Annual planning is really about STRATEGY.  What do you hope to accomplish this year?  What are your priorities?  What steps do you need to take?  Then, plotting out a course of action for the year that will help you achieve those things that are important to you.  Whether you work with a coach like me,  partner with a colleague or friend, or decide to make your session a solo affair, here are a few things to consider for making it a success:

  • Your Environment.  When determining where to have your session, consider a place where you are your most creative self.  Often a place away from the normal day-to-day routine can help shift your frame of mind away from your usual tasks and into a place of more “high level” thinking.  (Some clients have chosen to have a retreat-type setting where we actually leave town for a day or two.)  The important thing is that it is a place you feel comfortable and even inspired.
  • Set your Intentions.  This is about setting an theme or direction for the year.  A lot of people I know will pick a word or phrase that sums up what their activities should be leading them toward. Some examples may be: Growing my customer base, Self-improvement / education, increase revenue to XXX, etc.  It can also help later as you decide what goals and projects should get your attention.
  • Remove old goals and projects – especially if their is a “should” involved.  Annual planning is a great time to clean the slate and start fresh.  Some outstanding goals may earn their way back onto this year’s list but don’t fall prey to keeping a goal simply because you haven’t completed it yet and you think it’s something you SHOULD do.  It’s natural that some things may not have the importance their once did or priorities may change.  Don’t be afraid to let go of old goals.
  • Be able to answer “WHY”.  As you start considering the goals and projects you want to take on, run them each through a filter of Why.  Ask:  Why is it important to me?  Why do I feel the need to do this now?  Why is this goal on my list?   We are less likely to work toward those goals we don’t feel connected to.  So be sure you know exactly WHY it’s a priority.
  • Look at the topography of your year.  Be sure to have your calendar on hand and use this time to fill in all you know about the coming year.  Have access to calendars that impact yours (think kids’ school calendars, staff calendars / vacations of colleagues, special events coming up like vacations/family events, conferences, work milestones such as annual events, projects, etc.)  Getting everything down can help you forecast the best times for planning those things that still need to be scheduled. What do you still need to make room for?  How does the busyness of some times impact the work you want to do on your goals?
  •  Anticipate hurdles.  Take time to consider what might hinder you from progress on your goals.  It may seem like a “downer” thing to think about during goal-setting but it’s much easier to address issues when you’ve taken time to anticipate what might hold you back.  Do you need more information or training to take on a particular goal or project?  Will you face opposition and – if so – how can you address it?  Do you have the resources you need for your goal?  If not, what ideas do you have to address that?
  • Connect with your goals regularly.  This is where a structured routine of weekly planning can really help.  Build in time to look at your goals regularly.  Determine next steps and schedule the time to work on it!  It’s too easy to step back in to regular routines and those carefully crafted goals just  “sit on a shelf”.  Even during busy times when you may not be able to accomplish many tasks or steps toward a goal, just reviewing it and connecting with it keeps it alive and in the forefront of you mind.
  • Set up a system for accountability.  Think through how you can stay on target with your goals.  Setting milestones and deliverable dates can help with accountability but I often find that having another person involved is a more effective way to have accountability.  Is someone else working with you on a project?  Can you share with a colleague, friend, or coach and ask them to check in and ask about progress?  If it is something your team is involved in, make it a regular item on meeting agendas so that you know there will be others checking in with you on progress.

Cindy B Sullivan is a Time Management & Productivity Consultant and Certified Professional Organizer.  Providing coaching, consulting, and training, Cindy enjoys helping clients “Organize the Time Of Their Life”.  Want to assess your own time management skills?  Take the 6 Pillars assessment here and follow Cindy on Facebook at cbSullivan Consulting & Organizing