4 Steps to Creating an Annual Plan

annual planMany of us have hopes and aspirations that, for one reason or another, aren’t progressing as we would like. Maybe we want to improve our sales over the coming year—perhaps we have a small home business that hasn’t gotten traction—or it’s possible that we simply want to keep our work life from interfering with our home life. These are big aspirations and they can be very difficult to attain because life has a way of throwing sticks into our bicycle spokes.

Thankfully, our largest visions can become part of our reality, and this is the perfect time of year to see that they do. This is the time of year when you start thinking about next year. But this time things will be different because your hopes for next year are going to be accompanied by your annual plan. Here’s how you do it.

Start with your goals

An annual plan has to begin with generalities. You’ll save the specifics for later. Start by listing your basic goals. Begin with the end in mind. List your big-picture goals by thinking about how you’d like next year to end. For example, “I want to earn $15,000 from my in-home photo studio to supplement my full-time income.” Or, “I want to leave work at work so I can focus more on family time.” Don’t worry about how you’re going to achieve these goals yet, for now you’re simply writing down the things you’d like to do. List all of your goals from big to small.

Sort

When we start this process, it’s easy to feel excited and end up with a huge list of goals that we want to accomplish. A huge list is fine, but we don’t want to bite off more than we can chew. Now that you have your list, prioritize your list by deciding which items are most important to you.

Sort your most important goals into your ‘A’ list, the next most important segment of goals into your ‘B’ list, and so forth. Then go through each list and assign priority by number. This is an incredibly healthy exercise because it helps you focus. You may be surprised to find out that what you thought was your most important goal when you began this process ends up superseded by an even greater goal.

Prepare

Big goals need to be tackled one step at a time and in the right order. If you want to eat a great meal, you first need to purchase the ingredients, prepare them, cook them, and serve the food. One of the reasons we don’t complete our goals is because we want to skip steps. We want to eat our meal right after we buy our ingredients and we get frustrated when it doesn’t work. Think through your goals and break your goals into small, manageable pieces that you can accomplish in a short time—hours, days, weeks, and so forth. Schedule these steps in your planner. Set dates for each part of your goal to be met and note those dates on your monthly planner tabs.

Track Your Progress

Now you’re ready to start, and you’ve got a whole year to ensure you get it done. Take your first step by scheduling a simple action in your weekly or daily planner. Look back on your progress often. Keep your master list of goals in your planner and refer to them regularly to be sure you’re making the kind of progress you’d like to see. If you miss a goal along the way, quickly reschedule it so that you don’t fall too far behind. Before you know it, you’ll be looking back on a year of rewarding accomplishment.

Setting and reaching goals takes work and time, but by this time next year you’ll be a year older whether you reach your goal or not. Why not jump in now and make it a year to remember?

Good luck, and happy planning.

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