This year, I did things a little differently when it came to annual planning.
After a full holiday season, I spent a full week with my family. Not working at all and regularly, happily losing my phone. It was magical. When I returned to my office I was full of reflection, but not direction. I listened to podcasts, read blogs, and spent a lot of time thinking. Then editing…then thinking some more…then planning.
I deeply considered my life, my time, and my goals. I realized my business is about to be 5 years old and I am quickly approaching 40. (#milestones!) I thought about my ideal day. I pictured my dream home. I looked around my current home. In this giant step back, I gained the clarity I needed to move forward. Here is what I rediscovered.
Rest is productive. I’ve said it before, but it’s worth saying again! I would not have had the clarity I needed if I did not take a real step back from work. As humans we work off energy. Many experiences in our daily life drain our energy, so it’s important to include experiences that recharge us. You would not use your cell phone endlessly without charging it, so stop doing that to yourself.
A pause is productive. When I returned to my office, I tried to jump right into the work, but something wasn’t clicking. So, I started to scrutinize each and every task. Did all the little things actually get me closer to where I was trying to go? That suddenly felt like a really important question. So, I halted operations. Full stop! Well, I still mailed planners, served clients, and paid bills, but if it was not critical and timely I did not do it for almost two full weeks. I realized sometimes it’s better to do nothing than the wrong thing, because even inaction can be critical action.
Reflection is productive. During this pause of the non-essential, I was able to think about what was actually essential. I scheduled time on my calendar to think about my goals 1, 2, and 5 years down the road. I performed a calendar audit and listed which parts of the past year were good uses of my time and which were not. I reviewed my list of successes from each month (I log them on the side column of my Planner Book and strongly recommend this practice). I can’t stress enough how beneficial a calendar audit can be. I’ve always believed in evaluating results and goals each year, but doing it this way confirmed that annual reflection should be planned, focused, and structured not just thoughts during a New Year’s Day Yin yoga class (something I also recommend). It’s great to know what feels right or wrong, but reviewing data to make informed decisions is really where your life starts to change for the better.
A plan is productive. Once I had a clear view of what added to my goals (and dream life) and what took away, I felt empowered and eager to start the year. However, I didn’t want to just run wild and repeat last year’s mistakes. So, as a fan of planning, I established a rough (and editable) plan for my year, months, and weeks. Like many of the steps above, this will look a little different for you than it did for me, but I ended up with a few physical sheets of paper. I now have: a 6 and 12-month vision with key milestones, an annual, monthly, and weekly template for recurring tasks, and a ‘do it later’ list for items to revisit 6, 12, and 24-months down the road. These tools have already proven to be amazing resources when planning my weeks and executing my days. They also remind me not all action is productive. In fact, spending time on tasks that don’t take you closer to your goal is counter-productive. It’s ok to say ‘no’ or ‘not now’ to some things.
Ready for the best part of this story, the time I dedicated to this process has already come back to me. Because I invested a few weeks resting, reflecting, and planning, the weeks since then have been wildly effective. I have focused my energy on what really moves the needle and confidently said ‘no’ to what does not. Now, I am seeing more of the business I want and I am spending even more time participating in my life.
So, here is my professional recommendation: do this! Follow the steps above to make the most of your new year. Yes, it is still a new year. Sure, the champagne bottles are long gone and people have already given up on resolutions, but we are still in the budding days of 2022. The year is still fresh and your days are still full of possibilities. INVEST the time in you and the year you have in front of you.
And, as always, keep me posted on how it goes! I’d love to hear what works and what struggles you need help overcoming.