In the first planning session, I recommend grabbing pen and paper and write down everything – projects and commitments – known to be on during the year, as well as ‘nice to do’ things. From here, I started to map out my commitments and projects on a year planner. Here’s a snippet of what it looks like (I’ve highlighted the current week)
I suppose you can grab one from a newsagent or wherever, but I love a good Gantt chart, and the flexibility to create a planner in a format I like and makes sense to me.
In the year planner, I divided my list, brainstorm, scribbled projects and commitments into four areas – professional development, personal development, professional involvement and finance. Someone on Twitter asked me where fun and family would fit. I’ve listed these as a priority, so they’re a given. Plus I wouldn’t like to take a project approach my family and fun time. That’s just not how I roll. The year planner is for projects and commitments to my personal and professional development.
I then started to insert my commitments and projects into these areas on the year planner. I placed the commitments and projects I definitely know about on the planner first. Now from the last session, prioritise the things that would be nice to do. I recommend not plotting everything written down from the last session on the year planner. Or if you do this, like me (oops) I got a bit carried away, look at what you’ll have on at any given time and delete the things you know will not be realistically achieved. I thought about how I’d prioritise or push things aside when time came to the crunch. Which projects/things will I not invest the time? Which ones will I likely drop first?
I spent a lot of time on my planner. I fiddled with project duration, start and end dates across the year. I realised I couldn’t start learning mandarin in at least the first six months of the year, so perhaps I could look for courses then begin in the second half. Again, learning mandarin is a ‘nice to do’ and if at re-assessment at three and six months time I find I still can’t realistically dedicate the time, then it’s off the agenda. It’s time will come.
The year planner is a rough guide and will be refined when I do the quarterly planners. The year planner is a glance, not set in concrete, but a great way (I’ve found) to see the year in a bigger picture to effectively manage time and the things that just ‘pop up’ throughout the year.
I have highlighted my focus areas in the year planner, the things I will put above all else, as a reminder. I need reminding. When life and time tends to run away, it’ll be nice to be reminded of the areas of my life I have committed to improving or have prioritised.
Another lesson I’ve learnt through this process, and indeed from last year, is that I can’t have everything improved all at once. I can’t work on everything. Some areas will benefit others and some will be building blocks towards others.
I have decided not to work on my quarterly planners just yet. These I will do last, after my ‘repeating tasks’ checklist and goal setting. Zooming into and refining projects in the quarterly planner will likely come out of the goals I set and the habits I wish to develop.