Yes, it’s that time again – December – and I’m now planning for the year ahead, and you should too! Here’s why…
While you may think – why do I need to write down my goals when I can just keep them in my head? – I can assure you that writing down your plans MAKES A DIFFERENCE! And I’m not talking about some extreme approach here – like with the “Secret” method, where followers write down their dreams each morning when they wake up but still – by writing down your goals and overall plan for the year, you achieve the following things:
1) You make yourself accountable. When you work on your own business, it’s so easy to get lazy, procrastinate and make no progress. I know this feeling inside out as I have been self-employed for almost a decade now. If you’re just starting out, most likely that initial buzz and energy will keep you going for some time but after a few years you’ll see for yourself that it becomes more difficult to concentrate, stay motivated and find the energy to do the things you have to do!
By writing down a yearly plan which then breaks up into monthly, weekly and daily task lists, you CREATE a work schedule for yourself and this helps you stay on the right track.
2) You create a clear plan to follow. When you work for yourself, there’s no boss, no one to tell you what you have to do right now, tomorrow or the week after.
But with a clear, written plan you’ll know exactly what you have to do every month, week and day.
3) You make it super easy to check your results. When you keep your plans in your head, you can manipulate them as you want. Not only that – I highly doubt after 12 months you’ll remember what target exactly you had in mind a year before.
When you write down your goals, even after a year you’ll still be able to check whether you have achieved them or not.
4) You prepare yourself mentally for the up-coming work. While many newbies think that working on an online business is somehow easier than going to a 9-5 job, it’s not. In fact, any business owner will tell you how stressful it can sometimes be to work on your own business, and deal with its various problems on a daily basis. It’s hard work and that’s what you should prepare yourself for.
Magically, when you write down everything that needs to be done (for any period of time) you mentally prepare yourself for the work and put your mind into “action” mode. Coming up with a plan AND writing it down makes the actual work easier as you now know exactly what you have to do and are ready to do it.
5) You free up your mind and are able to fully enjoy time away from business. Again, business can be so stressful sometimes and if you’re working from a home office, it’s even more difficult to ‘switch off’ from business to your family life in the evenings and on weekends.
I have really found that writing down the following day’s tasks makes the switch much easier. By listing all the things you have to do, you free up your mind from those problems and can better enjoy your free time.
And right now, with Christmas around the corner, you really want to take a good break from work and re-energise yourself for 2014! Writing down a yearly plan/target to come back to really enables you to forget about business and enjoy the holiday to its fullest!
These five reasons should be enough for you to start working on your time management! That is if you’re not doing so already.
It’s not that I have invented anything new here – I know, for most people this is all common sense. The problem is though that while many of you know it’s common sense, you’re still not putting it into practice! WHY? Why not make your life easier, increase productivity and free up your mind, all with some simple planning?
I believe I learned these concepts a few years ago from Eben Pagan in his Altitude program. They did a live study on how the program helped business owners increase their productivity. And when these business owners were asked what was the ONE single concept they took from the program that helped them most in increasing their productivity – TIME MANAGEMENT was the answer!
Every person who started doing this showed positive results. So this works and it works for everyone!
You know the old saying “all genius things – are simple”. This is one of those things, trust me.
It’s December – which for me means it’s time to do the full-blown 12 month goal setting for the next year. Before I start it, I always review last year’s calendar to see how much I have actually achieved and if there’s anything that needs to be continued on to the following year.
2013 has been extremely good for me. I have achieved all of the goals and even surpassed some of them. Ok, I’m still a bit short for one of my personal goals which involves my target weight which I haven’t quite been able to achieve yet.
Yes, by the way, I do set goals for my personal life too! This is not only business we’re talking about. Some of my personal goals for 2013 were:
- Fully switch to Primal/Paleo eating. (DONE!)
- Exercise at least 3 times a week. (DONE!)
- Reach target weight of 85kg. (almost done, lol, hopefully Xmas won’t mess it all up again!!)
- Spend more time with family. (DONE!)
And so on.
This really helps me stay on track throughout the year and you can’t imagine what it feels like now to look back at the plan I wrote 12 months ago and see I have been able to achieve 90%+ of my goals. It feels GREAT and is exactly the motivation needed to keep going!!!
As for the actual mechanics behind my time management system, I structure it like this:
This is one I’ll be writing now, in December. This is just a list of GOALS I want to achieve in my business and personal life in 2014. You can even break it down into further categories, if you have several businesses for example OR if you’re fighting with some specific personal issues (weight, smoking etc.). But in general, this is just a list of clear goals you want to have achieved in12 months’ time.
