How to Plan Your Month for Success – Functional Planning Series

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We are getting crazy close to the end of the year and each month I’m reminded that there is still quite a few things I would like to get done before 2016 rolls on and we rock in the new year.

It’s so funny how at the beginning of each year we all have these amazing goals or resolutions about what we want to do for the year and then as the calendar counts down we find that list less about how excited we will be to accomplish those goals and more about how we can’t wait to get them done. It could be that is just be but I would be willing to bet any of my lovely high heeled shoes that I am not the only one out there with this thought running through her head. The voice that says, “Let’s just get it done already”.

However, just because the year is ending that doesn’t mean that we can’t set our calendars up for great success in these last two months. After all someone once said, “it’s not how you start but how you finish that counts”. So let’s finish strong.

Here are five of my top tips for planning your month for success:

1. Set aside at least a half an hour to an hour to really plan your month.

How many times do we just put some sticky notes down when things come up or pencil it in without thinking about the full month? If you are like me sometimes the month can get away from you without any thought whatsoever. Add in that we watch monthly plan with me’s that are ten to fifteen minutes long and you can start to think that as long as things are on your list then you are good. This is just reactive planning and we want to be pro-active, right? When you take the time to really sit down and plan your month, and I’m not just talking about the monthly tab in your planner but the whole month, then you are making sure that everything is set up correctly.

So grab a glass of wine (not to big because we want to make sure we stay focused) and look through each week thinking about what needs to get done. Add in all your appointments and scheduled events and then move on to your monthly task and so forth and so on. Take the time to really look at your month and remember that just because you formally planned the month doesn’t mean that you can’t add anything to it or take something away. This is simply insuring that you have a road map for the month to keep you on the right path.

2. Have all your schedules there with you when you plan.

How many times do you have something planned out and your kids, spouse, significant other, whoever adds something that throws your whole schedule out of whack? It has happened to us all, believe me. You just want to go into your room, grab a pillow and scream like you’re Jamie Lee Curtis and it’s Friday the 13th. While that might be a little therapeutic it doesn’t help the over all situation. That is why it is so important to have ever schedule that you manage in front of you when you get ready to plan your month.

When I was managing a retail store I had to do the schedule for all the employees and I tried to do the whole month before the first so that everyone could schedule themselves accordingly, especially during the holidays. Let me tell you that trying to manage scheduling 12-20 people around when you need everyone there was not a fun task. I had a rule that if you had a request then it had to be in no later than the 15th of every month. Which means if you needed a day off in November I needed that request before the 15th of October. This is a practice that I have kept now that I work for myself. I make sure that I am contacting any and everyone that I need to by the 15th or the 20th at the latest to firm up dates.

I have my book club and any other obligations in front of me and any family schedules also when I sit down to start planning. I wish I could tell you that with this method those last minute items won’t pop up anymore but unfortunately life is life and whether we like it or not those little schedule bumps always show up. Yet when you start out with as much information as you possibly can then they are fewer and farther between.

3. Look through the goals that you have for the year and integrate them into your monthly task list.

Our goals should be what keeps us productive through the year. Whether they are short term, quick goals or a full whopper of a year-long goal, they should be one of the first things that you look at. Now I know some of us don’t have formal, written out, multi-task goals but you should have some game plan as to what you want to accomplish for the month.

Here would be an example. Let’s say that you don’t have a full goal list but you know that you want to spend more time with your kids for the holidays. That is a goal. So when you are planning your month then try to figure out exactly how you can do that and plan accordingly. Maybe you can be a teacher’s aid in their class for the day or take them to the petting zoo or pumpkin picking. Whatever it is be sure to add it in.

What if you are a blogger or Etsy shop owner and you haven’t written out goals but you know you want to increase your readership or your client base. Well you might want to stop and think about how you can reach these new readers or maybe you need to learn a new program to advertise more. Those might be task that you need to add in.

4. Start with the most important task and work your way through the list.

When I was in school and would come home with homework I always started with my English assignment. I was good and English and could get it done quickly. I hated math and that was the absolute last thing I worked on. Sometimes that would mean that I was up way later than I wanted to be because I had to get it finished and the later it got the harder that math seemed. Now why didn’t I start with the thing that I didn’t want to do first and then I could have breezed through the other? Because that is what we do as people and as planners.

How often do you know that you need to schedule a check-up for the family or an appointment with your tax attorney but instead you put in movie night first or you YouTube binge videos? When you are really planning for success sometimes you have to put in the not so fun things first and then go from there.

Steven Covey use to call it putting in rocks. You always start with your heaviest rocks and then add the pebbles last. The idea behind this was that you could get the heavy rocks in and then add the pebbles around them. As great as this is I like to limit my heavy rocks because I have found that if all you are doing is heavy lifting sooner or later you get tired and nothing else gets done. For me I try to stick to only two or three really big things for the month depending on how big they are.

