A Look at How I Plan My Month
As the seasons change, I do quarterly reviews. With March comes spring, and so I did my review. I remove the previous month from my planner and I review my roles + goals + values. I do this because I like to be organized + effective. I like to know when I can work on something. I like to know what I'm going to be working on. I want to finish what I start. I think I have a pretty good system going, so I wanted to share my quarterly process with you. It is a simple system that I have broken down into 5 parts. This will work with any planner. You can even use a notebook if you don't have a planner, it's that easy. This is really part 2, with part 1 being How to Plan, so I encourage you to fill out that workbook first. I say this is my quarterly review, but most of it I do every month. That is why I titled it Monthly Planning.
It is so important to begin with the end in mind. This is habit 2 in Stephen Covey's 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. (Habit 1 is be proactive, or awareness.) To begin with the end in mind, you must understand where you are right now, and where you want to be, before you even begin. Otherwise, how will you ever get there? It's like driving around when you're lost; you will never reach your destination until you drive around long enough to finally recognize where you are so you can then make a plan to get where you desire to be. When you know where you are + where you want to be, you are ready to begin. This is also knowing who you are + who you want to be.
The 'end' is having my day planned. To get there, I plan out my whole month.
Step 1: Create Your New Master Task List
The first thing I do is what Stephen Covey calls your Master Task List. I make a list of my personal categories. For each category, I list up to three tasks. My categories are: physical, mental, spiritual, emotional, spouse, family, friends, money, + home. That will give me up to 27 tasks, or about one per day. Some are daily things like working out, and some are one time tasks.
The key is to really narrow down what you want to do so you actually do it. Make it easy on yourself. You might want to make a larger list of everything you want to do and then go back and pick your select few for the month.
Then I open up my master task list from the previous month and transfer over anything that I still need + want to do. Sometimes I end up with more than three things, but I do try to keep it realistic because I want to make sure I do them. If I have something I want to do but I know I'm not going to get to it this month, I will write it on the next month.
Step 2: Review Roles + Set Goals
The Second thing I do is look at my goals. I do this by reviewing my roles. I review my roles by filling out my score sheet from my planning workbook.
Ask yourself how do you want to show up in life? What kind of a mom do you want to be? What kind of a wife do you want to be? What kind of a friend do you want to be? Compare how you want to show up to how you actually show up. What can you do to show up the way you want to show up? What can you do to be who you actually want to be? When you have the desire to be something or to be a certain way, at some level you are already that person. You just have to learn to let yourself show.
Remember to do this for your own role of self also. How do you want to be physically? Mentally? Emotionally? The more you understand yourself + take care of yourself, the easier it will be to fulfill those other roles.
And then, outside of your specific roles, do you have any goals set? I want to be able to use my camera on the manual setting by the next season change. I've got about 90 days to learn how to use it. Even if I spend 1 hour a week, that's about 12 hours. That will bring me so much closer to reaching my goal. If you set a goal and you are afraid of not actually accomplishing it, stop listening to your negative self. If I don't learn to use my camera in manual by summer, it's okay. The point is to start trying. It's who you become in the process. Look at your goals from a place of curiosity. Who will you become in the process of working towards your goal?
Be sure to transfer actionable steps onto your master task list. You need to be able to schedule these in your calendar so you can do them.
Step 3: Do What's Important
After I have my master task list I have to figure out when I'm going to do everything. I look for what's important. Scheduling a dentist appointment is important. Understand the difference of what's important + what's urgent, and do what's important. I work my way down my list and when I come to something that is important, I transfer it from my task list to my calendar.
Later, when I do my weekly planning, I will transfer it to the daily page. These important tasks are what Stephen Covey calls your Big Rocks. When you focus on your big rocks, you are actually able to accomplish more tasks. It's amazing. We often don't feel like doing them because they aren't 'urgent'. DO WHAT'S IMPORTANT. You will be so glad.
So really, planning my month means curating my master task list.
Step 4: Plan Your Week
So everything above is essentially all about creating that master task list. You now have one list of things to do for the next three months (quarterly), and your monthly calendar spread probably has a few important tasks written in. At this point your month is planned. Simple as that. Now, it's up to you to decide how your week goes. I like to start my week on Monday and end on Sunday, so I plan my week every Monday morning.
To do this, I check my monthly spread to see what I need (what's important) to do this week. I write those in on my daily pages. If I have an appointment I will make a note of it on the day before. Then I look back at the previous week's daily pages to see if there was anything that I didn't do that I still need to do, and I write those tasks in.
So after my month is planned, it really only takes about 5 to 10 minutes to plan my week.
Step 5: Plan Your Day
Now it's time to plan your actual day. This will take a little more time. There certainly is a lot that goes into planning if you want to be effective, but I think the key to being effective in your day is planning everything that comes before it- your month + week.
I have themes for my days (new for this quarter!), so I begin by writing my focus task for those on my day list. For those of you who are interested, they are as follows:
- Monday: planning + cleaning day
- Tuesday: deep clean 1 thing
- Wednesday: basic clean + 1 master task
- Thursday: menu planning + errands
- Friday: free time + date night
- Saturday + Sunday: family focus + renew
What themes could you set for your own days that will help you have more of a flow? Give yourself time to think about this and then honor yourself + follow through with it.
I have my focus task and then I list my everyday tasks like laundry + cleaning. And that is it! It's important to be realistic. You have 12 hours, how are you going to spend them?
After I have my daily list, I prioritize it, and then I schedule the tasks for a certain time:
- Write down what you are going to do.
- Then look at that list and put it in order of IMPORTANCE. Remember, do those big rocks.
- Then schedule it for a specific time.
- Now do it.
When I look at my schedule time-wise and I see that I have extra time in the day, I will add something from my master task list. It might take me 3 months to get through my master task list, but I still like having it because subconsciously the things that I want to do are in my brain, and sometimes I do them without actually writing them in my planner.
Planning my day takes about 15 to 20 minutes. Easy. It goes perfectly with a cup of coffee.
You have to be serious. You spend all this time planning, now make sure you follow through and actually do it. Set consequences for yourself to help you stay on track. More importantly, set rewards for yourself. If you do everything that you said you were going to do, what do you get? Tell yourself why you are doing this. Our brains love reasons + repetition. Keep it up. It get easier with time.
At the end of the month, go back to the beginning. Check off anything on your task list that you accomplished or no longer have the desire to do. Add to it what you now want to do. Don't feel pressured to do everything. Focus on one step at a time, one task at a time. If you start something new, you will get different results. If you do the same thing, you will keep getting the same results. Persevere my friend. It gets better. And of course, your Monthly Planning Workbook to help you.
Also, I mentioned that you can do this in a notebook if you don't have a planner. Check out this video explaining how to start your own bullet journal.