Monthly Planning

I must admit that this layout isn’t mine; it’s based almost entirely on Charles Gilkey’s Monthly Planner. Doesn’t mean you have to use his sheets (although if you like paper planners, I can’t see why you wouldn’t), only that I can’t take credit for the clarity of this procedure. Also that, if you want to follow along at home, you should print one of those off before you start reading.

Step 1: Major Events
Look over your calendar and see what’s coming up this month. Write down major events like birthdays, anniversaries, vacations, visiting friends, conventions, and so on. This avoids scheduling too much in months where you have a church event one weekend, a vacation the next, and relatives in town the weekend after that (this happened to me last month).

Step 2: Objectives
Go take your annual objectives that you set back in Annual Planning. (See, I told you I’d be asking for them). Look over where you’re at on getting those done, and what needs to be done to move forward on them.

Unless you have fewer than 5 projects, you won’t be able to work on all of them this month; you’ll have to prioritize. Sometimes you can do this by season — my gardening projects take priority in spring and fall, but can be neglected in summer and winter. Other times you’ll have projects that are important and must be worked on every month, and other projects that you work on every other month. For more information on deciding what to do, check out Time Management Hacks, or just decide randomly.

Once you’ve figured out what projects you want to work on, figure out a goal to work towards this month. For gardening, it might be “Finish Planting”. For your blog, it might be “Post 20 times”. For your business it might be “Plan an Ad Campaign” or “Launch New Widget”.

Write down up to 5 of these.

Step 3: Weekly Goals
Taking into account the major events, write down sub-goals that will take you towards your monthly objective. For example, “Finish Planting” might be broken down into “Plant Peas” “Plant Potatoes” and “Plant Cabbage”. “Plan an Ad Campaign” might be broken down into “Decide on Promotion Type” “Determine Target Market” “Select Medium” “Write Copy”. Write these in the weekly slots, up to five projects per week.

When deciding when to do what, take the following into account:

  1. Some of your steps will need to be done before/after others; make sure you schedule “Write Content” before “Post Content”
  2. Schedule fewer things in weeks when you’ve got a lot going on.
  3. Since you have five monthly objectives and five weekly projects, you can schedule one sub-goal on each project per week.  Or focus one one project this week, one project next week, and so on.  Whatever feels good to you.
  4. I like to “front-load” my months — schedule 5 things in the 1st week, 4 things in the 2nd week, and so on.  Then, when something comes up and I can’t finish something, I have space in the next week in which to do it.

Step 4: Relax

Yay!  You have a plan for the month, which will make your daily and weekly planning much easier.  Keep this list somewhere (Yes, I will be asking for this in a later post) and go have a nice cup of tea (or a coffee, or read the morning paper, or whatever sounds rewarding to you.)

Resources for Further Reading
The Monthly Action Planner