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Should You Plan Out Your Whole Year?

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”.

Banner- Should you plan out your whole year? Be more productive.  Make your year more productive. Goal Setting

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Are you seriously planning your year?

Are You Serious? Husky dog meme

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's so simple Meme

It really is! ↑  

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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.

Vintage fainting image meme

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.

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What To Include in a Year Plan

So, let’s discuss what needs to be included in a year plan.

Holidays

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.

Dates

Coffee cup resting on a book, warm blanket. Relax, read, chill. Image from pixabay

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.

Cinema

Cinema Popcorn.  Image from pixabay

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.

But how…

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.

Projects

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.

Screaming in the bathroom.  The Shining Meme

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?

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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.

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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.

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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.” 

Calendar and a pen. Image from Pixabay

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…

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Wiggle room

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!

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The Planner

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.

The Year Planner front cover. Plan your whole year.

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.

Topic List. Brainstorm your topics for your blog

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.

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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.

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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?

Happy writing

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29 comments

    1. Thanks Jo, glad you found it useful. If you do decide to plan your year, please let me know – I’m collecting names of people who are doing that so I can interview them later in the year and get their thoughts on how it went, what they’d do differently, any insights etc. If you’d be interested, let me know 🙂

      (Apologies for the delay, I am trying to get back through all my comments)

    1. lol I know, when I first decided to do this, there was a lot of “OMG, can I really do this?” but I think sitting down with (lots of coloured) pens, paper and thinking about it in a structured way REALLY helped. I’m already noticing a big difference in how I work.

      1. That’s great! I’m a “by the seat of my pants” person a lot of the time, and I wish I could get my butt in gear enough to do better goal-setting and planning.

    1. Thanks for reading 🙂 Did you decide to do the Year Plan? If so, I’d love to catch up with you later in the year to discuss. I have a list of a few people who are going to try and plan their year and I want to interview them all to get their thoughts on how it went etc.

      (Apologies for the delay, I am trying to get back through all my comments)

  1. Hi Ari, I love how you’ve done this you’ve done it properly with breaks planned and yet still trying to achieve the main goals.
    This is an inspired idea I may have to follow.
    I hope you’re well 😀

    1. Hi Simon, thanks for reading. I was actually surprised with how well this plan came together. When I first thought about doing it, I got a little overwhelmed but sitting down and really structuring it made such a difference.

      If you do decide to do a Year Plan, let me know, I want to catch up with everyone who tries something like this, later in the year to get their thoughts and insights.

      (Apologies for the delay, I am trying to get back through all my comments)

  2. Fantastic post Ari! I’m currently in the process of doing something similar to this. In the last few years, I’ve made a few yearly goals without putting any effort into creating milestones or other ways to monitor whether I’m on track or not. I hope to change that for 2020! And having “wiggle room” is super important. I’m all about keeping goals and targets flexible to account for unexpected developments, which is going to be vital for me next year as I’m starting my first full-time job and have no idea how it’s going to impact my creative output. All the best to you for 2020! 😊

    1. Thanks for reading, Rebecca. I’m so glad you are also doing something like a yearly plan. I would love to catch up with your later in the year, I have been finding other people who are doing more year planning and I’d love to interview you all for a blog post to get your insights into how it went, whether you’d do things differently, what you learnt etc – would you be interested? It would probably be in the last quarter of 2020.

      Good luck with your plans for 2020!

      (Apologies for the delay, I am trying to get back through all my comments)

  3. Wow. That’s impressive.
    I have to admit that this whole idea of mapping out your whole year sounded crazy at the beginning, but as you went on explaining things, I found myself stopping and thinking: “This could actually work.”
    I think you scheduling your weeks off ahead of time is genius. Unfortunately, for a variety of reasons, I am unable to set that in stone. And same goes for everything else. I don’t know where I’ll be in 6 months. It could be right here or it might not. Truthfully, I found just reading this a little overwhelming. It’s something that I’d love to do, but it’s something that just won’t happen… My planning is a bit in shambles right now. Although, I am trying to get some things figured out.
    But I am glad it works for you.

  4. I’m sure people who really accomplish things do this. I’ve read that many people even have 5 and 10 year plans. But I have trouble even making a monthly plan work. Something always happens to throw a wrench (spanner) into the works and I don’t have a good record of recovering from the upsets.

    I really do hope it works for you, Ari! 😃❤️

    1. Thanks for reading, Pearl. I know a few people who have the 5 and 10-year plans, this is actually good if you have a business but every time I think about creating a 5-year plan it just becomes overwhelming. A 1-year plan, I can manage. 🙂

      Maybe keep things small, I’m currently reading a book called Atomic Habits, it’s about how even the smallest habit/goal is good because of the compound effect. For example, walk for 5mins every day or do 1 minute of meditating. Doesn’t seem like much but it’s something and over time you find it moves to 10mins walking and 2 minutes meditating.

      So even if you just pick one goal, one for the month, the quarter or even just the year…and not a big goal, something small or something simple. It can start to build up.

      I keep trying new things with how I sort my goals, because over the last few years I got swept back into the tidepool of “shallow” work whereby I was completing the less-resistence tasks that were not really doing me any favours or making any kind of impact, so hopefully my yearly plan will stop me from drifting back into the shallows. 🙂

      (Apologies for the delay, I am trying to get back through all my comments)

      1. No need to apologise, I find myself in the same place, playing catch up, much too often. In fact . . . don’t I owe you a reply to an email? 😉😁
        I might try atomic level goals. I’ll let you know if I do and how it goes. 😃❤️

      2. lol yes, playing catch up is exactly what it is! I get ahead then blink and boom, right back to being behind again. Actually, I’ve been awful with emails since Xmas, there was so many in my inbox I just got anxiety and started not logging in. Unhelpful! lol

        Yes, please do let me know how the atomic level goals help if you do it. We have started doing them (my partner always over-stretched with goals and needed to try something different.)

        So far they have worked so well and reminding ourselves that even these little tiny goals, are something…. like for example, one of my atomic goals is to take 1/2 a glass of water into my office and drink it during the day. Sounds very small, but honestly, it’s more than I’ve been doing for weeks. I just stopped drinking water all day and I’m feeling it. I could tell myself to drink 3 glasses during the day, but I will probably not, but 1/2 a glass is doable and it’s so small, I can’t even come up with an excuse not too 🙂

  5. I really like this. I really do. Just leave room for something you weren’t expecting at all. You can’t plan for everything. And sometimes something totally unexpected comes up and its wickedly delicious.

    1. Thanks for reading, Tom. Oh I did, that’s why I mentioned the “Wiggle room”. There is usually some family drama that crops up every year so we always know now to have flexibility with our plans and schedules. 🙂

    1. Hi Carmen, thanks for reading. I hope your planning for the year went well. If you managed to do it I would love to check back in with you later in the year and do a blog post on the people who tried the Year Plan concept, to see their thoughts, what they learned, how it went etc. Would you be interested? (apologies if I already asked you, I am losing track since I also asked people on Twitter) lol

      (Apologies for the delay, I am trying to get back through all my comments)

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