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:

  1. Family & Friends
  2. Treehouse
  3. Health

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.

I use the Bullet Journal method, but there’s no secret sauce. It’s just “Write it down, then do 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 …

  1. Decide on the 2–3 big buckets in your life
  2. Choose what you’d like to accomplish in each bucket over the next 12 months
  3. Drill down on each goal until it turns into a daily action
  4. Time-block your calendar to make sure you have time to accomplish those actions
  5. Do the actions
  6. 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.