Planning is essential to success. Proper planning helps us, and our businesses expand and grow. Planning also helps us manage our time and resources effectively. The importance of planning cannot be understated, regardless of your goals.
With a plan in place for the year you will be able to achieve more than you think but also have something to look back on at the end of the year to see how much you accomplished. Even though your thoughts and plans might not happen as planned next year, it is good to think about them now and start writing them down.
Here are some ways to kick off the planning process for yourself …
The Year in Review
It is always good to start by reviewing your current year. Ask yourself:
- What did I do well?
- What didn’t I do well?
- What did the team and/or business do well?
- What didn’t the team and/or business do well?
Think of at least two examples for each question. Give yourself some thinking time and try to reflect to the start of the year too as we sometimes forget those earlier successes. A lot can happen in a year.
Your answers might provide some insight into what you might want to plan out for next year. This might also show you what is not worth your time and energy in the future. From here have a think about next year and answer:
- Next year, I will do more of …
- Next year, I will do less of …
Again, come up with a couple of examples for each of those statements. Even though these are not goals, these are statements that can help guide you in your planning processes for next year.
One of my favourite stages of my planning process is roadmapping. Create a 12 columned table on a large sheet of paper and label each column a month. Put in your ‘big rocks’ first like annual leave, key events, conferences, trips, birthdays.
From here add your work commitments. What have you also already committed to for next year? There will be various projects already underway to be delivered. Put in your key personal items as this process is all about finding that work/life balance. Put in everything you know about next year.
Consider identifying the critical points or milestones and understand how they will impact other areas of your business. For example, at certain times your business may have conferences, or your customers may be on holidays. This will also affect your year so have a think about your industry and sector and their schedules too.
Roadmapping gives you a bird’s eye view of your year and you will be able to start working out your peaks and troughs. Obviously if all your key events are stacked into July, you need to think about what you can do about this now. This process is about creating balance and perspective for the year and it is much easier when you can see it clearly set out before you.
The final part of the planning process is goal planning, and this really looks at how to turn your dreams and ideas into reality. To start with you need to put your goals in writing. If your goals are not in writing, they are dreams – and dreams do not often come true.
SMART is a well-established tool that you can use to plan and achieve your goals. While there are several interpretations of the acronym’s meaning, the most common one is that goals should be Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound. Try to write some of your goals in the SMART way to see if that works for you.
Another method is to start with what you want to accomplish. Then under that put in as much detail are you can about how you will achieve this. Fill it with all specific activities that you will need to do to achieve the end goal – no matter who trivial they are they will all need to be completed. Once finalised you now have a ‘to do’ list and just need to start working on those activities and ticking them off!
Once you have identified the activities you need to do, think about a way of tracking these activities. Put some metrics into the activities and some time periods. So much of life gets in the way day to day but if you have identified the activities you need to achieve then there is a better chance you can get them all done, e.g. If one of your goals is to get fit, then work out what you can do to achieve this. When will you work out, morning or evening? Doing what – a run, a class? How many times per week? Write down all of this detail as it will help you will achieve your goal.
Finally, consider sharing some of your goals with others. For most of us, having someone watching over us or holding us accountable is a great motivator to getting things done. Sharing your goals with others – both personally and professionally – will ensure they make sense but also help you stay on top of them. This will provide you a system of accountability and really will help you stay on track.
Plan to review your goals on a quarterly basis, to keep you on track and to ensure their relevancy. Some years do not go as we planned so if that is happening do not hesitate to revise your goals in line with what is going on in your world. Revising goals can be beneficial and can help with motivation if needed.
Planning and goal making should not be feared but instead embraced each year. This is a great time to reflect on the year that has been and set yourself up for success for next year. Putting aside time to plan out next year will put you in great stead and really help you achieve what you want.