Recently I shared my “Annual Year in Review” post and shared a little about my planning process for the new year.
We got a ton of questions, so I thought it was worth a post by itself.
At the start of the year, I always hear people say:
“I just have to get organized!”
And yes, I think it’s important, but being the “perfect planner” isn’t necessarily going to make you more money or help you hit your goals. Planning for it’s own sake won’t do it.
And if it feels overwhelming to you, just aim to be a little bit more organized than last year.
Prefer to listen? Click below.
Honestly – I’m really not a hugely organized person (just ask my husband Mark), but like everything I do in my business, I try and do the minimum effort for the maximum result.
This year, we had several lunch planning dates, armed with a few resources:
- A cheap “Year at a Glance” calendar like this one.
- Post it notes. I like these page markers because they fit perfectly on the calendar.
- Your fave pen. For some reason, it just makes the process better I’m obsessed with these.
- Lots of water and snacks.
Then we used prompts from:
Leonie Dawson’s Shining Year Planners (currently on sale!)
We took turns asking each other questions, like “What’s your word for the year?” and “What habits would you like to break this year?” and then got busy filling in our calendar.
First up – remind yourself of your purpose
Every year in January, I have an existential crisis where I forget what I’m supposed to be doing. This can be triggered by your to-do list or you have this vague sense of your goals.
This year I was like “Do I want to do more speaking? Write books? Launch new courses?” Then I start to get myself into a tizzy wondering if I’m going in the wrong business direction.
It only lasts for a few weeks, but it happens every year.
So, at the start of the planning day, I wrote out,
“I help entrepreneurial women change the way they think and feel about money.”
That also helps me to stay in my lane and not get distracted by off-topic projects (RIP Get Hitched, Lucky Bitch).
I don’t teach people HOW to make money. I don’t teach nuts and bolts. I’m not a “how to” girl. I “help,” I don’t mentor or coach. I not responsible for anyone’s success. I provide the tools for people to change their mindset.
Remember you don’t have to be the expert of all experts. You can choose to be a contributor to a movement, without having to be everything to everyone.
If you write out your mission statement where you can see it (and seriously, seriously, it doesn’t have to be perfect or set in concrete), then you can evaluate some of your goals based on it.
Then, set a few important goals
Again, I don’t think there’s a perfect way to set goals.
You can do the “Be, Do, Have” approach, where you ask yourself what you would like to… funnily enough… be, do or have for the next year.
Be could be something like “be a published author with Hay House”
Do could be “practice yoga twice a week”
Have could be “buy a new car”
Or you could just do a big brain dump of all of your vague wants and wishes, and see which ones feel the best for you.
Here are some of my 2017 goals:
- Sell my next book to Hay House. (I was going to be vague and say “to a traditional publisher”, but hey, I’m going to be specific and get some public accountability.)
- $3m in revenue (I also have specific launch and product goals.)
- Achieve and maintain my goal weight of 59kgs / 130 lbs (currently 76kgs / 167 lbs)
- Design our dream house and have the plans approved
- Write a children’s book on money
And then we started planning…
The Big Rocks theory
Coined by Stephen Covey, the Big Rocks theory says that if you start with the biggest and most important things first, the little things have a tendency to fit in anyway. If you do it the other way around, then you’re always going to be struggling to fit everything in.
So when we looked at our overall year, we started with the big stuff first.
- Income producing events and launches – actual launch days but also fulfillment like any live calls or follow up.
- Holidays – for example we have a family wedding this year in Cyprus.
- Conferences / Biz retreats – I’m going to Richard Branson’s Necker Island this year.
- Affiliate promotions – other people we know we’re promoting for who already have their dates set in stone.
- Tax bills – this is the year that I have to pay two lots of tax. This year and next year in advance. No joke, probably around $600k in tax this year. You bet I want it on the calendar, so it’s not a nasty surprise cash-flow wise.
- Important dates like birthdays, Christmas, etc. (It sounds obvious but we worked way too close to Christmas this year.)
Then we added in things that could potentially be moved around if need be:
- Filming days – for filming sales videos, new content etc. (I already have all of this year’s blog content filmed.) Note, get them well ahead of time to allow for editing / snafus.
- Personal retreats – we wanted to have a few days solo time this year, even if it’s just a night in a hotel where I can finally read all those magazines piling up!
- Days where I could potentially hold some live events at the end of holidays.
In the past, I’ve been very lackadaisical with my launches. Sometimes, I’d plan them months in advance, just to change it a few days before because I chickened out, or didn’t feel “ready,” or realized that it was Mercury Retrograde…
When Mark came on board the business last year, I found it frustrating how much he liked to keep to deadlines! And he made me follow through on stuff! TORTURE!!
As soon as the launch was over, he wanted to talk about the next one… and actually put dates in the diary… and then GASP… give our affiliates heads up months in advance (not just like… days).
Part of me was like “DUDE, I have been very successful doing it this way for a number of years,” and the other part of me was thinking “Well – maybe if we got this all out of my head and onto paper, then people on my team can do their jobs better… and maybe I could work less and write that third book…”
My mantra now is:
“Planning creates freedom.”
Then get nitty gritty
Once you’ve filled in the year, you’ll probably have a mini panic attack like me, thinking “FUUUUUCK, there’s SO MUCH TO DOOOOOO”
Mark and I then opened up Asana (him on his laptop, me on the phone app) and started plugging in each major project. Then I brainstormed as many “to-do tasks” under each thing as possible. No dates or anything yet. Just a massive dump of everything big and small that must get done.
