How I plan my year and stay laser focused every day
I get hundreds of questions about my Stories on Instagram whenever I hint at how I plan my yearly goals and daily tasks. Here’s how it all works.
Pick the big buckets
First of all, I pick the big “buckets” in my life that matter to me:
- Family & Friends
I then create a Gantt Chart (I’m a fan of TeamGantt — no affiliation) that looks like this …
I’m very visual so a Gantt Chart helps me see the big picture and then drill down to details. Perfect for my personality. I started off just making an outline in a Google Doc but I felt overwhelmed looking at the huge long document. It was easier for me to collapse everything down into big buckets and then open up each bucket as needed.
Once I create the big buckets, I drill down one layer and ask myself “When I look back at the year, what are the 3–5 things I really want to accomplish in each bucket?”
I add those as subgroups or tasks below each big bucket, like this …
As you can see from the screenshot above, I then break those down into actual daily tasks.
Mrs. Rubber, please meet Mr. Road 😀
I go from very high level ideas, to measurable projects, to daily tasks. Everything is in the format of “Do xyz-project, by abc-date”.
I don’t bother making individual tasks for things I need to do every day because it takes too long.
As you can see, most of these big exciting tasks (“Complete a Spartan Trifecta!”) are just a bunch of boring, repetitive tasks like “Workout 4x per week” and “Eat healthy”.
Block the Calendar
Once I create all these Gantt Chart tasks, I then create blocks on my calendar so I have time to achieve them. If I don’t do this, my day gets eaten up by ad hoc meetings or distractions.
A great example of this in action is writing this post. One of the things I’m actively focusing on in 2018 is raising high-level awareness for Treehouse. One of the actions to help accomplish that, is writing three times per week. I therefore create a repeating 1-hour “Write” appointment on my calendar on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
Blocking my calendar and staying disciplined has had a demonstrable effect on my productivity and accomplishments in the past year.
Enter the Journal
I’m an early riser, so I wake up at 4:30am every day to get in an extra hour of Treehouse work before my workout (5:45am — 6:30am). The first thing I do (after I brew a quick coffee and mix a protein shake) is pull out my Moleskine notebook and write down what I need to do that day.
I expand the Gantt Chart so I can see every line and I scan down the current day and see what I need to be doing. I transfer those things from screen into a simple bulleted list in my journal for the day.
The key is that I do this before checking email. I don’t want anyone else’s whirlwind to consume my focus on what I already decided was important for this year, week and day.
I treat that written list like my daily holy text — I stay 100% focused on completing the items, no matter what happens. If I don’t finish any tasks (which happens very rarely, maybe once per week), I add them to the next day’s list.
I tried todo list apps like Asana and it just wasn’t tangible enough for me. I love physically checking things off my list. Also, a physical todo list is strangely “protected” from the busyness of my laptop screen. I can think straight when I look at it.
Repeat and be patient
And then I do it again, day after day, week after week, month after month. Finally, big results start slowly rolling in, one little victory at a time, until it’s a wave of results.
It’s vital for me to have a longer term time horizon (I think in decade time chunks for Treehouse) so that I can be patient to work for a whole year on some things before they happen.
The big secret is that there is no secret. It’s as simple as …
- Decide on the 2–3 big buckets in your life
- Choose what you’d like to accomplish in each bucket over the next 12 months
- Drill down on each goal until it turns into a daily action
- Time-block your calendar to make sure you have time to accomplish those actions
- Do the actions
- Repeat for 365 days
What are your thoughts?
Would love to hear your tips and thoughts for planning your year and actions and getting things done.