Taking inventories is a part of the cycle of worship in an LDS community.  Once a week when you take the sacrament.  Once a month for fast Sunday.  Twice a year at Stake Conference and twice a year at General Conference.  Special inventories for Thanksgiving, Easter, Christmas and New Year’s.  Every PPI (Personal Priesthood Inventory).

We also do a lot of goal setting.  Duty to God awards, all of the various other programs.  Enough goal setting and resolutions one might wonder if there is time for anything else.

Surprisingly enough, we do not seem to focus much on the details of how to take inventory or how to relate inventories to goal setting.  There is a great deal on planning and goal setting, but not so much on evaluating where we are, what our foundations are, and what abilities, needs, strengths and weaknesses we have.  This post is about that topic.

Since people have completed their New Year’s Resolutions, I’m writing a post on how to lay a foundation, how to inventory yourself, and how to apply precursor planning.  Given space constraints, it will be too short, and I’ll appreciate your comments, suggestions and additions.

The first step in taking an inventory is to just stop and record how much time you spend each day on the various things you do — do it for a full week, and approximate from that week what you do each month.

e.g. (from a log I reviewed):

  • Sleep 8.5 hours
  • Eating 1.2 hours
  • Commuting 1.6 hours
  • Work 8.2 hours
  • Blogging 1.2 hours
  • Showing .3 hours
  • Computer games 2.3 hours
  • Other .7 hours

Next, do a physical inventory.  Your age, height, weight, physical strength and health.  How much sleep do you need.  What is your real waist size? Sometimes just writing it down will make it real for you.

Go on to a social inventory.  Names, duration of friendships, what you have done to nourish the friendship in the last year.  It does not hurt to cross-link social to time use inventories (or think about how fitting a girl friend in .7 “other” hours in a week might affect that relationship).

Once you have done that three part inventory, go on to the next level.  List what you fear and why.  What you want, why and how much you want it (i.e. what is it worth to you?).

At this point, with a simple three factor, two layer inventory, you are ready to list your abilities, weaknesses, skills, connections and other assets and liabilities.  Such a list will make a good deal more sense if you have done the other work first.

Now you are ready for the next step, which is to list:

  1. What is important to you based on time spent, attention given, and what you want. (list about five or more things)
  2. What you need/want enough to spend time or assets that you have on.  (list about five or more things).
  3. What you need in order to get what you want (e.g. if you want to be a CRNA you need to become an RN first).

Then you set concrete marks — that is well defined definitions of what constitutes what you are willing to spend.  E.g. “can take .2 hours of computer game time each day and spend it shaving and brushing my teeth.”

Now you can start on what is called pecursor planning.  That is not “I will get up at 6:30 every morning” but “I will turn off the television by 9:00, have the children tucked in bed by 9:30 and will have myself in bed by 10:00 p.m.” — you plan for the benchmark (e.g. getting up at 6:30) by planning how to be in bed in time to get the 8.5 hours of sleep, and to be in bed in time by planning out the precursors you have to fulfill to make the target occur.

It is an inventory based method of reaching goals.  You take needs, wants, assets and price and work out what it costs and what needs to be done to make the result flow.  In the sleep example, you have to decide if getting up by 6:30 a.m. is worth turning the television off by 9:00 which is what has to happen to get the kids in bed in time for you to get yourself in bed in time to get the sleep you need to wake up at 6:30.  If yes, then you know what steps to work out to plan to accomplish the benchmark.

It is not “I will take my wife out for a date every Friday” but “I will let her know I will be taking her out every Friday [and make sure that is what she wants], I will arrange a babysitter for Friday every Sunday evening [since that is when our babysitter is home and is making plans for her week], I will finalize the Friday plans by Tuesday, and on Thursday I will make sure that my calendar is still clear so that I will not get held up on Friday with last minute work [and will get that work done on Thursday evening instead].

This approach turns goal setting into road mapping.

How many of you have taken the kinds of inventories described? How many of you find the concept of precursor planning useful? What criticisms, suggestions or links would you suggest to add to this essay?

Some links: