After weeks of hot, un-autumn like weather, it's finally cloudy. Cool and drizzly. My favorite weather.
I'm sitting at my dining room table, sipping tea, earl grey, hot, listening to Loreena, hoping for rain from this storm-grey sky. Somehow the mellow mood is amplifying my desire to get organized for October.
This blog title might not match the mood, but I stand by the statement. Every good month I've had this year followed a monthly plan, no matter how rudimentary. And it wasn't always a business plan. Sometimes it was a wireframe of what I wanted to accomplish, including meal plans and washing the dogs. Success is deeply personal, and comes out of whatever it is you want to put forth into the world. That includes rest, recovery, downtime, if it's what you need.
During the months when I don't create a plan for myself, I tend to find myself adrift in an overwhelming sea of possibility, clinging to a life raft of mediocrity. When faced with an overwhelming number of options, hopes, and half-formed goals, it becomes exceedingly easy to write it all off with a hearty, "I'll focus tomorrow!" and then play video games on the couch until suddenly it's 8pm, the bed still isn't made, there's no dinner plan, and nothing got done. Cue the self-deprication.
When I got out of bed this morning, I thought of the list of amazing, exciting things I want to do, and I still felt overwhelmed. None of those things was actually scheduled for Today; for all my good intentions, technically I had "nothing to do." This is a dangerous place to be. Especially for those of us who are our own bosses and create our own schedules.
This is what makes a monthly plan imperative.
Here are my three reasons:
- A monthly plan gives you a safe place to store your goals, hopes, and dreams, resulting in a motivational list and freed up brain space.
- A monthly plan helps you get clear on when you're busy, and when you're not, giving you permission to schedule relaxation and playtime alongside the important work/home tasks.
- A monthly plan lets you schedule out your day-to-day work as far ahead as needed, ensuring you have something to work on and avoiding the "I'll do it tomorrow" trap.
- When I woke up this morning and felt overwhelmed by all the things I want to do in the next few weeks, with no clear roadmap to making them happen, the first thing I did was sit myself down at the computer and start typing out anything and everything that came to mind. No editing allowed; just brainstorming and list dumping.
- When I was complete, I was able to look at the calendar and decide how much of it was feasible in October; for example, we have friends staying with us for a week, so I knew four business class modules was unreasonable, whereas two to three were totally doable.
- With my list and my calendar side by side, I could pick and choose the best days for different types of work; classes are best on days when I have nothing else going on, whereas studio creation time totally works alongside freelance work or house work days.
My final step is putting it in an online container. I like Google Docs, but any sync-friendly app like Evernote or Wunderlist works. This allows me to access and update my list as needed, especially when I get a brilliant idea that will fly right out of my head if I don't write it down. Or, if you're a pen and paper person, any sort of dayplanner will work beautifully.
So, to sum up: Write it down. Be realistic. Schedule it out.
This system works equally well for business and home. In fact, I find that when I follow the steps and plan out my business work for the month, I'm able to schedule in all my home responsibilities, because I know exactly when I'm busy and when I'm free. Or vice versa.
And now, the bonus round: Add in your monthly business goals. At the top of every month's plan, I write down the dollar amount of sales I want to reach, and my three or four most important action steps for reaching that fiscal goal. Some months I have it all mapped out, and some months I write down the action steps on Day 20 when I finally get a good idea. The trick is to not beat yourself up or expect perfection out of the gate. Keep things fluid, flexible. adaptive.
Writing down sales goals isn't about 100% absolutely reaching those goals. It's about working toward them. If you set a sales goal of $1,000 and reach the 75% mark, you have purposefully earned $750 for your business, and established a repeatable pattern for the months to come. Is it possible that you'd have earned that $750 without a plan and a goal? Of course. But without the structure and clear action steps, that "possible" gets a lot more vague.
The final step is, as always, be gentle with yourself. Don't panic and berate yourself if you miss a deadline or take a day off to do something fun. Flexibility is also imperative because, without it, things can deteriorate into an all-or-nothing, zero sum game. And that's the last thing anyone wants. We all deserve to feel accomplished, successful, and happy. That's the whole point.