8 Tips for Planning out your Year

8 Tips for Planning out Your Year - Society for Creative Founders

We are a few weeks into a new year and everywhere we turn, people are talking about planning their year.  Today, we wanted to write a post giving you eight tips to plan out the year ahead, which can be used at any time you need guidance to help you plan things out.

A lot of times as creatives, setting goals and planning things out simply makes us uncomfortable or we don't necessarily want to plan things out because we like the freedom of creativity built in to our days.

We aren't saying that you can't be free to do that, but we also know how much of a difference it can make when you develop a routine.  So below, we've outlined 8 different tips for planning out your year. We hope you find this post helpful, and it gives you the encouragement that you need to plan out your best year yet!

Additional note: A few of the links mentioned in this post are affiliate links, which by clicking on them, we may receive a small compensation at no additional cost to you.

1. Think about an overall picture before you begin, and then plan out one goal at a time.

Get out a piece of posterboard and just get everything down on paper. 
We suggest posterboard because of the size, so that you can see everything all at once and have the possibility to add all of the things and see them all in one place.  Don't worry about the order of it, if it makes sense, or even if you know if it's possible to do yet. The goal here is to simply get it out of your head and onto paper.

When those things are down, think about what the number one priority is, and circle it.   Then write that goal down on at the top of a blank page and begin writing down all of the tasks needed to accomplish this goal below it.  Again, don't worry about the order that the tasks are in, but instead, simply get them down on paper.  After you have them down, then put the tasks in order, beginning with what you need to do first, and ending with what you need to do last in order to complete the goal.

If your goals or tasks are time-bound (if you are participating in a bridal expo or a pop-up shop, for example), get out a calendar and input your tasks in order working backwards from the date you need to be complete by when you can begin with a date to them, so that you can have a general idea of when you need to have a task completed by so that you can work towards it at a steady pace.  You may find that your dates bump further back than when the date currently is.  If this happens, look at your dates and the tasks assigned and re-adjust them as needed.  The goal is to work forward at an attainable pace, but also, obviously, meet your goals!

8 Tips for Planning Out your Year - Society for Creative Founders

2. Cross off Three Months of the Year

Once you have your goals determined, look at your year and cross off three months you will NOT set goals for new things to do for your business. You may want to plan out the whole year in one sitting, but take into account when life is going to happen too.  We have found that a lot of fellow creatives take off the month of December for the holidays, or if they have children, either June or July due to the summer and having their kids at home from school.  The biggest thing to do here is look and see when it is the busiest time of year for your life or your business, and ask yourself if working on a new goal is attainable at this time.

In addition, this is important because you need to schedule in time to rest.  You can continually be on a go, go, go mentality, but in order to take care of yourself well, you have to schedule in times you will take it easier too.  If you know that you have a tremendous launch in March, perhaps plan to take April a little bit easier so that you can work from a place of rest and not be continually hustling year round.  If you know that your kids begin school in August so that you can't necessarily dedicate a lot of time to working on goals that month, perhaps schedule August as a "no new goals" month and instead plan them for September.  The biggest thing to take in to consideration is to plan things out in a way they work best for you.

3. Create an Ideal Week so that you know how much time you have for goal setting + running your business.

If you find that you need help knowing how much time you have to do what, look at your overall week each week and create an ideal week for it.  Look at every single hour of the day you have, and determine which days are for what.  Plug in the times you'll do your personal items as well - for example, if you know you want to begin your morning reading a book or going for a walk, write that down!  Then, fill in your worktimes below it.  After your worktimes are filled in, then create a schedule that works for you so that you can inch towards meeting your goal along with completing your work items a little bit more each day. 

It might be that you've recognized that you write well in the mornings, or that you create art best in the afternoons.  Work with your body and brain signals to be able to be the most productive that you can, and schedule in times during those spots to do those specific items.  By creating an Ideal Week, you'll also quickly be able to see how much time you have to work and then can create a routine based around it, so that you know how much time you have to dedicate to working on your goals each week.

Additional Resource: Create your Ideal Week

What is Time Blocking  - Society for Creative Founders

4. Use Time Blocking.

 If there is a possibility for you to work in longer stretches, can you use time blocking to help you complete more in one setting? If so, try to block out 2-3 hours to focus in on only one task.  Perhaps you have a goal to keep up with your finances and update quickbooks each week.  So, schedule in that you will spend one hour each Friday to do your finances, and have a recurring checklist of everything you need to do in that hour.

When you use time blocking, you work only on items needed for one specific task or goal until the time is up, before moving on to the next thing. 

