Planning out a whole year? Am I crazy? Well, perhaps. But I like to take stock of my methods and change them if they stop working for me.
Now, while monthly goals and daily tasks do work, they weren’t having the effect I needed for long-term goal planning.
I knew I needed something more drastic. *Insert dramatic music* I needed to do “Yearly Planning”.
Are you seriously planning your year?
Yes, I am!
It’s not as crazy as it sounds…well, kinda. Yearly planning gives you a real “big picture” view.
When you’re building a house, you don’t just do little bits randomly at a time and hope it all comes together in the end – you start with a blueprint. A view of exactly what you want that house to look like.
Got a deadline?
Okay, then you plan each required, house-building step until everything leads up to hitting that deadline.
↑ It really is! ↑
Start at the End
In order to plan a year, you have to start at the end.
What do you want to accomplish in the year?
It’s an important question, so you really need to take your time thinking about it.
I did what I always do in these situations, grabbed some scrap paper, a felt-tip pen, put on a TV show in the background and thought about each project or task.
Let’s clear something up quickly, planning the year isn’t about every little bitty to-do task you want to get done.
For example, you aren’t going to use it to schedule “fit new lampshade”.
To give you some ideas, here are a few of my End Results.
- 52 Blog Posts (on this blog)
- The end result for my blog is that I want to have posted once a week.
- 12 Newsletters
- I mail out my newsletter once a month, so this is my year-end result.
- 2 Full First Drafts
- Yes, I wanted to kick myself in the pants re my writing, this is how I do it.
These are just 3 of the 14 things that were going to be dropped into my Yearly Plan.
14!? I hear you gasp while I faint at the very idea. Yes. 14!
Don’t worry, it’s all part of my cunning plan.
What To Include in a Year Plan
So, let’s discuss what needs to be included in a year plan.
One of the 14 points I included was 5 weeks off. I planned to give myself a week off every quarter in order to recharge so I don’t suffer from burn-out like I did earlier this year.
I also threw in another week around Xmas when I go back to visit the family and friends.
These breaks are vital and so they get scheduled first! Burning out does not make for success. So we want to avoid it at any cost.
My partner and I decided that we needed to be a little more ruthless when it comes to making sure we spend longer, quality time together.
Don’t get me wrong, we spend a LOT of time together, but often it involves other people or doing “stuff around the house” or “zoning out to a TV series” on the couch.
But we need to actually have real quality time. So we decided to have a Date Night, once a month at least. Even if it’s just a
coffee tea date. So these need to get scheduled in which means I needed 12 Dates in my Year plan at a minimum.
As movie lovers, we wanted to make sure we treated ourselves to the cinema at least every 2 months. So that’s 6 Cinema Outings.
I know what you’re thinking. How can I schedule cinema outings a year in advance without knowing what’s coming out when?
Simple – things like the Cinema are what I called “moveable” events. I have them marked with mini post-its so I can drop them in as and when we find something we want to watch.
Having them on post-it’s means they are always visible. And I can see at a glance if they are still on there and have not been moved.
Obviously, projects need to go on the yearly plan. However, I’ve been really thoughtful and considered all the things I want to include (dates, holidays etc). All the things I need to include (business stuff, taxes) and then I choose my projects.
I don’t want my year to be a crammed-full nightmare that leaves me screaming in the bathroom.
↑ No thanks! ↑
So I had to consider what projects I really wanted to work on. Things that were important to me. My novels, obviously. Also, a few other things I wanted to put my energy into.
I worked out what the end result was for each of those projects and then I added them to the yearly plan.
Notice how when I mentioned early that for my novels, it was two full DRAFTS. I may manage to get them completed and polished, but the minimum result I’d accept was getting two novels done to their completed 1st drafts.
See, the idea is to be realistic. After all, there are other things you will have to do that won’t be planned for. So make your goals stretching but not straining.
Okay – so now I have a list of things I want to do by the end of the year. Now what?
Steps and Time Frames
With all this information, I now need to actually slot it into my upcoming year. For that, I need steps and time frames.
“Write 2 Novels up to 1st Draft” is an end result, remember?
So how do I do that?
I need to decide when I want to get them done. Let’s say, I break this task into 6 months for each novel.
Right, so I need to brainstorm and outline, how long will that take? If the idea is still new, probably a month or two. If it’s more solid, maybe less.
How long to write my draft? 3 months? 4 months? The idea is to set yourself workable deadlines. The 85k challenge aims to help writers complete the first draft of 85k words in 3 months. It’s all about sticking to deadlines.
So let’s say 3 months. How many words do I need to have written per day, per month to hit that target?
I have my time frame, 4 months
I have my steps 1 month for brainstorming, 3 months for writing with a rough daily word count.
Now I do the same for all the things in my year plan. By knowing the steps you need to take, targets you need to reach and the time frames for each, it can help you to schedule the tasks.
The Importance of Check-Ins
Dropping tasks and projects into your planner isn’t enough. You need to consider check-ins.
These are points throughout the year when you stop and check on your progress. If I’m putting myself down to write a novel in 3 months, then it would help to have a monthly check-in.
This could be something written in my planner as “check on novel progress – should be at x words.”
So when I reach that date, I take a minute to check my word count. Am I on target? Behind? Ahead?
These check-ins allow you to make adjustments so you stay on track. They help to make sure you’re not falling too far behind without a backup plan.
Sadly, life can throw you a lemon… or eight… at the worst possible times. So if you think you’ll be able to keep on track 100% of the time, think again.
Which leads me to my next point…
Never fill your planner so full as things can crop up that you don’t expect, such as:
- Family emergency
- Lottery win
- Sick day(s)
- Time travel discovery
- Sudden wedding
- Unannounced guests turning up to stay
Having some space means you can simply make a few shifts allowing you to catch up again later. A stuffed-to-the-gills planner is a failure waiting to happen. Give yourself breathing room.
This is also why I said it was super important to include holidays, personal chill days and dates in your planner FIRST!
Don’t plan the year with all the tasks then try to shoe-horn in your holidays, you’ll end up decided to leave some out and that leads to burn out. Trust me!
There are different ways to actually plan out your year.
You could do it digitally. I am very digital for many things, but this, I wanted something more physical. Something I wasn’t dependant on a screen for.
You can get yourself one of those large year-at-a-glance wall calendars with the pens and stickers.
Or perhaps a desk diary, day per page works well as you have lots of room to write. I use one of these for my daily tasks so I wanted to keep year plan separate and just filter tasks from it onto my diary.
So I made my own Year Planner.
↑ Sorry for the awful photo, my phone cam is rubbish! ↑
I have a place for jotting down all my topic ideas for my blog. After all, I need 52 in order to plan my blog for the year. There’s also check-in chart, weekly tasks and more.
↑ Just one of the pages created for my planner ↑
At the start of every month, I will open it up and see what I need to be working on. I can then filter my tasks throughout the days/weeks.
Want to Make Your Own?
My Year Planner includes:
- Front Cover
- Month-A-Page Calendar
- Topic List
- Monthly Action Plan
- Weekly Tasks
- Year at a Glance
- Check-in Reviews
- Treat Yourself
Want to create your own Year Planner and try conquering the year with gusto?
Well, you can. All the pages I created for my binder are available for free to subscribers of my newsletter where you get exclusive access to The Library.
If you haven’t already, join my newsletter using the banner below.
If you are already a subscriber, just pop over to The Library, put in the password shared in my newsletter and you can download them.
Would you consider planning a full year?