As creatives, we often have a lot on our minds. There are endless ideas floating around in our heads, and it can be hard to know where to start or how to prioritize them. That's why it's important to take some time to plan out our year in advance. While many people do this around the New Year, it's never too late to start planning. In fact, some of us might find it more beneficial to plan at different times of the year, depending on our workflow and schedules.
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Your annual plan doesn't have to be done by December 31st!
For years I have always tried (and most of the time failed) at getting my annual plan completed by December 31st. I would rush through setting all these goals with unrealistic expectations. It was when a friend of mine said that she only works the first week of December and takes the rest of the month off that I realized why this deadline doesn't work for ME.
In fact, I realized that trying to create my annual plan in December had me making unrealistic goals and expectations for myself and I often felt like I was already behind before I even started - and for me here is why:
1. The holidays are in December and there is so much that goes into planning and preparing, hosting, and spending time with family etc.
2. The kids are home from school for winter break (see number 1 above).
3. We usually plan a family winter vacation (see number 1 above).
So, you see with all of these things going on, it doesn't leave a whole lot of time to sit down and totally focus on a realistic goals and expectations for an annual plan for me; not to mention mentally the time taken away from family and friends.
What I'm Doing Different This Year
This year, I decided to not plan in December but to instead focus on my family and holiday festivities. I would use January as my "clean up" month to tie up any loose ends and finish any outstanding projects. Once those were done I would write out my annual plan.
Doing things this way for me totally cleared up my mindset and I was able to focus on my projects etc., without feeling overwhelmed and like I was behind. I also noticed that when I sat down to "brainstorm" what I wanted to work on this year that my list was much shorter with a more focused end goal in mind.
So, here's what I do to create my annual plan:
- Reflect on the previous year: Before I start planning, I take some time to reflect on the previous year. What went well? What didn't? What did I learn? This helps me to understand where I am and where I want to go. - This is the step I did this year that made me realize I needed to change how I planned.
- Set big picture goals: Once I've reflected, I set big picture goals for the year. What do I want to achieve? What areas of my life do I want to focus on? These goals help guide my planning process.
- Plan out each month: First I fill in the "knowns" - family vacations, work trips, seminars, when kids are off from school etc. Next I break down the tasks for each goal and assign them to specific months. This way, I can focus on one area of my life at a time and make progress on each goal throughout the year. By breaking down my annual plan into bite-size pieces, I'm able to stay focused and make progress without feeling overwhelmed.
Now for some tips to help you with creating your annual plan:
- Consider setting deadlines for yourself, too. Having a deadline can be a great motivator to keep you on track and focused. But be realistic with yourself - don't set a deadline that's impossible to meet or that will cause unnecessary stress.
- When planning out your year, don't forget to include time for self-care and downtime. It's easy to get caught up in work and forget to take care of ourselves, but this can lead to burnout and decreased productivity in the long run. Schedule in breaks and time to recharge, whether that's a vacation or just a day off to relax.
- Finally, be flexible. Life happens, and sometimes things don't go according to plan. Don't beat yourself up if you need to adjust your goals or timeline. Just make sure to stay focused on what's important and keep moving forward.
So, if you're feeling overwhelmed by the idea of annual planning, remember that it doesn't have to be done by December 31st. Take some time to reflect, set big picture goals, break them down into smaller tasks, and plan out each month. You'll be surprised at how much progress you can make by breaking your plan down into manageable pieces.
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