Achieving Difficult Goals & Recycled Thank You Notes

One of my goals for this year is to do better on my thank you note writing, my angst over which I have written about recently. For me, this is one of those “hard” resolutions like losing weight or saving money. Simply saying (or even writing down), “I will be more prompt in my thank you note writing.” is not going to cut it. When your goal is difficult and something that you have tried and failed to achieve in the past, it can be discouraging to attempt it again.

While I was trying to figure out how to do better on my thank you note writing, I came up with a process for analyzing difficult goals. I have written the process down below and have created a worksheet you can download here in Word or Adobe .pdf format to work through the specifics of your own situation. (Note that it might be a good idea to either create a binder or notebook to store your worksheets in if you are printing them out or a Ruly folder on your computer if you are storing them electronically.)


  1. Dissect your goal. Make a list of all the small tasks that have to be done in order to achieve your ultimate goal.
  2. Understand the obstacles. For each step in your goal, make a list of the things that have derailed you from achieving each step in the past. Include things that are both within and beyond your control.
  3. Create options for addressing each obstacle. Try to come up with multiple solutions for each obstacle. You will really need to exercise your creativity here.
  4. Adjust expectations and identify sub-goals. If there is an obstacle for which there are no options or no realistic options, perhaps the goal itself needs to be adjusted. Rather than feeling that you are a “failure” for not adhering to your goal all the time, rewrite the goal into something that takes into account your obstacles. You may also identify a sub-goal based on the obstacles you have identified.

One of the benefits of thinking in detail about your goal is that you can clarify whether your goal is solving the right problem for you. You can also see where you are going wrong in achieving your goal. There might be aspects of your goal that you are doing very well on and just one or two troubling steps that are foiling all your good work.

As I ran through this exercise myself, it was eye-opening to see that some of the things derailing me from my thank you note goal are items that, if addressed, could help me achieve not only with this goal but improve my life in other ways as well! For example, I identified that one of my obstacles is devising a system of recording thank you notes to be written that can be updated any time any place. If I had such a system (electronic or paper), I could use it to record other things as well, such as my thoughts, to do list items, etc. I don’t really like the idea of carrying around a device (like my iPhone) everywhere I go and I am not sure how something like a notepad and pen would work out. However, I will be experimenting to see what works best for me in this regard.

Another thank you note obstacle I identified was the problem of not having thank you notes on hand. The answer to this obstacle is relatively simple . . purchase or make thank you notes to have ready. Fortunately, making cards is something I can get behind and enjoy! I came up with the following very simple thank you note that anyone can do and that had the side benefit of decluttering my house of existing art supplies and recycling materials that might otherwise have been thrown away!

Here is the finished product:

My brief instructions:



  • Letter-sized paper that would be suitable for writing a handwritten note on (I used colored cardstock I already had but anything from plain white paper to specialty papers could be used.)
  • Small scraps of paper, ribbon, material, etc. for decorations


  1. In a word processing program, select a landscape orientation and set the margins to be 0.25” all the way around. Format your document for two columns. Type the word “Thank You” or “Thanks” four times in a font you like. Your finished thank you notes are simply a piece of standard size paper cut into quarters. Decide whether to put your thanks at the top, bottom or along the side of your note. I just eyeballed approximately where the words should go to fit on the paper. You can always creatively trim the paper in step 2 if you are a bit off. If this aspect of the craft project gives you fits, you can download the templates I used here: top, bottom, left side.
  2. Cut the paper into quarters. A paper trimmer is a fantastic investment here. I purchased an inexpensive one a few years ago and use it all the time. The one I use is a Carl Personal Rotary Trimmer that looks similar to this Swingline one, which is great because it is compact and has no sharp edges that can cut my children if they find it.
  3. Add just a hint of decoration near the words “Thank You” and leave the rest of the note blank for writing. I used small scraps of decorative papers. You could also use ribbon, fabric, yarn, sequins, stickers, stamps or decorative punches or any other unused decorating materials around your home.
  4. After the thank you note is written, purchase a box of generic “invitation” size envelopes, like these, which are sized to fit quarter-sized paper.  Or, you could also recycle envelopes you already have (such as those you receive in the mail from charity notecard mailings, etc.) and cut the notes to fit.

There you go! Chic, cheap and very simple.

If you are artistic, like my incredible nanny/artist, you can get as fancy as you like. Here is the handmade thank you note she just gave to me. WOW!

If you are a business owner, you can also adapt this idea for your business. It would be a great way to recycle old letterhead, business cards, promotional items, etc. Here is an example of the thank you notes I created for Ruly using cardstock and a promotional mini-mechanical pencil.

Like it? Post a comment this month on any article (not just this one) and I will send you one! Post your comment then email me your address at and a little ruliness will be headed to your mailbox in the near future, while supplies last.  A few rules: your comment must be in English, relevant to the post it applies to, and is not spam.

Now . . . there is the small problem of actually writing those thank you notes I have prepared. Off to do some writing!  🙂