For a launch, that’s everything from “set up order form” to “change sales pages afterwards.”
Once it’s all done, then you can start putting dates on things, starting with the most important project first, and probably a quarter of the year at a time so you don’t get overwhelmed (and also, so planning doesn’t become a procrastination exercise)
What we’ll probably do next is to start putting planning time into our calendar, because of all these massive launches and projects need buffer time.
Now delegate, declutter and delete
Honestly, a lot of the stuff you think that only YOU can do can totally be done by someone else, either a human, or a robot (i.e. software, apps or other types of automation).
But you’ll only figure that out if you a) plan it in advance or b) give enough buffer time to properly train someone else to do it.
Most of the things on my to-do list are going to be delegated to someone else on the team, so I can focus on the things only I can do. For me, that’s showing up on interviews, live-streams, and videos – (until we get a life-like Denise puppet), and doing things to fuel my creativity (like writing a new book).
Delete out any commitments you no longer want to undertake, especially ones that make you feel guilty (for example, volunteering for a cause that no longer lights you up). A perfect example of this – our weekly playgroup until recently was manned by a volunteer whose kids didn’t even attend anymore!
Some more ideas for you:
- Clear out your calendar and make space for new clients.
- Set some new boundaries, like how and when you’d like to work.
- Park projects that would be fun and “nice to have” but don’t actually make you any money (for example, you might not need a new website this year).
- Make some days “client free” or decide you’ll take off a day a week (logistically, this could be removing those days from your online calendar so nobody can book).
- Consider firing some clients who make your life stressful.
Start making commitments
A big to-do list is great, and so is a diary full of goals, but when you start making micro-commitments, it makes it real.
So, as I was going through the plans, I started sending emails to set up meetings, (for example to a potential illustrator), to lock in dates with suppliers, and to pay deposits for services.
You could also:
- Publicly announce something on social media – for example, “My new book will be out in April” or “Save the date: I’m hosting a live workshop on July 17th”
- Start a “early bird” notification list
- Inquire about a retreat you really want to go on
- Give your assistant a heads up about a sale
- Book in for a “get to know you” with a new coach
And for personal stuff…
- Book and pay for the course you want, whether it’s tap dancing or pottery.
- Book your self-care in ahead of time – i.e., call up your hairdresser and get all the dates in the diary (add extra time for travel, something I often forget to do)
- Put the yoga class schedule in your calendar
- Contact your girlfriends for dates for catch ups (or spa days)
- Buy tickets for shows, concerts, festivals you want to attend
- Book in a weekly or monthly date night (or date lunch as we’re doing)
- Carve out some personal time (for example, I have booked every Friday 12-3 in my calendar for a movie)
Take holidays. Real Ones
I’ve been frankly terrible at taking holidays the last few years. And no, I’m not talking about going to personal development conferences and retreats.
I’ve been to many Holiday Inns and Marriots around the world, and they look pretty much the same, from Washington D.C to Sydney, to Paris. Conferences aren’t really holidays.
“But Denise – you ran two retreats in Bali!”
Yes – but if attending conferences doesn’t count as a holiday, then hosting retreats DEFINITELY doesn’t count. It takes an enormous amount of energy to host the space for people at a retreat.
It might look like you’re “lounging around” chatting to people about their business, but it takes focus and energy to be present. It’s about THEM and not YOU (as it should be).
Plus, when you take your toddler to a retreat, it’s not relaxing (even with family members to look after them). Once “Host Mode” ends, “Mommy Mode” kicks in.
So – before we even put our big launches in – we put in some holidays. Doing it as an overall year helps you to see any big gaps where you don’t have time off. We decided that every 3 months for a big holiday will be motivating.
A couple of tips here:
- Don’t try and squeeze too much business into the personal time. I do this all the time, “Oh, we’re going on a holiday, let’s do a ‘small event’ while we’re there.” Have SOME space that’s just for you.
- It’s not all or nothing. If you’re on a budget, then you have to get creative. Camping, a stay-cation (could you disable the internet for a week?), house sitting or house swapping.
- Make even a small token payment in advance to lock yourself in. Most hotels only require a credit card to book, but won’t charge you until 24-48 hours before check-in.
- After a big launch is an ideal time to take a holiday, but wait until after you’ve fulfilled to your customers. Nothing worse than being on holiday and having last minute things to do for clients.
But Denise – I don’t like vacations!
I get it. I’m a high-functioning workaholic too. But I still think it’s important to have some white space in your calendar for dreaming, self-care, hobbies, family time (remember those people?) and just not having an agenda.
Even mini-vacays are great. Even a few hours a week will help.
Trust me, it’s going to make you a better entrepreneur. Just do it.
Lastly – wrap it all up in a simple business plan
You don’t need a big complicated business plan. If you can distill your plan into just a few simple goals, then it will be an easy document to refer back to when you’ve lost your way.
You basically need to remember – who you’re serving, what you’re giving to them, and how.
Luckily, I have a simple template for you. It’s what I do at the end of all this planning to summarize exactly what I need to go forward in my business.
Get it here www.LuckyBitch.com/Plan
My final message
Don’t get too wrapped up in making this a perfect process. Give yourself a lot of room for creativity and mistakes. Nothing is set in concrete.
Alternatively – don’t resist the planning process because it feels boring or restrictive. Sometimes having it all down in black and white actually frees you up.
Again, you can download my simple biz plan at www.LuckyBitch.com/Plan
Remember – this is YOUR time, and you’re ready for the next step.
Did you miss last weeks post? Read it here: 2016 Year in Review