Why and How I plan my entire year at once

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With the start of a new year comes time to plan.  It’s time to write out those goals, set your focus, and get busy taking action. I have learned to take that a step further and not just create goals, but to physically plan out my entire year all at once.  You might be asking, “how on earth does Lauren possibly do that?”, and well… I’m so glad you asked because I’m about to share exactly why I do this and give you tips for how I do it and how you can too!

Why I Plan My Entire Year at Once

Prevent Overwhelm

First and foremost, I do this to prevent overwhelm.  I’m a person that likes to focus on one task at a time and if you throw too many things at me at once, I get overwhelmed and shut down.  Then nothing gets done.  Anyone else?!

I’m a huge believer that when you have a problem in an area of your life, you find a solution for it and get it resolved. After years of fighting an uphill battle of constantly feeling behind and overwhelmed, I’ve learned that planning my entire year all at once helps me immensely.  I should also add that I’m running a team, so it’s key that we are planning ahead so that everyone knows exactly what they should be working on and when the finish line is so we can meet our deadline. However,  team aside, when you put deadlines in your own life for things you want to accomplish, you’ll find that you get a whole lot more done!

Creates more balance

You likely know by now that I’m a planner.  I like to have all my ducks in a row, and when I plan out my year I know exactly what to expect which is so helpful for me to have balance in my life.  I know that when one project is complete and we have time before the next deadline I can have some time to rest.  Or if we are ahead of schedule on a deadline, I can have some off time.  I also put off time on my calendar which I’ll explain in just a bit.

Know how to plan and prepare

Another reason I do this, is so I know how to plan and prepare for the things coming up on the calendar.  I know how to prepare my family if I know I’ll be gone, or I know how to prepare daily task list for the project that is next on the calendar.

How I Plan My Entire Year at Once

Prepare

The first thing I do is physically prepare a place where I can see my entire year all at once.

  • I print off 12 monthly calendars.  I have one file that I print and then I fill in the numbers for each month.
  • I then use washi tape to tape January – June (6 months) together leaving a bit of sticky room in the middle to stick that to the wall.  I use a washi tape color that is neutral and won’t be used on my actual calendar so I can actually see what I’m planning.
  • I then put a piece of washi tape at the top and tape the first 6 months to my wall.
  • Repeat this with July – December and tape directly to the right of your first six months.

Added January 2020

Since the writing of this post, so many of you have asked for an option to print this all at once! So I’ve created that just for you! You can now get the Poster Sized printable of the 2020 version, print at your local printer, and frame to hang in your office! Now you can do all your planning with a dry erase marker, washi tape, and stickers the way I describe in the next section.


Categorize

The next thing I do is categorize the things I’ll be putting on my calendar.

I get a small index card and write out my categories that I’ll be putting on the calendar.  Here are the ones I used and you can use as well:

  • Launches
  • Blog Posts
  • Newsletters
  • Sales
  • Giveaways
  • Conferences
  • Holiday Breaks
  • Vacations / Time Off

Once I have all my categories written down, I place a colored sticker or washi tape by it so I know how I’m going to label things on my calendar.  I then tape this index card up on the wall to the left of my calendars so I can use it as a guide as I go.

For the items that are big projects or are more than one day, I use washi tape so it’s really noticeable.  The items I used tape for are:

  • Launches
  • Conferences
  • Holiday breaks
  • Vacations / Time Off

Then for the others that will be more daily items, I use these small circle colored stickers from Emily Ley.

Plan

Now it’s time to get to the actual planning!

I went in a very specific order on my end so I knew where to fit everything in.  So I’m going to share the exact order I went in based on the categories above. You can tweak these as you need for your life, but if you’re running a business this process will be fairly similar.

Holiday breaks, Vacation / Time Off, and Conferences

I start with the items that will take me away from work so I know not to plan launches or things around those times. So in my case, I started with our Holiday breaks, Vacation / Time Off, and Conferences. I knew these things had to go on first so I could plan around them.  Again, I’m using washi tape for these items so I can easily see around them and know how to plan all the other categories.

