This post is part of the 12 Days of Systems Challenge hosted by Val Geisler of aspire&grow. If you’re ready to get a handle on your systems and processes in 2015, get signed up for Systems Finishing School. Val is awesome and you’ll love this program. If you want to catch up on the posts you may have missed in this series, sign up here.
When Val asked me to share one of my favorite systems that has helped streamline my business, I had a hard time picking just one, because systems are SO important and I love them. But, I have to say that next to my design process (which I’ll be sharing all about here), the number one system I use in my business is definitely my planning process.
During my first year in business, I was all over the place. I would wake up in the morning and have no clue what to work on. Because of this, project timelines got extended, products never got launched, blog posts never got written and I was a stressed out mess. NO FUN!
Enter the lovely new time management system I use now that has allowed me the ability to work with over 40 clients over the past 2 years, write and sell 2 eBooks, create and launch 1 course, and then turn that course into a self-study program, along with a few other fun collaborations and projects. And now that I have a baby at home, having this system in place is even more important in order for me to have a productive week.
Okay, so let’s get to it. Here’s how I do my planning each month.
I set aside the first Monday of each month to sit down and revisit my goals and priorities for the month. The monthly plan is meant to be a larger overview and shouldn’t focus so much on the individual tasks. Using a calendar or planner, here’s what I do:
Mark down all of your appointments for the month
Jot down the blog posts you want to publish this month
Write down your goals for this month
Decide what you’ll focus on each week to reach those goals
Don’t worry about focusing on the individual tasks for each week, but instead more of the larger priorities for each week. Once you reach that specific week, you’ll be able to break it down into individual tasks.
Then, each week on Friday afternoon, Sunday night or Monday morning, set aside time to do your weekly planning.
Do a “braindump” of everything that needs to get done this week
I call it a braindump for a reason — list everything. Appointments, tasks, etc. Start by reviewing what you didn’t get done last week so that it can be moved over to this week’s list. Then, go through your project management software and jot down all of the tasks that are due this week for clients and for your own projects. And don’t forget to include those individual tasks that move you towards reaching your monthly goals.
Using a weekly calendar or your daily planner, jot down your scheduled appointments for the week
For each day this week, choose the Top Three things from your braindump list you want to get done
These three things might change, but for now it’s important to have an idea of what you’ll be working on each day. I also recommend creating what I like to call “My Ideal Week” plan, so that you know what kinds of tasks you want to do on certain days (i.e. I write my weekly links post every Thursday morning, and only have client calls scheduled for Tuesday and Thursday afternoons). This makes choosing your daily priorities that much easier. I include a template for creating your Ideal Week in my program, Creative Biz Kickstart, if that’s something you’re interested in using.
Keep a running list of smaller tasks separate from your Top Three list
If there are other smaller tasks that you think you might be able to get to, or ones that pop up during the day, I like to jot those down on another running to-do list on that day’s page. I use the Day Designer by Whitney English as my monthly/daily planner and use the “Other To-Dos” section for this.
Each night before you sign off for the day, review your Top Three tasks for the following day. If anything needs to be edited, do that now so you’re ready to begin your work day as soon as you sit down. Typically, if I didn’t get something done that day, it gets moved over to the next day as the highest priority.
And always remember to be realistic with how much you can get done each day. It’s the worst feeling when you feel like you didn’t really accomplish a lot for the day, because you overbooked yourself to begin with.
DOWNLOAD THE FREE PLANNING TEMPLATE
To help you out with the monthly and weekly planning, I put together a template of my monthly goals planner sheet and my weekly braindump sheet. I usually just use my notebook, but this template is much prettier, so I’m going to start using these. I recommend printing out enough of these to last a couple months and popping them in a binder. That way, you have a place where you can always check back on your monthly and weekly goals to make sure that what you’re doing each day is inching you closer and closer to reaching those goals.
To download the free template, just enter your name and email address here and you’ll get it sent straight to you:
TOOLS + RESOURCES I USE AND LOVE:
Kikki K Weekly Planner – This is what I’m currently using to map out my weeks until my Whitney English Day Designer takes it’s place on January 1st!
Staedtler Pens – My favorite pens to use. They don’t bleed through your paper and they make planning much more fun!
TIP: Using this system without a bigger plan in place for your year will get you through the day, but I highly recommend having a 12-Month Action Plan in place, because you’ll be able to achieve so much more each day/week/month/year. For help with creating your 2015 goals and plan, check out these resources:
What’s the #1 system you’ve set up in your business that keeps your head on straight? What system could you not live without? I geek out over this stuff, so let’s hear it!
WANT TO SHARE?
Here are some done-for-you tweets ready to go.
For more help on time management and goal setting, check out Creative Biz Kickstart. There is an entire week dedicated just to this topic. Also included with your purchase of CBK is an Ideal Week template and a 12-Month Action Calendar. Want to take CBK for a test drive? Start by downloading a free segment here.