Big dreams mean big plans and that’s what I got up to last week! Armed with ideas and inspirations plus loads of stationary supplies, my sister Shannon and I booked a planning day together. Though I adore lists and calendars and making things happen, I can also crack under the pressure of over-planning. But this year, it seems we found a way that felt just right. I’m excited to share it with you and hope that our experience can be helpful as you plan the next year of your creative life!
What We Brought
- Index cards
- Sticky notes
- Big newsprint pad
- Big calendar
- Journal questions
- A good friend with a keen eye
- 9:00 – 9:30 Journaling
- 9:30-12:00 Jamie
- 12:00-1:00 lunch
- 1:00-4:00 Shannon
- 4:00-4:30 Revisit journaling
What I already knew:
- My focus. For this planning session, I was looking specifically at Jamie Ridler Studios in 2012
- My grand vision. This session was about bringing that vision to life by creating a plan and choosing actions that would move Jamie Ridler Studios in the right direction.
- My weekly schedule. I have an ideal schedule for my week. I revisit it regularly and have been refining it for the past couple of years. I’m excited about the current version because it includes more writing and project time and daily dedicated pockets of time for communications, including email and social media.
- What’s on my plate. This schedule includes all of my regular commitments from coaching to preparing Wishcasting to recording the podcast and interviews, what I affectionately refer to as “the regs.”
- My rhythm. I’ve designed my week to take advantage of my natural rhythms. My schedule is front-loaded with client work because that’s when I’m best able to be present and support clients with ongoing coaching. At the end of the week, I dedicate some half-days to projects and writing. This gives me a good block of time to create something like Soul Reflections or Sparkles.
- My commitments. I had all the dates and details for things I have already committed to for next year.
What I was looking for:
- To set my priorities for next year.
- To be sure the activities I choose for next year reflect those priorities.
- To plot out a schedule that supports my productivity and progress while enhancing my joy and ease.
How We Planned The Year Ahead
Shannon and I set aside the entire day and booked an awesome little room that’s a part of a local Starbucks. It was free, relatively private and gave us lots of space to spread out. We arrived with our supplies, set up our table and, with coffee in hand, dug in.
The first thing we did was some journaling, to connect us to what was truly important to us. This is such an important step, otherwise you can end up designing an entire year filled with things that just don’t mean that much to you! Shannon and I had compiled a series of questions that included: “What am I currently loving?” “What do I want to let go of?” “Where do I want to upgrade?” “What are my financial goals?” “What’s one big wild ass dream I’d love to come true?” “Where do I need to grow?” “What do I want to spend my time on? “What do I spend my time on?” We gave ourselves one minute per question and actually used a timer.
The Current Picture
Next we pulled out the big newsprint pad. You can get these at art supply stores as well as stationary stores. For around $2.00, this is an invaluable tool. With markers and newsprint, I poured out onto the page and to Shannon what my business looked like right now and also where I saw it headed. I had made three index cards to represent three major over-arching goals for the business. I had also made index cards for each current aspect of the business, from products to podcast, colour-coded by subject area (e.g. blue: client work, green: workshops, yellow: communications, red: content creation).
Then I started to talk about the things I was hoping to do, the ideas I had for what’s next. If this was something brand new, I created a new index card for it. If it was an improvement or development of something I was currently doing, I added a post-it note to its index card. I didn’t edit here. I just let ideas and possibilities flow out of me, some that I’ve known about for a long time and some came up in the moment.
This stage is the first opportunity to start the editing process. Having all of the possibilities in front of you, each taking up its own space, it’s easier to get a sense of “whoa, that’s probably too much for this year.” Shannon asked me how I think of my year and I said in seasons (i.e. fall, winter, spring, summer). I decided to limit myself to one or two priorities or projects each season, especially because these are on top of my “regs,” which are extensive. I also know that if I got them done earlier than expected, I can always add in more! One or two projects per season is enough to make me feel like I’m accomplishing something without pushing me to overwhelm or keeping me so busy I can’t say yes to opportunities and ideas that come along.
Looking at the index cards, I started pulling out those which were probably going to wait. I made two piles for those things: “maybe next year” and “later.” I also pulled together the ones I wanted to complete this year. Then I started to play around with the remaining ones, shuffling them into varying combinations of spring/summer/winter/fall. I asked myself, “Would this combination move me powerfully towards my big vision for Jamie Ridler Studios?” “Does this combination motivate and excite me?” I finally narrowed it down to between 8 and 12 things I wanted to put on the list for 2012. Yes, already exceeding the limit I’d given myself but with one more sifting process to go through: scheduling.
Then we pulled out the big calendar. This is often where I get totally tripped up. I start to get all squirrelly and uncomfortable when life gets scheduled in too much detail. Who knew that for me the answer would be: sticky notes! Being able to explore possibilities and get a picture of things without committing to them was instrumental in feeling out my year.
First we put in notes for all my travel dates. We didn’t plot in all my regs but had a good sense of my schedule in mind. We did put in regular commitments that had an irregular schedule. Then we worked with the projects I’d chosen for each season, looking at where they might fit in. Doing this with the tangible, physical object (the sticky note) once again made it clear when things were getting too full. When that happened, I made a choice and I moved a project or priority to a “if I have time” category.
Before I knew it, my year was planned and instead of feeling cramped or tight or rigid, I felt grounded, confident and excited about what was to come.
Some Things I’ve Learned About Planning
- “Say no more frequently so you can say yes more fully.” Laura West
- When you schedule in a commitment, also schedule in the time it is going to take you to prepare for that commitment.
- In order to feel excited, I always need something new and wonderful scheduled for the upcoming year.
- It is possible (and a really good idea) to take some time off to replenish and fill your well.
- Don’t fill the schedule too much or be too rigid. Leave space for wonder and magic. Leave yourself room to be able to say yes to unexpected and wonderful opportunities, not to mention time to breathe!
- When this is your life’s work, you don’t have to get it all done by Friday.