Launches

Now that I know when I’ll be gone, I can look at the entire year and pencil in launch dates for themes and any other items we will be launching.  Seeing the entire year at a glance like this really helps space all the launches apart evenly so I can see that we have ample time between launches and enough preparation time for them… along with considering holidays and slower seasons.

Sales

I now mark the sales that we will be having this year.  For us, we only offer two sales a year and I already know when those are, so I just put stickers in since they are the same every year.

Giveaways

I also plan out any giveaways that we will do for the year.  We have our typical giveaways that we offer every year, so again this is pretty standard for us, but I also pencil in any other giveaways we might offer for the year here.

Blog Posts

Once I have all the above done, I come back to blog posts since I know things like Sales or Giveaways require a blog post to go out.  I start with marking blog posts for our Launches, Sales, and Giveaways that I’ve already planned out. Then I begin to work around everything already on the calendar.  We have big goals this year to do a lot more blog posts and I had that schedule already in my mind so I went through every single month and put stickers in for when blog posts will be published. Learn how more about my Goal Setting process here. 

Newsletters

This process was the same as the blog posts since sales and giveaways will have a newsletter that is sent out as well.  Now that I’ve also planned my blog posts, I can also mark out newsletters that include links to blog posts.  So again, I go through every month and mark out all the newsletters that will go out for the year.

Final thoughts

Focus on the calendar and not the topics

Through this process, I’m not focused on topics of blog posts or newsletters or anything that specific. I’m just focused on getting it on the calendar.  The planning of topics comes throughout the year and are planned around our launches or topics we see a lot of questions on.  Mark your calendar for the 1st of every month and go through and write out basic topics for your blog posts and newsletter for the month.

Leave wiggle room

We all know that life happens.  Kids may get sick and you suddenly have to take a few days off that were unexpected.  Don’t schedule your calendar so tight that you feel pressed for time and have no room to work with.  This defeats the purpose of why we did this calendar in the first place right?

It’s okay to make changes

Don’t be afraid to go back and make changes to your calendars through the year. We are only a week into the year and we’ve moved 2 of our launch dates and pushed some newsletters around.  This is absolutely okay.  Get messy on these calendars and plan out a life that creates more structure, underwhelm, and balance!

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11 Comments

  1. Great encouragement and article life can get so overwhelming especially when we set unrealistic expectations of what we desire to do vs what we ought to do. I need to adapt this thinking as opossed to taking it all on at once I have to break it down and not jump from thing to thing. You’re post inspired me to step back and look at each task as opposed to doing a bit here a bit there resulting in it’s never done. I’m doing it . Thanks for the wisdom. ❤️

  2. This was such a great post. I am so impressed with how organized you are. I do 3 months out, but have never tried the whole year! You have inspired me!

  3. Wonderful reading in start of 2017.
    Exactly you need to make your plan and creative ideas before actual work.So I love this! As a longtime B2B writer and emerging blogger, I’m never, ever content with what I do.

  4. Thanks so much for this! I love getting a glimpse into how other people plan! I will definitely be doing this – you’ve inspired me!

    The only thing I’ll change is that I’ll need to stick my calendar up in 3 month lines (Jan-Feb-Mar/Apr-May-Jun etc). I think and work best in quarters like Kellie!

    Now all I need is more Washi tape! Who doesn’t? 🙂

    1. Hi Elisa,

      You’re so welcome! I’m so glad this post was so helpful!

      And I love love your idea of doing this a year at a glance and then separating it quarterly. I do find that we focus on 3 month chunks at a time anyways so separating the pages on the wall – or wherever – in 3 months lines would be perfect!!

      If you do this, I’d love to see a picture so get in touch!

  5. Thank you for sharing this! Got me inspired, ran out to get some washi tape and planned my whole year yesterday afternoon. It was just what I needed to jump start my year.

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