Your week, if you use time blocking, may include items like:

  • planning out your content in two set hours per week

  • scheduling two hours per week to write all of your captions for social media content

  • having an entire workday each week dedicated to designing new products or designing for your clients

  • creating all of the graphics you need for a month in one day

  • scheduling two hours per day on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays to work on your next product collection until it is complete

  • do all product packaging and shipping for orders received throughout the week every Friday

  • review your finances for an hour every Monday

Whatever it my be, design your year and weeks in a way that it works for you. 
Think about the back-end business details that you need to keep up with, and schedule those in in a consistent manner so that you can develop a routine and a system that works, where you are continually not only working forward on your goals, but also making sure you are keeping up with what you need to as well.

8 Planning Tips to help you plan your Year - Society for Creative Founders

5. Learn which tools help you the best, and stick with them.

A lot of us love planners. We buy one, then another, then another.  We think that "planner peace" is just a new planner away and that one tool will help us perfectly.  Or, we learn Asana and then start working in it, then move over to Trello, and we find that we continually hop from one to the other, rather than being consistent and putting all of our planning eggs into one basket.

Choose one planner and one productivity tool to learn well, and make a plan to stick with it for at least 90 days, or for one quarter per year.  It takes 66 days for something you begin to become a habit, but if you know that this is a priority for the quarter, you can dedicate the whole 90 days to improving something from the beginning to completion.  The biggest thing to do here is to find a system that works and stick to it.  If you're continually hopping from one productivity system to the next, it not only will hinder your progress, you'll also have tasks and lists everywhere, instead of in one consistent place.

If you're wanting to learn how to use Trello for Goal Setting and Business Planning, we have a class available here for you to learn about using it, which teaches all of the ins and outs of Trello to help you get set up for success (we've even included free templates to help you get set up well!). Or, if you know that you want to learn Asana, Paper and Spark has an incredible Asana for Makers Course which will teach you everything you need to learn this productivity tool.

Personal Note from Kristin:  For the Society for Creative Founders, I use Powersheets* and a Daily Simplified Planner*, along with both Asana and Trello to keep track of everything. It may sound like a lot, but this is what I found works best for us. I use my Powersheets (these ones here, in teal of course!) as a place to check in daily and house all of our big plans for the year and our goals each month, and my Simplified Planner to look at only what I need to accomplish only that day.  Asana is where we house all of our recurring and long-term tasks to keep track of, and Trello is what we use for project management and content planning (using checklists are our favorite thing about Trello, along with using all of these plug-ins shown in this blog post here to make it even better!).  

6. Give yourself the option to change directions.

Don't feel that you need to follow through on the things you decide in January for an entire year.  You have to allow yourself to be open to possibilities that could present themselves in the year ahead.  You don't want to be so focused on sticking to the goals that you set for yourself in January that you don't see that perhaps your business is shifting in a new direction.  Make sure that you check in and with each new goal you set out to achieve, ask yourself these three questions:

  1. Is achieving this goal relevant to my business now, and where I want it to go in the future?

  2.  Out of everything that I want to complete this year, why is the time right for this specific goal right now?

  3.  How will things improve when I meet this goal? What is the ultimate purpose for meeting this goal?

Planning Tips from the Society for Creative Founders

By asking yourself these three questions, you'll be able to check in and make sure that they align with where your business vision is, and give you a purpose for meeting each goal as well.  It might be that something you thought was a top priority to do in Quarter 3, no longer has a benefit to you by that time.  Give yourself permission to change and adapt as your business grows.

7. Choose consistent and steady over fast and furious.

Sometimes, we want to do all the things right away and not go slowly.  So we write out 85 goals for the year, and work on each one a little bit each week.  I guarantee you that if you do this, you will get burnt out.  It is better to prioritize your goals and work on only one or a few per quarter or month, rather than try to do everything at once.  Think out one goal, one task, one day, one hour at a time, and by working through them at a slow and steady continual pace rather than rushing through at a fast and furious pace, it will help you to not only check in continually and make sure you are doing things right rather than rushed, you'll be able to see the progress you make each and every day, knowing it is from a place of rest rather than hustle.

8. Have Confidence in Yourself!

The biggest thing that holds people back is not knowing how to do something yet.  Don't let the fear of the unknown stop you from doing something - have confidence in yourself that you can and you will learn what you need to do.  Figure out the thing you want to do first, and then simply move forward from there.  Undoubtedly you'll hit some waves and need to adjust your sails, but more than anything else, have the confidence in yourself that you can do this, and don't be afraid to ask for help when you need it as well.  We are all in this together, and sometimes, simply asking for help can be one of the best things you can do to move your business forward!

We hope that this post has helped you today to plan out your year, or even to get started with goal setting in the first place.  Stay tuned for next weeks post, when we share one fun thing that you can do that may help you to make a plan centering on one specific thing for an entire year!


What is the best planning tip or productivity tool that you love to use??
Share it with us in the comments below!