Few examples to get you going:
- Make £10k in monthly sales
- Generate at least 500 unique visitors a day to my online shop
- Launch new website
- Launch a new brand
- Take on first employee
- Start outsourcing product photography
- Have 30k in savings
- Start running every day
- Quit smoking
- Spend more time with family
- Learn to play piano
- Buy a new car
- Stop eating junk food
- And so on.
As you can see – it’s very easy and precise. The exact goals you want to achieve 12 months from now (they can be achieved sooner too of course).
What this does is give you TARGETS to work towards! You now know exactly what you want to do and can come up with a plan on how to achieve it.
What I do is work with 3 task lists:
1. Yearly task list – monthly view
I do this in December too. I take a yearly plan which has a 12 month view and roughly plan out which MAJOR goals I should achieve by when. Like you know you want to launch a new website, so you set a DATE by which the shop should go live.
Or for example you want to plan 2 family holidays – you put these in the monthly view too so you know exactly when you should go on holiday. It really helps to schedule holidays for the time AFTER some major work needs to be done. This will keep you motivated as you’ll know that after it’s completed, you’ll get a well-deserved rest (the old kids & candy method).
So this yearly task list will have your major tasks listed in a monthly view. Keep it simple and realistic. Each month should have no more than 3-5 major tasks.
2. Weekly goal list
This is a weekly view plan you’ll write on Friday each week, for the following week. In this you’ll plan your week by what needs to be done on each day.
What you do is check your task list for that MONTH and basically distribute the tasks over each week for that particular month. This way you know exactly what needs to be done every week. Again, this does not have to be a super detailed plan – just one or two major things you need to achieve each day.
3. Daily Task list
The last level of my time management system… this is the daily task list you write at the end of each day when you finish work, for the following day. Remember this greatly helps with switching off from business and will mean you can leave the office with a free head, so to speak.
For daily task lists I use an A4 sized sheet with 30 minute blocks. Later on I’ll show you where you can get such task sheets in Word format.
When you first start out with time management, it will be very difficult for you to know how long each task will take and you’ll find you’ve allocated too little/too long for different tasks. But soon, after just a few weeks of doing this, you’ll know automatically how much time each task will take, making the whole daily planning process an easy 2 minute job. And I’m sure you can find 2 minutes of time each day to write down a plan for the next day, right?
Depending on your personality, allocate your most difficult tasks to the correct time in your daily routine. For example, I’m an early bird person! I wake up at 6AM, sometimes even earlier and have my energy boost during the first part of the day – up until 12:00. That’s why I put my most difficult/complicated tasks early in the morning and leave more pleasurable ones to the afternoon.
If you like working in the evening, do the opposite and leave difficult tasks till later on in your day.
Also schedule and plan your breaks! Even shopping breaks, dinner, lunch etc. – put it all in your daily task list so that it creates a full day plan, down to every task you’ll be doing that day.
This may sound like a lot of work but essentially it’s NOT!!!! It really just takes me a minute or two each day to write these down. I keep my blocks to 1-2 hours (NOT MORE) as it has been proven that in general human beings can’t really concentrate for more than 90-120 minutes on one thing (if you’re different, do what works best for you!).
So this us how it looks visually:
If a yearly plan is too much for you right now; start with a weekly goal list and daily task lists. But I would still recommend you write down your main goals for the year so you can review them in 12 months’ time.
You can do planning online, using Google Calendars, special programs or even your smartphone. But I have found that WRITTEN word works so much better, especially for daily task lists. So what I do is use templates from Calendars That Work, print them out using my laser printer (to save on paper you can use old invoices, letterheads etc.) and just write down everything by hand, using nothing but a pen!
Sounds too old school for you? Yes, it is old school and not very eco-friendly BUT it works! When you write these plans with your hand, on paper, it really makes a difference and the fact that you can have these plans lying on your desk all the time, makes it easier to check and make changes if needed.
Yes, speaking about changes – plans do change, all the time! There’s nothing wrong with changing your plans. In fact, I recommend doing so, especially if you make progress faster than you initially anticipated.
Don’t change your goals for the year though – these should stay the same just so you can re-evaluate them at the year end. You can ADD new things to it, yes, but don’t change what you have already written down.
Lastly, feel free to make any changes to this system to suit yourself! I have only described what works for me – it could be that you need a different approach, that’s totally fine. Take what you like from my experience and adapt it to your situation and personality.
Whatever you do – just give this a go! It doesn’t cost you anything and you will gain so much in return so please make it your number 1 priority to start properly working on time management! When you do and see immediate results you’ll never go back to keeping your plans in your head.