mulch cover
  2. Be able to reproduce mushrooms
  3. Grains
  4. Oil


  1. Start fencing/hedging pastures
  2. Figure out chicken reproduction
  3. Plant forest pasture trees
  4. Consider sheep, pig, goats, meat chickens


  1. Creek crossing
  2. Finish burying water line
  3. Wood chipper
  4. Find a temporary caretaker to mind the farm when we take trips
  5. Deal with mud around the house
  6. Solidify the driveway with more rocks
  7. Off grid lights and stove fan
  8. More efficient wood stove
  9. Solar hot water heater
  10. Powered parachute
  11. Perimeter trail

We repeat this exercise once a year in January, so this list is slightly out of date.  Tomorrow, I'll tell you how this list makes life less overwhelming, rather than more so.

Fund your journey back to the land with Microbusiness Independence.

This post is part of our Coping With Paradise lunchtime series.  Read all of the entries:

Anna Hess's books
Want more in-depth information? Browse through our books.

Or explore more posts by date or by subject.

About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

Want to be notified when new comments are posted on this page? Click on the RSS button after you add a comment to subscribe to the comment feed, or simply check the box beside "email replies to me" while writing your comment.

This post looks familiar. Am I confused or was this posted elsewhere recently"
Comment by J Tue Oct 26 13:03:51 2010
Maybe you're remembering reading our year's goals in January at That's not very recent, though....
Comment by anna Tue Oct 26 13:41:17 2010
Or maybe you're remembering the post I made a month or two ago that led to people asking for my list of lists?
Comment by anna Tue Oct 26 13:44:18 2010


The disadvantage of task lists is that you'll never run out of tasks. :-/ When you kick the bucket there will probably still be a full task list.

Ask yourself how big a problem it would be if a certain project doesn't get done? The first tool of time management is to not do certain tasks or to postpone them. The goal is to make your task list manageable so you can actually get some things done. This will give you energy instead of being an energy drain. The second thing is that priorities are not static but will always be in flow. Accept that. Do not worry about external circumstances that you cannot change.

For bigger tasks it always helps me to make a rough planning of a task. How much time do you think it requires? What materials do you need and when can you have them available? What would be the most suitable time? Can you divide it up into smaller tasks that are easier to schedule and complete?

And think about how you can combine things in a smart way. E.g. if you hire a compact excavator you could maybe bury the waterline, dig the root cellars and your toilet in one go.

Comment by Roland_Smith Tue Oct 26 16:39:16 2010
Yup, that's pretty much what I'm going to discuss for the rest of the week. :-) I do find that it actually helps people like me to write down all of the things we're dying to do, even though the original list seems very long. That way, you don't have these goals kicking around in the back of your head and bothering you --- they're on a list and don't need to be worried about any more.
Comment by anna Tue Oct 26 16:47:45 2010
Thanks. I checked the links but they're not it. I swear to God I read this post before (because I'm an A type interested in anyone's ideas on how to do better long term planning :-) and when I opened the page this morning to read your latest, I could've sworn I'd read it before. Deja vu? I dunno. Anyhooo, this was my first contact with y'all. Love your blog. Ta for now.
Comment by J Tue Oct 26 16:48:30 2010
I'm officially stumped! If you remember where you read it before, I'd love to know. :-)
Comment by anna Tue Oct 26 17:14:18 2010
I had to snigger when I saw Mark's number 2 priority ended up at number 6 on the final list. That's how lists work in my house too :-).
Comment by Darren (Green Change) Tue Oct 26 17:21:48 2010

Well, see, it tied for fourth place, and I made the official final list... :-) On the other hand, you'll notice that even though it didn't make it onto the year's long term goals (more on them tomorrow), Mark still snuck it onto our weekly lists and it got done this year anyhow.

(Plus, if you look closely, you'll see that Mark cheated and gave two things a ranking of two in the "other" category! Tch, tch!)

Comment by anna Tue Oct 26 17:36:13 2010

profile counter myspace

Powered by Branchable Wiki Hosting.

Required disclosures:

As an Amazon Associate, I earn a few pennies every time you buy something using one of my affiliate links. Don't worry, though --- I only recommend products I thoroughly stand behind!

Also, this site has Google ads on it. Third party vendors, including Google, use cookies to serve ads based on a user's prior visits to a website. Google's use of advertising cookies enables it and its partners to serve ads to users based on their visit to various sites. You can opt out of personalized advertising by visiting this site.