My Annual Planning Process
I love the beginning and end of the year more than any other time.
As a strategy-obsessed and goal-oriented person with countless projects, ideas, and ambitions, only January and December present an opportunity where I feel that I can truly breath, think, reflect, and plan. For me, the rest of the year is for executing the plan and adapting. Without the process I follow every January and December, I don’t think I would be able to accomplish a fraction of what I’ve been able to over the last decade.
So, whether or not you are like me in this regard, you likely have things you want to accomplish, and I thought it might be helpful to share with you what my process looks like.
This is the blueprint for how I plan my year.
This is the outline for what I do each year.
I’ll break each of these down and give examples.
My Three Words
I start out the year picking my three words.
Instead of resolutions which tend to get abandoned, these three words are themes that I keep in mind throughout the year. I’m not resolving to do anything. I’m thinking about who I want to be and choosing three words to remind me of these commitments.
These words are something I tend to think about throughout the previous year as I notice areas I’m falling short, places I need to grow, or ways to enhance what’s already working. As I think of words that may work for the upcoming year, I’ll add them to a note for future reference.
I make myself a phone lock screen wallpaper so I see these everyday.
Once I have my themes, I move to Goals.
While themes are meant to color and flavor my year, goals are tangible outcomes I’m hoping to accomplish. These are generally S.M.A.R.T goals with the time aspect being by the the end of the year, but occasionally with more immediate due dates.
I break these goals up into 3 categories:
Once I have all of my goals written down, I later go back and break them into action plans and spread it across my calendar for the year with due dates and milestones.
Personal goals include, but are not limited to:
- my physical, mental, and emotional health
- my finances
- my relationships with friends and family
- my home improvement projects
Examples: Get my weight under 175lbs, save $10,000 for my daughter’s college fund, see my parents in person, get together with each of my closest friends at least once this year.
In my personal life, I try not to be too goal-oriented, as I tend to have so many professional goals.
This is the largest category for me as it relates to Goals. The main reason is that there are multiple sub-sections and sub-sub-sections that I think about.
- Revenue Goals
- Content & Marketing Goals
- Project Goals
Because I have multiple streams of revenue, I set a dollar amount that I’d like to earn broken down by revenue stream.
For example: $150,000 in solo consulting revenue, $300,000 in Super Productive Revenue, $50,000 in speaking & training revenue, and $15,000 in content, affiliate, and online product related revenue. I always set attainable but ambitious revenue goals.
Content & Marketing Goals
I have a lot of content & marketing projects.
Then, there’s also my social media.
Each year, I set goals for each of these shows. This can be about the number of pieces of content created generally, number of pieces of content around a specific topic, or the amount of revenue the channel generates.
For example: publish 96 posts on Becoming Superhuman, publish 96 episodes of Shareable, add 5,000 new subscribers to Becoming Superhuman, generate $100,000 in total revenue from Heroic Council, publish and monetize 3 premium guides.
Project goals are the “everything else” section of my professional goals where I focus on other ideas that I’m developing. This is typically about getting other ideas across the finish line. This year for instance, I published a book. So, I have plenty of goals around promoting the book.
I also have two other “team-up” companies that I’m starting up. Then there’s also the lingering projects that I started previously but haven’t gotten across the finish line. In prior year, The Lovable Leader was on this section of my goals list.
Examples: Promote The Lovable Leader on Social Media 3–5 times per week, sell 3,500 copies of The Lovable Leader (pre-order available now), launch Super Creative Studio and Super Automated by the end of Q2, launch Shareable.FM with 15 shows by end of Q3.
Growth goals are my opportunity to think about how to level up as a human being. I separate this out because often, the ways in which I hope to grow cut across both my personal and professional life. This generally includes things like:
- what are things I want to learn about
- what are skills I want to practice or improve
- what are behaviors, tendencies, or even traumas that I want to address and be more mindful about
For example: Read 24 books, complete unit 2 and reach checkpoint 2 in Duolingo Mandarin
From Goals to Action
Once the goals are out of the way, the bulk of the heavy lifting has been done. I then take all of those goals and break each down into actions and milestones to keep an eye on throughout the year.
Setting the priorities is pretty straight forward. Here’s what I do…
I pick 5 things that are my most important goals, projects, areas of focus and put them on a list. This is to help the most important things stand out from everything else. Goals can be tucked away, and referenced or marked off as complete at any time, but priorities, like my three words have to stay in front of me at all times.
I put my top 5 priorities into my task list as its own project and place that as a widget on my home screen. This way, I always see the 5 most important things I need to do this year. If I complete one, I don’t add anymore until all five are done.
For example: Launch Super Productive 2.0, have a successful book launch, maintain current client roster all year, shift primary revenue from consulting to speaking and content, complete certification curriculum and materials for The Superhero Institute.
Habits are about looking at my goals and priorities and identifying things I can do each day, week and month to inch closer toward accomplishing what’s important to me. For instance, a goal of getting my weight under 175lbs leads to three habits:
- Workout 4 times per week
- Daily intermittent fasting (16:8)
- Drink three 20oz glass of water per day
I track these habits in an app called Done.
I try to limit my total number of daily habits to 5 as I’ve found that after that, I start to get overwhelmed and just ignore the push notifications. I try to limit weekly habits to 3 or 4, and monthly to 2 or 3.
Throughout the year, I don’t sweat missing a day or a week here or there. Instead, I focus on trying to achieve the longest streak possible as I’ve found that to be my most successful strategy of building and keeping habits. If I break the streak, I just start over and see if I can beat my previous streak.
A few more habit examples: read 15 minutes per day, make the bed every morning, practice chinese in Duolingo for 2 lessons with morning coffee.
TIP: For help with habits, read Atomic Habits.
Finally, I review and update my affirmations. These are things I try to look at regularly and say in my head or out loud, typically after a morning meditation. These are affirming, positive statements, written in the present tense. I limit it to five statements and start each with “I am…”
I am a Superhero and everyday I will make a difference in someone’s life
I am a great husband and father, I let my family know how much they mean to me
I am building a movement to change how people view the purpose of their lives
I am patient, and will favor maintaining a steady pace over burnout
I am realistic and will prepare for whatever life throws at me
If any of these need to change or be updated, I take the beginning of the year to do it.
At the end of the year, I do a retrospective by looking back on the year and asking:
- What worked?
- What didn’t work?
- What are my next actions?
More on this at the end of the year.
Tools for a better tomorrow
Do you need to do all of this? Absolutely not. But, I’m going to give you a few sentences on why I do all of this for your consideration.
The three words help me remember the type of person I want to be and guides how I choose to spend my time. My affirmations help me reinforce the person I am and cause me to recenter around those ideals. My goals give me tangible destinations while my habits give me tangible actions. Seeing my priorities helps me cut through the fog of daily responsibilities to remember the impact I’m trying to make and the things that are most important for me to accomplish in service of my goals.
At the end of it all, these are just tools to focus me on giving my life purpose, meaning, and direction.
- Without these tools, I am unconsciously reacting to the world around me.
- With these tools, I am the author of my story.
☝🏼 Hey, that’s one of my three words!
What is YOUR process?
I’m always looking to learn and level up by learning from others. Please share your process with me.
I hope this post helps you have the most amazing year yet.
Originally published at Jeff Gibbard.