Writing out a daily “roadmap” is how Matt Ryan of Needleworks for Life devised to properly plan his lifestyle. Inspired by the flexibility and transparency afforded by daily or weekly goals, he hit upon the idea to start doing the same for his life.
A year later, Needleworks for Life now has 4,000 participants taking a portion of each day, on a weekly or biweekly basis, to outline their life and goals and share their plans with a community of people who want to learn about, support, and even raise funds for the user’s chosen cause.
Like most entrepreneurs, Ryan had never been very good at setting and tracking big goals, and it wasn’t until he accepted his goal of doing a year’s worth of daily goals that he began to see concrete benefits of having a concrete plan. “Many of us who are busy today are always doing something,” he says. “But we often don’t know where we’re going.”
He got busy in part because Needleworks for Life was borne out of the frustration of bouncing between three different doctors who were all offering different options for healing his chronic kidney disease. Focusing on his daily goals over the course of a year gave him the kind of clarity he was trying to achieve with his chronic condition, and the tracking allowed him to get “more clarity, particularly at a personal level.” In time, that clarity was in turn affecting not only his health but his life. “There was a point in the middle of the year when I wasn’t eating right,” he recalls. “I didn’t take the stairs, I didn’t wash my hands enough, and I just wasn’t being responsible.” That change in diet eventually led to less expensive groceries, more clean laundry, less non-communicable disease and an increase in his flow of income–all without sacrificing his health.
Prior to doing this daily tracking, Ryan was so scattered and motivated by his constant entrepreneurial activities that he spent up to 70% of his week participating in only one activity, “sometimes because there was nothing else to do and sometimes because it felt fun,” he says. At the same time, he notes that around the time Needleworks was founded, one of his sisters started doing the same thing with her own aspirations and ended up driving to Seattle every day to be with her kids. Ryan started doing the same thing with his son. “He’s a baby now, and he can drive to me and we talk through the calendar year,” he says.
The unique feature of Needleworks for Life is its whole community is also included in the monthly meetings, including the like-minded users who may be a couple months away from doing the same thing or a family member who wants to hear what the group’s plans are for the month. Rather than the average social network, Needleworks for Life also keeps its community in a state of awareness and improvement by posting a weekly social media post on its website with a brief description of how they are going to execute that week’s goal.
The daily programs cover a number of different priorities. In the last 18 months, Ryan’s Needleworks for Life has raised over $5,000 to help underserved families pay for kidney dialysis. For Ryan, the key to maintaining his daily goals is keeping them connected with his main social network and that has included creating a weekly “core group” of five friends that all periodically meet up for social hour. “I think the healthiest thing I have is this stable core group of friends,” he says.
The need for support is becoming apparent to almost everyone in Needleworks for Life: Because it’s important to him to have the support of fellow collaborators, Ryan wanted his group of friends to be on the brink of completion before he would invite them to his next global event. He also found that when he started to do daily goals, his self-worth was measured differently than when he was just a regular person.