Cross Off 3 Months When Planning For The Year
Why planning is for now - don't wait until the last minute!
It's that time of year again. School is underway; the weather is probably getting cooler (depending on where you live), and the holidays are fast approaching (I know, I know--sorry to bring it up--but we all know it's true!). So, the time for planning is now!
As a wedding stationery designer, you're wrapping up the final details for your brides. If you're an Etsy shop on online shop owner, you're ramping up your holiday marketing and hoping for a busy holiday season. If you're an artist, you're pushing for clients to get those custom family illustrations to you in time to make their Christmas, Hanukkah, and New Year cards.
In the past, you may have waited until later in the year to do your annual planning, and I'm guessing you probably ended up feeling pressed for time with the holiday rush--parties are happening, last-minute gifts are being bought and wrapped, the kids are running around on a permanent sugar high during school break, and if you're cranking out orders it may be your busiest season--and as a result you only give planning a fraction of the attention it deserves.
It's a busy time of year for both your business and your personal life. You end up slapping something down quickly, and lose sight of it by mid-February...if not earlier. Or if you do pull something together that's a bit more tightly woven, you aren't exactly sure how to pull it off, so you end up reverting back to your old ways pretty quickly.
But I believe that if you start a little earlier, and give yourself time to really sink into the process, you can map out a strong, doable plan that will help you enter the new year feeling confident, excited, and capable rather than frazzled and a little bit unsure. You'll lose that feeling of flying by the seat of your pants, and instead you'll feel realistic about your timelines and what needs to be done!
One of the things we like to do around here is dive deep into planning, goal setting, and forecasting and how to do so in a succinct, efficient and organized process so you have clarity for the best ideas to execute.
Since the holidays are approaching, I want to tell you a story, one I shared in an email newsletter list at the end of 2015.
"We were all packed into the car--my husband, our two dogs, and me--ready to make the seven-hour trip south to visit my family for Christmas. And we looked like the Clampetts. Cooper, our Great Dane, took up the entire back section of my Jeep--and of course; he couldn't be trusted with anything that wasn't labeled indestructible. So a brand-new cargo bag was strapped to the top of the car; humming away in the rain and wind and causing our gas mileage to plummet. Gifts were piled high in the back seat; safely out of Cooper's reach, and we were starting to get antsy--which of course, meant it was time for a '90's rap singalong.
After indulging ourselves, I was inspired to grab my laptop and write an email to my list. I wanted to share that moment--not because of the '90's rap (though that part was pretty fun) but because I was excited about where I was in my business, and wanted to share that it was totally possible to build a business that will let you do what you want--in this case, take two or more weeks off in December to spend time with the people (and animals) I love without worrying it would all fall apart."
This was what I signed up for--to be able to take time off and have a sense of purpose in my business, rather than feeling tied to the computer in fear of losing a sale. I was writing this email because I felt inspired, rather than having spent the entire car trip trying to cram in "just a little more work." I knew my goals, what I was working toward and exactly what the plan was supposed to look like and feel like.
And December was supposed to allow me to create a better sense of celebrating the joy of the season instead of frantically selling those last minute things.
So, when I plan my year, I cross off 3 months to not do anything for working toward my business goals. And December was one of those months for me. Why? Because we all have those months; months where we are busy with something, busy cranking out orders, busy with spring break or summer with the kids. And you know (in your heart, you know you know!) that nothing will get accomplished except just keeping caught up. So, I don't set myself up for failure and cross off those months!
I encourage you to print out a yearly calendar and look through your year. Begin to cross off any dates that you may be out of town, on vacation, or out of the office. Simply mark through the dates. Notice where these fall. They may be all around the same month or spread around, but you will probably notice some major times of the year that you're really just going to need to back of and do the bare minimum that it takes to get by, both personally and business-wise.
Cross out your busiest times so you don't have the added pressure of working on bigger-picture projects during those months. Instead, you can put your head down and focus on getting products out or finishing up designs for clients or relaxing with your family at the beach—whatever it is that makes that month busy! I’ve left a tiny bit of space underneath each week for you to write in what you’re doing.
Next, circle dates that you want to have a big launch. For example, if you are in a product-based business, you may want to have a Valentine’s Day Sale or promotion. Or, you know that Christmas is always a great sales boost for you. If you’re in a service-based business like branding, you may want to launch a campaign around the new year to refresh your business and brand. Go ahead and circle those dates in pencil.
As you fill in these dates, here’s what’s going to happen: you’re going to see a lot of dates crossed out and you’re going to start wondering When am I going to do all of this stuff? When is it actually going to happen? This is why we're doing this work now now! Planning out the year lets you see how far you realistically need to start working on your goals.
Here's what other are saying about how this concept worked for them:
I loved this concept! I totally do that now when I'm planning for year – crossing off 3 months. Paper & Oats
I was thinking "This busy season is exactly why Jennifer told us to cross off these months". Smart lady! Paper Finch Design
And one of the big things that got me to that place of feeling in control and at peace with my plan--and kept me there--was setting aside enough time to reflect on the past and figure out what worked and what didn't. You have to take time to imagine what you want your life and business to look like, and then set goals and make a plan to get there.
It didn't happen by accident and it doesn't stay that way by chance. I work hard to have the business and life I want and I believe that celebrating this year is where to start to help you do the same for your own business and life! Now is the time to get started. Celebrate it now!
Here's a free PDF of a yearly calendar to use, no email opt-in required. There's space to write under each week what's happening in your business and life! Use a pencil.
And if you want help reflecting on the past year, we have a FREE set of Year End Review worksheets that you can download here.
With more to come to help you plan for 2017 in your creative business over the next few weeks!