The Best Way to Plan Your Life [Plan Your Year]

What’s the best way to plan your life? And if that’s too big for you, how about we focus on this coming 12 months or the next year? How do you plan for 12 months? How do you plan your year?

How did the Pandemic impact you?

It’s now three years since the pandemic started. When it started, I was up in Queensland, I was house-sitting for a friend of my sisters on the Sunshine Coast. I had a good life; I was wandering around Australia house-sitting, and my business was going along nicely. I didn’t have too many complaints.

But when the pandemic hit, everything got tossed upside down. There was no more house sits because people everybody had to come back home. And I finished up coming back to my hometown Geelong. It was a struggle. And it was the same time my Dad went into aged care with dementia. And then during the pandemic, he died.

And I was at home looking after my mum basically she was alone for the first time in 60 years, She needed some support and I needed a place to live. Plus, my business effectively collapsed because my two main clients, one lost his business, and the other one unfortunately died. I found myself living in my hometown after 25 years, and I just didn’t know anyone anymore.

And my whole world just shrank. I didn’t have my adventures; I didn’t have my business; I didn’t know anyone and I had nowhere to go as we were in lockdown for extended periods of time. And I was at home living and caring for my mom. As someone in their 50s, a bachelor who had never married, that wasn’t how I thought my life was going to pan out.

The Pandemic - The World is Temporarily Closed
Image by httpsunsplashcomedwinhooper

How I Plan My Year

One of the days of the year I look forward to the most is New Year’s Day. It’s my chance to start things from scratch. And being a creative person, I love starting things.

New Year’s Day was always that perfect time to finish everything that had happened the year before and start with a fresh clean sheet of paper to plan a whole new year ahead.

For the last five, maybe 10 years, I’ve made New Year’s Day into my big ‘Year Ahead’ Planning Day. I would literally sit down and go through this step-by-step process.

The 100-50-10-Year Review

Each time I plan my year, I start by completing and reviewing the last year. My process has three parts.

100 Accomplishments

First, I would write down 100 – yes 100 – accomplishments, things that I was pleased with from that year. While a hundred is a lot, it forces you to work through and find all those little nuggets that you accomplished over the year.

Some of them might be big things like I wrote and published a book, they’re obvious. But it also might be, ‘well, I joined the gym, and I went to the gym 20, 30, 50 times or maybe even once or twice a week. List both your little daily nuggets and some bigger goals.

50 Disappointments

Next, I look at the flip side of my accomplishments. I look at the things that were disappointments, that I didn’t fulfil, didn’t meet my expectations or I didn’t achieve during the year. I aim for 50 disappointments.

These might include things like ‘well I wrote one book, but really, I planned for two books’, or ‘I joined the gym, and I only went one day a week when really I wanted to be fitter and stronger than I am right now’.

10 Lessons

This leads us to the most valuable part of this process: the lessons we learnt.

When we identify what worked, we can be proactive about doing more of this in the future. When you identify what didn’t work, you can be proactive about doing less of this, minimising it or avoiding it all together.

Naturally, you want to improve and make this coming year better than the last. And you most definitely don’t want to be repeating the same mistakes over and over.

Completion

The whole point of this process of identifying accomplishments and disappointments is to get complete with how your year panned out.

You want to own what happened and what didn’t happen. You don’t have to like what happened, but it helps emotionally if you accept it has happened.

You’ve probably had the experience of being upset, incomplete or emotionally charged when an intimate relationship has finished. While that is natural, you don’t want this to linger and cloud future efforts.

Plan Your Year - Two Planning Phases - Completion

Setting Goals and Creating Projects

This is the perfect way to start planning your year. It clears the deck of last year and creates a blank sheet for you to begin creating your goals for the year.

Once I set some goals then I create projects around them. Here’s the template I use for project planning.

The Big Day Has Arrived

Planning my year was me in my element as a designer or a planner, or an architect (as I used to be). That’s why it was the most exciting day of the year for me.

The big day arrived, New Year’s Day 2023. And normally I’d be really excited about planning my year. But this year, I just wasn’t. I didn’t have any energy. I didn’t really have any desire. And I was like, ‘I don’t want to do this today’, which was unusual.

But I thought, ‘okay, one day… you can have an off day, so let’s leave it till tomorrow. That’s not going to make much difference’.

Then the next day came and I didn’t do it. Then I put it off for another day and another day. And then eventually a week went by. And I thought, ‘this is not going well’. Then two weeks had passed. When January 14th came along and I hadn’t started planning my year, I knew something was wrong.

What to do if you have no Energy to Plan Your Year

If you have no energy to create or plan your year, it generally means you are incomplete with what has happened.

For me, I didn’t have a great last year. My life had shrunk so much I wasn’t happy with where I was at. And that included that for most of the goals I had set for myself last year, I didn’t fulfil them. This was disappointing. And I didn’t want to face this truth.