The most important part is that you start with the things that really matter and then move forward. You can always make time for the small stuff later.

5. Keep a running list of anything you didn’t accomplish.

This tip isn’t to encourage you to not get everything done but more to not beat yourself up if life gets a little out of hand and you don’t get through your list. Sometimes there are time constraints that can’t be helped or emergencies that come up without warning and that it okay. The important thing is not to blow off what you already set out to accomplish simple because they do. Too many times we have something written down to get done and then we lose track of time and think that we are going to get back to it later but we leave it written right where it is and we never go back to that page.

Try having a separate sheet of paper or a special spot where you put the things that didn’t get done. This way when you start to plan your month you can reference back to that place and be able to add it back in. I do have a rule about this for myself though. If I have added something three times and it still has not gotten done then I stop and re-evaluate it. Do I really want to do it? Is it worth my time? Is it important to a goal or value I hold dear? If the answer is yes to at least two of those questions then it get top priority and I can’t do something I really want to do until it gets done. I also tell someone else about it so that I am held accountable for it. I have to be honest and say that it doesn’t always work but for the most part it has helped along the way.

I hope that this ideas have given you some great thoughts for your next monthly planning session and that they help you have a productive and fun last two months of the year.

As a bonus I am doing a special Friday only price for my November inserts. Today only you can get the printable monthly pages and the monthly stickers for only $5. That is almost half price. Be sure to head over to my shop and take advantage of this wonderful offer before the end of the day.  You can click on either image to take you to the inserts.

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Let’s keep the conversation going as always. What have you found that helps you plan your month more efficiently? What tip are you most likely to try? Is there anything you would add? Leave your comments down below.

The Number One Reason I Decided to Create My Own Inserts

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With so many planners and planner inserts out there is there ever really a reason to create your own? I think that depends.

Sure you can go from planner to planner or from insert to insert but that doesn’t mean that you will achieve that allusive “planner peace” we are all searching for simply because you picked up a prettier insert than the last.

I know that this may sound a little counter productive since I happen to have a line of planner inserts that I sell but the reason why I designed the inserts that I did was so that they give you a freedom that I didn’t feel was there in most of the other planner inserts that I had found.

For me there was always something missing with the planners and inserts that I was finding. I couldn’t put my finger on it but I knew that I wasn’t getting what I needed from them. I would find myself searching in every office store I walked in for something different or spending hours on Etsy trying to find a layout that really spoke to me. I was like that new Tinder member searching and hoping to find Denzel, Chris, or Liam waiting just for me. I wanted that one insert that said “I’ll work exactly like you need”.

Part of the problem was that I had worked for a planner company before and I absolutely loved their planners. They worked for me in every sense of the word. Did I have complete and total planner peace? Was I running through the mountains with my planner clutched tightly to my chest singing “the hills are alive with the sound of music”? Not quite but I was going most everywhere with my planner in my purse feeling confident that I was on track and and on schedule. That is the same thing right?

So the number one reason that I decided to buckle down, fight with my graphics program, and do the dang thing myself was for the freedom to make it completely personal.

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Just about every planner or inserts claims that you can personalize your page and to some extent that is true. You can add the stickers that work the best for you, you can doodle or bullet journal your way through each day, or you can just washi the whole page and call it good. Whatever floats your boat. However, when you sit down and design each page you get to think about what you really need. For me I went through all my old planners that I could get my hands on and I looked not just at what I thought made each one work well but what I used most. Then I was able to figure out if I wanted those items in my inserts or if they were really necessary.

Let me tell you that there is a certain mad scientist high you get when you are Frankenstein-ing your way into planner oblivion. At first you feel like you can add everything and then you have to stop and get real. You find yourself fist pumping the air like a bad 80’s movie character when you get something to work and you get that Flashdance excitement when you finally get it done.

Now I just want to say for the record that I am not advising every single person to create their own planner. First off, it is a lot of hard work and if you are like me a few sleepless nights and at the end you still may not like what you have created. You could start to use it and figure out that something still isn’t right. So if you decide to go down this road then you have to be prepared for how it plays out.

The reason I am sharing my story with you is because I understand that some people might be nervous to give it a go. Some of you have wanted to put together your own planner for quite sometime but feel like maybe that isn’t something you could do or that no one would understand creating your own because there are so many already out there. Maybe you already own two or three of any of the popular planners and it just seems wasteful to do something like this. I want to let you know that it’s not.

If you feel like you could create something that can keep you on track, help you organize your life better and give you the freedom to plan as you like then I say go for it. Planning is about you. It is about what works best for your life and whatever might be needed. So if you are worried that you can’t then I am here to tell you that you can and I for one can’t wait to see what you come up with.

As always let’s keep the conversation going. If you have any questions are motivational stories about your planner journey be sure to share them below.