Several years ago I began taking a new approach to planning my year. I have always been a big-picture, map-out-the-year kind of girl, but I found myself missing opportunities to execute meaningful events with intention. The truth is, good intentions are not enough. We have to create a plan of action to bring those intentions to life, and this is where planning your year comes into the picture.
Today I want to share how I approach my year, the way I map it out, and the method I use to be intentional with the coming twelve months.
When I look at a new year, I think of it in the following categories:
Regularly occurring celebration dates (birthdays, anniversaries, etc.)
Regularly occurring seasonal events (holidays, first day of school, spring break, etc.)
Unique once-in-a-while celebrations (weddings, graduations, etc.)
Maintenance events (doctor, dentist, haircuts, deep cleaning, etc.)
Value-based events (visiting my kids at college, personal retreats, family vacation, staff dinners, etc.)
To begin with, I make an exhaustive list of every date or event I can think of for the coming year, walking through each of the five categories above. It takes a little bit of time, but it pays off in the end.
I finish my list with value-based events. These are the places I want to show up well and protect with intention before the year gets away from me. These are events that I get to control and align with a particular value or goal I have set. This list is where I love to dream and plan. I always feel like I am stewarding a slice of my life in a way that I am proud of when I consider this category of my time.
With the master list complete, I begin to plug dates into my planner. I use pen, which represents a lot of growth for me, but it also reflects my intention. These dates matter. I start with birthdays, move on to holidays, layer in celebrations, add maintenance items, and then plug in my value-driven dates. I save these for last because I cannot control the date of Easter or a birthday, so I weave the flexible nature of my value-driven dates in and around the immovable ones.
For me, the challenge is to find a balance between anticipating events that I care about but that I cannot control (holidays, kids’ school events, seasonal events at work, etc.) and planning for and protecting events and dates that are less obvious, yet equally valuable to me. Deciding what matters to me in the big picture of the coming year helps me decide what I can say yes to and what I will say no to as the year unfolds.
For example, it is a value for me (and a resolution this year) to host four quarterly staff dinners at my home for my team at Hurley House. I have chosen four dates over the course of the year, taking into consideration other commitments, and I intend to make this happen. Already, with the events written in pen, the idea is taking root in my mind. The dates are claimed, and my intention is set. All things being equal, I am going to protect these dates. I will not double book myself for those evenings, I will decline other requests on my time for those evenings, and should something unforeseen arise that is very important (perhaps my daughter has the lead in the school play, and opening night falls on the same night as a staff dinner), then I can decide to change the date and be flexible while still living intentionally.
The process of writing out these events in full, planting them in pen in my planner, and feeling good about the direction I am heading in the coming year is comforting to me. When I decide on the front end what I care about and then create a plan for how to include that in my life, I am living with intention and stewarding my time well.
As you look ahead to the coming year, I encourage you to consider the five categories above, write them out in pen, and decide what matters ahead of time. Instead of reacting and watching the weeks fly by without accomplishing or showing up in the ways that matter to you, you can walk confidently into the coming year, knowing you have protected your time in a way that aligns with your values.