Every time the year comes to a close, most people take some time to reflect on achievements made as well as projects they failed to remember over the past 12 months. We usually start off the new year with the most sincere intentions with a mental list of things we want to do, people we want to spend more time with, or places we want to go only to fall short as we inevitably get caught up in the daily routines of our lives failing to realize how the months are hastily moving along.
If you’re like me and you’re tired of breaking promises to yourself, it’s time we sat down, put together a personal annual plan, and get things done.
Why bother planning the year out? Laying out a plan for the year ensures you have reminders of the things you hope to achieve before the year ends. It’s up to you how detailed you want it to be. Unloading your mind of the things you wish to accomplish on a physical medium frees you of the stress of needing to remember or the fear of forgetting them.
What you’ll need. The most important tool for planning is a calendar or a planner. It’s up to you in what increments you’d like to plan ahead for — weekly, monthly, or yearly. I personally prefer printing out monthly calendars as I’ve found this to be a more realistic way to plan the micro events in my schedule but if you have major events months ahead, getting ready with a year planner or calendar would make more sense. You can shop for a calendar or planner but I’ve found printable calendars just as effective, not to mention more economical.
Should you manage two separate calendar or schedules for your work and personal life? This is a matter of preference; no right or wrong answer here. Personally, I prefer to have them in one calendar. You can easily separate the work stuff by highlighting those items or by indicating it with a special icon. You can also split the space for each day so that personal items take up the upper half and the work items take up the bottom.
How to Plan the Year Out
1. Before plotting out all the earth-changing things you’ll be doing the coming year, spend some time to reflect on the previous year. Are there any events that will happen again this year such as birthdays you forgot the past year that you don’t wish to forget in the coming one?
2. Pin down major events such as birthdays, weddings, graduations, baby showers, anniversaries, etc..
Some people have the innate ability to remember birthdays. That’s not me. Have you ever forgotten a birthday or anniversary and in that moment vow that you’ll never forgot it next year only to do just that 365 days later? Yep, that’s me too. By plotting all the major events early on, you’re dramatically minimizing the likelihood of you embarrassingly greeting someone a belated birthday or anniversary.
3. Pin down reminders you need for work, such as upcoming conferences, project due dates, etc.
4. Always set aside some time to spend with family. At the same time, also set aside some days for decompression and pampering yourself.
5. Don’t forget to dedicate time to declutter your home and do the major chores you put off every weekend, like cleaning up the garage or your bursting closet.
6. If you have children, put down reminders of their physical and dentist appointments. It’s happened too often when a yearly physical turned into a year-and-a-half physical. A planner is a lifesaver specially if your kids have extra-curricular activities.
7. Now we get to the part where you ask yourself, what projects do I want to do in the coming year? Is there someplace I want to travel to? After answering those questions, consult your calendar to see what gaps you have to schedule personal projects or travel.
8. When planning the year out, it’s also useful to put in reminders for yourself if you’re trying to build new habits or break bad ones. Sprinkle in occasional reminders and as the year wears on, you’ll find those reminders really helpful.
Above all this, remember that sometimes things don’t always pan out as planned and that is totally fine. Keep a mindset of flexibility. It’s inevitable that things come up at the most inopportune moments and most of the time there’s really nothing you can do about it. In such cases, simply take a deep breath and accept the things you have no control over and move on.