And that’s what I started to look at. While you’ll want to keep busy and avoid facing it, I find it’s better to just sit with it. For me, this means doing a meditation, writing in a journal, taking a long walk (without your phone) or just sitting and reflecting. You may even want to talk this through with a close friend or partner.

An important point here is to treat yourself kindly. If you have had a bad year or a tough time, it doesn’t make you a bad person. You want to separate what you did from who you are.

I’m generally good at completing my goals so I knew that last year was me not being my best or operating in difficult circumstances.

The Best Way to Plan Your Year

A second part of this was the way in which I set my goals for the year. It didn’t work so naturally I didn’t want to repeat that. I felt like I needed a different way to plan my life and another way to plan my year ahead.

I started to ask myself, ‘If last year didn’t work for me, what is the best way to plan my life and my year?’

The common wisdom is that setting goals is the best way to plan your life. This is important because it brings your focus to a specific thing, and then you can bring energy to that focus.

But goals can also trap you, they lock you in. At the start of the year, you’re saying, ‘I want this’ standing at the start of the year. But as you get halfway through the year, it might turn out you want something else. So being able to be flexible and adaptive in your goals is a tricky thing.

I think we all found this in 2020. In January we all had great plans for the year ahead, but by March when the pandemic had hit it was clear we needed another plan.

I realised something was missing from my year plan process. But I didn’t know what.

Brendon Burchard - High Performance Planner

The Big Missing in How You Plan Your Year

Then one day at my local coffee shop, I came up with the answer for what I needed for planning my year ahead.

Most days, I fill in my Brendon Burchard High-Performance Planner. (I love this tool and recommend it) And there is a particular question on the daily journal page. Question number two asks, “If one word could describe the kind of person I want to be today, then that word is… and why I chose it…”

On this day, I realized that I had started filling in that question with the same answer. I started saying that the word for me is to ‘be creative’. And the reason I chose to be creative is that I know when I’m at my best, I’m being creative. When are you at your best?

That’s what I’m known for amongst my colleagues and clients, if you want a creative solution, an insightful answer or a fresh perspective, then go and see Geoff.

While my colleagues see me as creative, and I see myself as creative too, what I realized was missing was that word before that. It was ‘be’ creative. I had been doing a lot of creative stuff, but I hadn’t been generating the ‘being’ part of that conversation.

The best way to plan your life - plan your year

Don’t make this mistake in Planning Your Year

You might have heard of the expression ‘be-do-have’. You must generate your way of being, what you bring to a situation, to take the right action to do the right things so you can then have the things that you want.

In my case, it wasn’t the goals I set. Pursuing your goals is the ‘doing’ part. But I wasn’t generating or bringing the right ‘way of being’, the creative way of being to my goals and my actions. That’s what was missing for me.

And that’s what I think is missing for a lot of people in the way that they plan their life and plan their year – they spend all their time focusing on doing and having, and they forget about the way of being.

Plan Your Year - Two Planning Phases - Create

Creating a Theme for Your Year

Upon realising this, I decided I needed a ‘way of being’ theme for the year. The obvious one was, ‘The Year of Being Creative’. So that’s what my year 2023 will be focused on.

I can still have my goals of what I’m going to create – the doing part. But if I focus on what I’m bringing to the situation, my attitude, my energy, and my intention, around the activities that I’m doing, that way of being will shape the doing, and hopefully, give me the having.

My Projects and Goals for 2023

While I haven’t worked out all the detail and all the projects, I’ll take on this year, one commitment I am going to continue is producing posts and videos like those on this page. But the topic is going to change.

Previously, I’ve been ‘trying’ to target keywords as my post topics – like all the experts say to do. I’ve achieved modest results with this approach. But worse, I’ve compromised what I wanted to talk about.

I see this situation as finding the right balance between what I’m interested in and what others are interested in. I think I haven’t had this balance right up to now.

This year, in line with my theme of ‘Being Creative’, that’s what my videos and posts will focus on. That gives me two strong topics creating things (the doing) and how I create them (the being).

My Theme for the Year: A Year of Being Creative

The Best Way to Plan Your Year

My encouragement for you in planning your life and your year is to not just look at the goals for doing or the things you want to have for this year or for your life. But also look at your way of being.

I’ll share more about this in future posts and videos. Today, you can start reflecting on these questions to explore your way of being:

  • What type of person are you going to be this year?
  • Who are you going to be?
  • What are you going to bring to your situation?
  • What attitudes are you going to adopt?

The key to remember is your way of being will shape your doing more powerfully and make it easier to have the things that you want in life.

More on Planning Your Year, Planning Your Life

If you want to dig a little deeper into the best ways to plan your year and your life, here are some more resources to consider:

Plus, my upcoming book The Done Game Plan will offer a more detailed way to plan your projects.

Let me know what you create in the comments below. What is your theme for 2023? And who are you going to be?

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