Thursday, 29 December 2016

My Planning System (2017) - Part 1: Monthly Planning

In my last post, I outlined what I would be using in 2017 for planning. These are:
  • A book outlining Goals to Projects to Next Actions
  • A monthly planner
  • My TN with a week + notes diary and a notebook in it
  • An A6 Clairefontaine notebook for day planning
In this post, I'll outline how the first of these parts fit together into my planning system. This is essentially the same as it was in this post, but with different paper-based products to achieve the same results! (Incidentally, that post is my most popular post by a country mile!! At the time of writing, it had well over 45 000 hits!).

The core of my system is exactly the same as it was in that post, published almost 5 years ago. I have a set of life-areas, and within those life-areas have a set of goals and those goals are broken down to projects. The steps needed to achieve the project are then listed as  next actions.

One thing I've not been good at and need to reinstate, is having the following, clearly visible when I am working on these goals and projects.

Is it my dream?
Is it essential?
Time is finite

When I first posted about my system, my life areas were: Writing, Health and Happiness, Chimwemwe and (Work) with work in brackets as it wasn't really anything I wanted to do, but had to learn how to live with. I have since left that job (hooray!) and so my life-areas are just the three now. Within Health and Happiness there are a number of areas (exercise, social life etc.) but those are the three things that I want to spend time and effort on.

How these goals to next actions are then dealt with, takes a bit of time to explain. Grab a cuppa!

In many ways, I zoom in from big goals to projects to next-actions and these are paralleled in time from monthly goals to weekly goals to day to day planning. The key part for me, is to spend time making sure that the goals/projects are right - hence my reminders about asking is it my dream, is it essential, and that time is finite. For detailed examples of how these goals to next actions work, have a look at my original post on it (opens in a new tab/window).

Goals to Next Actions Notebook
I'm using an A5 Leuchtturm for this but in the past have used Filofaxes. In some ways a Filofax is more flexible and better; in other ways, it's nice to keep everything all together in one notebook.
For each life-area, I have bigger picture goals that then get broken down to smaller projects. I use washi tape on the edge of the page to indicate where notes for a particular life-area start.
I'll share a couple of examples with you so you can see how it works:

Life Area: Chimwemwe
Goal: Raise £1000
2018 calendar (to raise £400-£500)
Fundraising talks (to raise £200)
Fundraising articles - web and local print (to raise £200)
Sale of 'Good Gifts' cards (to raise £100-200)

Life Area: Health and Happiness
Goal: to run a half-marathon
To run a mile
To run 5K
To run 10K
To run 10 miles
[to run 13.1 miles]

For each life area, I draw up what my goals are. These are vaguely linked to the year, but not always - life changes and plans have to adapt. I may achieve some goals sooner; I may not achieve that goal in the year. I wasn't able to run a half-marathon in the year I had heart surgery for example!

Once I'm certain about those goals and projects, the monthly planner comes into play.

The Monthly Planner
I've always used monthly goals, yet struggled to use monthly planners. This year, I'm trying to get a better idea of how much time I have in a month by using a monthly spread. I've created my own monthly planner, using some pages from an A5 Rhodia exercise book with some card added to make a cover. Each month has four pages in total:
  • a monthly plans page
  • a double spread of the dates
  • a review page
monthly plans page
double spread of the dates
(washi tape to hide things!)
review page (left); next month's plan page (right)

I look at each goal/project and think when I would like to achieve it by. I am usually wildly optimistic (i.e. wrong) with these plans! But, in an ideal world, I try to think "When would I like to be able to put a tick against that project?" Essentially, once I've decided on that time-course, I plot out when each of the steps on the way to achieving that project need to happen and (in pencil!) start adding these to my monthly goals.

Then comes a very important step... the reality check!

It's always been the level of detail that I've struggled with on monthly calendars. What I'm trying this year is to use skinny washi to indicate when I am working on the different projects. That way, I should be able to see that all of my days are filled in with skinny washi (which means I will not make that deadine!).

Let me show you an example...

In April, I have blocked off with black striped washi the weeks I am doing a Future Learn course on Richard III and with black spotty washi the weeks I am doing a Future Learn course on Superpowers of the Ancient World (I enjoy doing these courses and have a bit of an eclectic taste... the last one I did was on Forensic Anthropology!). The pennant washi indicates when I am away on business. (The gold washi is blanking off private stuff!)

You can see that planning to do lots of stuff in April wouldn't be sensible! Hopefully, blocking off projects like this will help me to be more realistic in my monthly goals. In some ways, it's like doing a Gantt chart but directly onto the diary.

Once I have a sensible plan for the month, I can do my weekly and daily planning. I'll cover that in tomorrow's post, so pop back in a day.

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