Yesterday, I talked about why I love planning, my unpredictable and sometimes messy life, and some of the principles that underpin HOW I plan. Click here to read that post which covers why kindness and flexibility are essential (and kinda radical), a note on toxic productivity and why planning needs to encompass both appointments AND wider life goals. I also mentioned that I’ve launched the planning and productivity part of my e-course as a separate resource too (whoop!)
Today i’m going to go into how I manage my everyday planning. Because my system is connected to my wider goals, I can’t start talking about everyday planning without first talking about yearly goals, so i’ll start there! I know that’s quite the leap, but bear with me, it make sense, I promise!
Staying connected to the bigger picture- 12 month goals
My planning process starts with my Life Book goals. I don’t have enough space to go into that here, but you need to know what you want. It doesn’t need to be life changing, massive or revolutionary. But it totally can be! I tend to do this either in January or April and I set reminders throughout the year to check in on them and tweak and change if needs be. I make goals within 3 broad categories: Lifestyle, Relationships and Work.
There is a lot more to say about this (a whole e-course in fact!) but we’re going to focus on the practical part today. (The next round of the e-course will open in January)
Quarterly goals and check-ins.
After I have some annual goals laid out, I break them down into 3 month chunks. Sometimes the quarters have an overarching focus or idea, rather than a set of specific projects. Each quarter will have goals in it from across my annual goals. (ie relationships, work and lifestyle) At each quarter point I review the previous one, adjust or pivot any goals, and plan the next one. I celebrate where I have made progress and roll over, change or cancel anything that isn’t working. When I need to alter, pivot or cancel a goal, I dont see this as a failure but rather useful information about my current resources (energy, time, money, health).
Psssst- July marks the start of the second half of the year and is an excellent time to check in on your goals or make new ones. I have a free guide to doing a mid year review here.
Monthly plans- things get detailed
At the start of each month I then make a more detailed plan for the month. I do not plan them in detail in advance like the annual and quarterly plans, because life is too changeable for me to do so, and this way offers flexibility.
At the start of each month I re-read the plan for that quarter . This constant looking ‘up’ process keeps me connected to my wider life goals and keep it at the front of my mind.
Then I look back on the previous month and track how I’m doing. I have monthly targets which I track in my planner. I track the standard stuff like income, subscribers, website hits etc, but I also track my relationship and lifestyle goals; things like number of early nights, fiction books, dates with my husband, or runs. The lifestyle/relationship goals are just as important to me as the work ones. My tracking includes a specific reminder to prioritise rest, joy and self-care. This is all connected to my Life Book goals. And if I can fit in time for rest, joy and self care, so can you 😉
Then I ask: if I want to meet my quarterly goals, what do I need to do this month? I get quite detailed here. I plan out the 4 weeks of the month and write what I’ll need to do each week to meet my monthly goal, across all of my goals. I am very mindful of my time and energy here and try to keep it realistic. I also write down what appointments, events, projects or holidays are already booked in. This gives me a practical idea of how much time and energy I’ll have to implement other stuff. Right now it isn’t that much, but i’m cool with that. The point is that it’s important to be realistic about the time and energy you have available to you.
Cycle tracking changed my life!
I mark in my monthly plan when the key parts of my cycle are, and try to build my work around it. This hugely helps me to understand my feelings and hormones, and also allows me to try to build my work around my cycle.
If you menstruate then I would highly recommend tracking your cycle (check out Period Power, Maisie Hill’s brilliant book, for more on this) because it really affects what you’re able to do through the month. There are parts of your cycle that are more suited to quiet, deep focussed work, and parts of your cycle that are more suited for socialising, dating, networking, public speaking etc. And there are other parts of your cycle when you might want to cancel plans all together and just get into bed! If you know when you’re likely to feel what, then you can try to plan life and work around your cycle.
The word ‘try’ is key here! I know it’s not always possible to change your work around your cycle, but just knowing why you might be feeling the way you do is game changing.
I then make weekly plans at the start of each week on Sunday evenings or Monday mornings. I LOVE weekly planning. My daily life is unpredictable. Weekly planning enables me to take a wider view of what I need and want to get done each week, but gives 7 days of flexibility to actually integrate it into my life. At the start of each week, I re read my monthly goals (which keeps me focussed on the bigger picture) and figure out what I can feasibly manage that week. I have 2 short days of childcare so it’s not that much right now! But I manage to pack a lot in, across both work and personal, due to the weekly accountability chat I have with myself (!) This is a kind check in on goals and often leads to concrete action for the week ahead. Dave and I also have a weekly planning chat which covers the usual domestic stuff, but also wider life goals and accountability too.
Yep, I event make daily plans, although not every day and I tweak and change them so they feel manageable rather than overwhelming. At the start of each of my work days, or any chunk of childfree time, I also make a quick plan to ensure my precious time doesn’t get sucked up with admin and emails and domestic stuff.
First, I read over my weekly plan and figure out how many hours of deep focussed work I have that day. I list what appointments I already have booked in, and I write down personal and domestic admin and tasks too. I split my time between blocks of deep work followed by a shorter block of admin and domestic tasks, and I try to quite boundaries with this. ie if I haven’t got through ALL go my emails in my admin chunk of time, they have to wait until the next block of admin time. I am trying to be more boundaries with housework and domestic stuff. Otherwise I simply do not have enough time to do the more strategic, deep writing work I want to do.
Embracing change and flexibility
Sometimes when it comes to actually doing it, I find that my annual or quarterly goals are too much for the amount of time I have available, or my health/ family situation. This is often where people get stuck. But needing to prioritise goals or change or pivot them is not a failure. It’s really normal and actually healthy for goals to adjust and flex as you plan them into your life. You might realise some of what you want to do has to be postponed until the following year in order for you to focus on other projects. This often happens in fact, and it’s cool. Life throws curve balls at us all the time and things can be especially hard to predict with young kids or volatile health in the mix. That’s why a kind, flexible approach is so important here. Change is not the enemy.
An important addition!
If one were to do all of the above in one go, it would be a rather time consuming and overwhelming task. I make the 12 month and quarterly plans in advance then do the monthly, weekly and daily plans as I get to them. I write in very broad strokes, not in great detail, and I don’t always manage to do the process each week. I follow it when it’s helpful.
As soon as the system becomes a stick to beat yourself with- STEP AWAY! Make it work for you!
So that’s how I do it! How about you? any questions?
P.S The early bird discount on the planning and productivity bundle is valid for 6 more days and then will be £18.
My planning and productivty bundle for non perfect people! It includes:
- A Guide to planning for non perfect people
Introduction and tiny bit of background
Making Good Goals
How to hold yourself accountable
How to check in on your goals
Finding a planning and calendar system that works uniquely for you
Defining YOUR version of productivity
The importance of being really strategic and intentional about self care
The importance of Cycle tracking (for those who have periods)
How to use the worksheets
Annual planning worksheet
Quarterly planning worksheets
Monthly planning worksheets
Weekly planning worksheet
Daily planning worksheet
This is how I plan within a messy unpredictable life. By that, I mean one with young kids and limited childcare aaaaand an anxiety disorder. Whoa there! But it totally IS possible to feel more intentional, calm and organised no matter what your circumstances are, and i’d love to show you my system.