My annual ritual has already begun.
Armed with a fresh new planner, a legal pad, and notes from the last few calls with my coach, I sat down recently to start mapping out the calendar for next year – in detail.
I usually wait to do this during the quiet week after Christmas, but there’s a lot to sort out, so I’m starting early this year.
Many of my clients are passion-driven entrepreneurs who act on intuition more than strategy, and follow their heart more than their head. They’ll tell you that they are at their best in the moment, when they’re thinking on their feet and figuring it out as they go.
And that may be true.
But if you are serious about taking your business to the next level, you have to be more intentional about everything you do.
And a well planned calendar is the foundation on which your business is built.
Using a calendar properly will help you dance that dance between keeping an eye on the big picture, without losing sight of the day to day.
So here’s a step by step guide to planning your year in a way that will ensure you actually reach those goals you’ve set, and grow your business the way you want it to grow.
1. Start with the Big Picture.
Start with an annual overview. Print out one of those two pages for the year layouts so you can see the whole year at once. (You can find free printables easily on line.) Make sure there is at least a small space to write in under each day.
Use a highlighter to mark off each of the four quarters (January – March, April – June, etc.).
2. Add in pre-existing commitments.
Go through the whole year and write in key commitments you already have. This includes standing meetings, scheduled presentations or appointments, conferences, trainings, networking meetings, and any other pre-set obligations.
3. Plan downtime, including quarterly retreats.
Add in any personal days you plan to take off this year: major holidays, vacations, family time, etc. Because if you don’t set them aside now, they won’t happen.
And once each quarter, plan a one or two-day personal retreat. You can define this however you like, but make it something special.
It could be a spa day with girlfriends or a weekend at your favorite B&B. It could be a family camp out or a quick trip to the beach.
Use this time to relax, refresh and reconnect, with your self and/or with those closest to you. You’ll be astonished at how this boosts your creativity when you get back to business.
4. Add in Business Development Days.
At the start of each quarter, set aside one full day to fine tune strategic plans for the next three months. We’re planning a year with this exercise, but the work happens ninety days at a time.
That day could include planning social media content, program launches, customer events, marketing initiatives, etc. It could be a day to meet with your team to refine your processes, or review your goals.
A word of caution: these are not ‘free days’. Resist the temptation to fill them with outside lunches, errands or other extraneous tasks.
5. Map out key initiatives for the year – and their prep time.
Now you’re ready to add in those big goals you’re eager to reach, the ones that are going to move your business forward in a very real way.
And this takes some thought.
If you want to launch a new program, host a client retreat, or put on a workshop, how do you want to time those throughout the year?
Looking at the year as a whole, and thinking about the energy and prep time they’ll require – along with everything else you’ll be dealing with – where would they best fit?
Get them on the calendar too.
And that’s it!
You now have a tool that will guide you through the year, protect your personal time and ensure forward momentum in your life and business.
Even knowing that you’ll change some things and adapt as the year unfolds, you’ll be surprised at how helpful this will be over the coming months.
Try it, and let me know how it goes in the comments below.