A Better Way to Plan for 2013
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A Better Way to Plan for 2013

A Better Way to Plan for 2013

It’s that time of year! I don’t mean the many holidays celebrated this month. I mean the annual personal planning process that gears up in December. It can be a real crunch to execute at year-end while also planning for the coming year. Still, it’s on your mind regardless of whether you’re using a structured process or just daydreaming about what you’ll achieve in 2013.  Would you like to try a relatively simple, rewarding, and productive approach?

Most advice for annual personal planning begins with getting out of the box to envision the incredible possibilities for the year, but that’s not how most lives work. By the time you’re doing your 2013 plan, you probably already have dozens of commitments for the year, yet it’s suggested that you ignore all of these to have your beautiful, glorious strategic visioning moment.

This tension between the greatest possibilities and managing reality is healthy and it occurs naturally in the psyche. In fact, if you didn’t feel this tension, it would be a sign that there’s something important you’re ignoring. It’s so important that it’s one of the topics I’m focusing on in my upcoming book, Mirror, Mirror on the Wall: How to Remove the Invisible Barriers to Extraordinary Leadership.

Instead of assuming you must begin by visioning, try starting with the reality of your whole life (not just work), so you know how much time you will really have to pursue the more radical possibilities.

Here’s the process I personally use, step-by-step.

1. Begin with a large blank wall calendar. There is something grand about seeing the whole year laid out in one physical – not virtual – place. It will take very little time to transfer into Outlook when you are ready. Here’s the calendar I use.

2. Mark in any known critical dates in your job and/or business. For example, if you are a finance director in a publically-traded company, you’ll almost certainly be working long hours during the first and last two weeks of each quarter. If you’re in Sales, even if annual sales events haven’t been scheduled, you should know roughly when they are occurring, because they don’t change much from year to year. For consultants, write in every speech and webinar you’ve already committed to do, any face-to-face work that is committed or reasonably close to being committed, and any professional development you know you will do, particularly if it requires travel or real-time webinars.

3. Now for the fun part. Block out vacation time, including at least one long weekend each quarter and at least one vacation that lasts 10 calendar days, inclusive of weekends. If you don’t, you’ll miss the mental and emotional renewal that keeps you intellectually at your best. Your stakeholders need your best thinking and enthusiasm far more than they need whatever you would have personally produced in those days. Even if you’re not 100% sure of the exact dates, block them out on the calendar in a dotted line so you can at least get a visual image of how much time you’ve allocated.

4. Next, add in any family travel. Many of us live in a different city or country than our families, and while it may be difficult to pinpoint exactly when you will see them, you can hold some dates as a starting point. I list this separately from Step 3 because I believe it’s important to designate both time with your loved ones and vacations that focus on relaxation or new adventures.

5. Now – this may seem silly — block out time for the things you will need to do that nobody remembers to put in their calendar, such as dental and medical check-ups. Particularly for those of us with both N and P in our four-letter MBTI code, it can be easy to completely forget about this and then get annoyed later in the year when we “don’t have time for this annoying stuff.”

6. For small business owners, be sure to include a chunk of time each quarter to discuss your revenues, expenses, and tax situation with your accountant and bookkeeper. No business owner should ever be surprised by how much time their finances take quarterly and at year end. If you’ve allocated the time, you won’t be caught off guard. This is true whether you have a finance person or not. You are accountable for all of the finances of the business, and need to personally be on top of this.

7. What now remains is the time you have available for your personal goals, some of which will be work-related and some of which, I certainly hope, will not. Now you can begin the more familiar planning steps:

a) explore possibilities

b) narrow them to what you really want

c) identify how far you can get toward each goal with the time you have available

d) designate time for each of the activities that help you achieve the goal

I’ve honed this process over several years and it has made a world of difference in the accomplishment of my goals and in my personal satisfaction. It’s a hybrid containing the best of each process I’ve learned along the way, and it keeps both sides of the dynamic tension in balance. I hope you enjoy it, and I wish you a very happy and prosperous 2013!