What part of your annual goals can you complete this month?
What will be the most important things this month.
Because by executing your monthly priorities, you close the gap on your annual goals.
The Monthly Planner – Your Big Tasks
Once you have a solid Annual Plan, which also includes your list of ongoing projects and recurring items, it’s time to change the outlook to the monthly horizon. When you created your annual plan, you focused not only on the itemized actions you must take this year toward your short-term goals, but also on your learning plan structure. In this way you created some general deadlines throughout the year.
With that annual plan in front of you, it’s now time to check which actions begin or end in the current month, and which ones are merely transient. (Meaning you must do something but it has neither a beginning nor an end.)
Having crystal clarity about the way your month should unfold before the month actually starts is a critical step in ensuring that you will stick to the plan. That’s why I recommend doing your monthly plan on the last Sunday of the previous month.
At that time, you will close the current week, and you’ll do your weekly summary (which you’ll learn about next) and then proceed first to do a review of the month that has ended, followed by the plan for the next month.
A question you might have: what if my quarter ends that time as well? In that situation, you will first complete your weekly review, followed by the monthly review, and then the quarterly review. All of these should not take you more than one hour combined. Although it seems like a lot, these reviews will help you to stay on track, improve your productivity, and identify points of failure.
Over time, you will develop the skill to go through these reviews much faster. You’ll learn how to quickly spot the problem areas, and how to implement systems to fix them. Therefore I highly recommend you don’t skip any of these review steps, as they will help you tremendously.
Once you’ve completed any reviews due, you can move forward with the new month’s plan. That will ensure that you have all the up-to-date information, and you can base your decisions on the current situation.
Monthly Planning Strategies
You should mentally divide your month into four chunks. Naturally, you’ll think in terms of weeks, even though some months have more than four weeks. But if you simply divide your month into four approximate chunks of time, you can look at it as follows:
- Part 1 – most difficult, most important tasks should be done here.
- Part 2 – leftover from part 1, plus medium priority tasks and other ongoing projects.
- Part 3 – leftover from part 2, plus lower priority tasks and other ongoing projects.
- Part 4 – closing the gap, catching up, review, monthly reset.
As you can see here, you want to take the most critical and most difficult tasks of your month and plan them in the first 25% of that month. That ensures not only that you tackle the most important things first, but, if you encounter some kind of struggle, there is enough time in the month to adjust and still be able to complete them. As Brian Tracy would say, eat that frog first!
When it comes to your learning plan, make sure that you schedule the critical practices first, and leave the research for interests toward the end of the month. If anything must fall off the month, it should be the latter.
Because your Monthly Plan must tackle all aspects of your overall vision, it’s tempting to pack your month to the fullest. Try not to. Make sure you don’t overpack it. Instead, leave ample time for rest and recovery, and empty buffer space for incidentals.
Ongoing Projects and Recurring Items
In your annual plan, you have defined your list of ongoing projects. These include administrative things designed to either improve or fix some aspects of your life. They might be repairs to your home, upgrades of furniture, or car upgrades, and so forth. Whatever they are, they should take the second seat to your primary goals.
Of course, there can be an overlap here: some items from your ongoing projects list might either be directly or indirectly related to your goals. I’m talking about those projects that you need for your life to move forward, but they do not represent natural steps in your overarching goals.
These are things you know you have to do, so you should strive to schedule them in the second and third parts of your month.
As for recurring items, prioritize them based on their difficulty. That’s because they are already on the recurring list for a reason: you have pre-defined that they are a must, and that they are cyclic. But you must also look at the level of difficulty; the longer you delay a challenging task, the more likely you are to postpone it indefinitely.
So, if you have monthly recurring tasks that you must do, try to find a place for them either in the first or second parts of your month. By getting them out of the way quickly, you not only free your mind and physical space of their existence, but you also prevent the anxiety caused by not doing them.
Much like you have an annual reset, you need to think about small monthly resets as well. These are not going to be as big as your annual ones, but they are still significant. They could be something such as a day per month, or a few days per month.
They could be a trip or a day at the spa. They could be a night away from home with your wife while your kids are with your parents. Or dinner and a movie. Or a Broadway show. The possibilities are endless.
This reset is an opportunity for you to recharge your short-term batteries and enjoy the fruits of your success. You are working hard on your plan; you are completing tasks, reviewing, and experiencing a general feeling of accomplishment.
Don’t let that become another drug. Don’t fall into the trap of beginning to ignore those around you. Remember that one part of your mission is to be a role model and to inspire others. Use this reset time to tap into that. Relax, take a breath, and enjoy life.
Your Monthly Planner
The Monthly Planner Sheet looks like a monthly calendar. You will plan the events of the month on this calendar, and it will become your source of inspiration for the weekly planning session. When you do your monthly planning, make sure you keep an eye on any family or shared calendar you may be using.
A lot of times, things pop up in a shared calendar that you are not aware of. Your spouse received an invite to a kids’ birthday party so they put it on the calendar, but you didn’t notice. Now, when you do your monthly plan, take stock of all of the items in your shared calendar. That’s because you must plan your month around them.
Of course, you must use your judgment to determine if all of the items in the shared calendar apply to you, and whether there are specific tasks you must complete to comply with it.
In addition to the pure spreading of tasks across the monthly planner, you will also document your top priorities for the month and link them to their respective goals or life areas.
Again, your monthly planning session shouldn’t take a long time. I’ve gotten to the point where I can plan my month in about thirty minutes, which includes my review for the previous month. It will be daunting at the beginning, but it’s all about establishing this habit. Once you understand how to do it, you’ll begin to love it.
The clarity and organization such a detailed overview provides will take a lot of anxiety about the unknown out of the equation. It will allow you to focus on your top priorities and, month after month, get closer and closer to your annual goals.
Create Your First Monthly Plan
For now, click on the link below to download your Monthly Plan Template Worksheets. You can print a few copies to have for the whole year, or revisit this link when you need more. Either way, enjoy creating your first Monthly Plan. Once you’re done, don’t forget to check the Monthly Review page for instructions on how to review your work.
Feedback, Comments, Suggestions, Testimonials
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