So my typical hot mess style of productivity has historically gone like this: Wake up, check Facebook, make a mental note to come back and answer people’s questions. Make coffee. Check email, mark everything unread so I can come back and respond later. Get my kiddo ready and off to school, come home, stare at the computer for a while wondering what I’m supposed to be working on, go back to the email, answer questions. Go back to facebook, answer more questions. Get sucked into the Facebook vortex. Take a quiz to find out what Disney princess I am. (Ariel. Minus the whole giving up my voice for legs thing.) Check the clock and realize it’s time to run out and pick up my daughter for school. Feverishly tie up loose ends with client work, only to realize I’ve gotten sucked back into Facebook. Eat something, work a bit more, fall asleep, wake up in the middle of the night wondering what work I forgot to do.
I left my job as a middle school teacher 7 years ago to raise my baby and my business full time. I remember one of the biggest changes at first was being able to pee whenever I wanted–I didn’t have to wait for my prep period or lunch to run to the bathroom! (Granted, I had a new little companion following me to the bathroom, but I could still go whenever I wanted. I wasn’t tied to a bell schedule anymore!) The freedom was amazing. But it was also paralyzing.
Without bells going off every 45 minutes and a new class of kids coming in the door, I didn’t know what I should be working on throughout the day! So I always just worked on what was most urgent. Whatever client work was due the soonest or whatever emergency was popping up. And that actually worked okay for a few years! I mean… I was on a fast train to burnout and I wasn’t doing anything to grow my business or fill my own cup, but hey–I had happy clients. Eventually I realized this wasn’t sustainable, though. I started dropping balls, falling behind, and my lack of marketing and business growth activities meant business started to slow down and I’d go into a full-blown panic figuring out how to build it back up. I’d get depressed about the lack of business, which just sent me to waste more time on Facebook, and the anti-productivity spiral got worse and worse.
I’d love to say that as soon as I realized this was going on, I picked up a magical productivity book and all was cured. But that wasn’t the case. I actually went on like this for several more years. Trying different things, having good bursts of productivity here and there, but never finding any sustainable solution. Strict schedules don’t work for me (too much of a rebel!) And loosey-goosey, open-ended days don’t work for me either (too distracted by shiny things!) I started to think I was a lost cause.
Until last fall I decided enough was enough and I declared that 2018 was going to be my best year ever in my business and life. I stopped looking for a magic solution and decided it was up to me to create something that would work for me. I also realized that instead of looking at goal setting and planning strategies as something that either stuck or didn’t stick, I could look at it all as an experiment. I could try things on and tweak what wasn’t working.
So over the next few weeks, I’m going to share what I’ve tried, what’s been great, what totally bombed, and what I’m continuing to practice as I work toward this goal of making a bigger impact in the lives of entrepreneurs and finding more success with less stress. (Ooo that rhymes. That just came out! I could make that a tagline or something!)
Why am I sharing this in June instead of January? Because everyone’s setting goals and resolutions in January. It’s fun and easy in January. We’re all excited about the new year and motivated by the freshness and the newness of it all. But in June, we’ve fallen back into old habits, real life has happened and we’ve either lost sight of our bright and shiny goals or they haven’t gone as planned and we need to readjust but we don’t know how. And I don’t know about you, but I’m kind of freaking out about summer break and how I’ll get any work done with my fun-loving kid at home full time. I know that I need to reconnect with my bigger goals and create a plan that’s going to be easy to implement to get through the summer. So I figure you probably need that, too!
We’re going to start with planning out your month!
I do all of my planning in my Bullet Journal (because I love the flexibility and being able to change my mind on what I include and how I lay it out.) If you’re not into Bullet Journaling (yet), I’ve created a printable planning template that you can download for free right here! Or you can use any calendar or planner, a blank notebook, or the back of the napkin you got at this morning’s Starbucks run. The important thing is that you get it down on paper and you don’t just run through it in your head. You can go ahead and add stuff into your digital calendar or to-do list app later, but grab a real pen and something real to write on first.
Step 1: I get all important dates on the calendar.
It is so frustrating to me to dream up big goals and action plans only to find my month is actually filled with field trips, doctor’s appointments, and school holidays and that I don’t have any time to implement those plans! So the first thing I do is get a big picture of my month, and write in all the important dates, appointments, birthdays and events in my calendar.
Step 2: Connect with my bigger goals and my theme for the year.
Every year I pick a theme word to guide me and help me make decisions. This year my word is “free.” I was feeling pretty stifled (probably because I was running around like a chicken with her head cut off all the time) and craving both financial freedom and freedom in my schedule. So as I do my monthly planning each month, I ask myself, “How can I experience more freedom this month?” I’m learning that for me, freedom is strongly tied to feeling safe and secure. (Which is super fascinating for me! I thought I just wanted more play time. Turns out what I really want is to know that I have reliable streams of income so that I can play without worrying about money and that I have set, focused times to work so that I can play without worrying when stuff’s going to get done.)
And that’s all lovely, but how does that translate to concrete actions? It means I know I need to focus on creating more reliable and steady sources of income and I need to move away from the cycle of doing big launches and then crashing and burning for months afterward. So my big goal this year is to turn my two main offers (Branding from the Inside Out and The Biz BFF Hive) into evergreen sales funnels that run year-round.
Then I ask myself what ONE thing I could do this month that would bring me closer to that bigger goal. For June, I’m working on creating a short evergreen funnel that leads from a free Canva training to my membership group, the Hive.
Step 3: Set a money goal for the month.
I have to be honest. This is something I have really struggled with over the years. I’d either set really ambitious goals that I had no way of actually meeting. Or I’d set too-safe, uninspiring goals just so I didn’t have to feel the pain of failing. (And then the worst is when I wouldn’t even meet the uninspiring goals!) I’m getting better at finding a good middle ground, but figuring out how much revenue to aim for is still a work in progress for me. Here are the three questions I use to come up with income goals:
How much do I need to make? My family depends on my income, so I have a set amount I absolutely have to earn to keep the lights on and bellies full. I add this to my monthly business expenses, add on a little more for wiggle room (because things always come up!) and this is my bottom line minimum that I have to bring in.
Do I have any big launches or promotions going on? I set bigger revenue goals during months that I’m running a big promotion and smaller goals when it’s just a “regular” month.
How much can I stretch? Going for the bare minimum every month is never going to put me on a path to growth. It’s just not. But going from big launch to big launch is exhausting and not sustainable. So every month I look at my minimum goal, how much I made over the last few months, and I ask myself how much I can stretch. Could I make 10% more? Could I make 50% more? Could I even double my income? The answer varies based on how much time and energy I have to give to income-generating activities as well as the time of year and the spending habits of my audience. But I always pick a goal that feels like a bit of a stretch, yet still attainable enough that I can envision actually reaching it.
Step 4: Break my monthly goal into 4 action steps.
Why do I wait and do this after I set my money goal? Because if I realize that my monthly goal from step 2 is not aligned with my money goal from step 3… I need to make some changes! For example, if my monthly goal is to work on a new course that won’t be ready to launch until the fall, but I need to earn way more than I’m currently earning, then instead of devoting most of my work time to that new course, I’m going to plan some baby steps on the course and plan some more time on bring-money-in-now activities.
I look at the big picture of my month from step 1 to figure out my available time, and I look at my end goal from step 2, and then I figure out what weekly actions I can take to make that happen.
Step 5: Fill in the small details.
Of course running a business takes more than just working on the big goals. We have projects or sessions with clients, orders to fills, and ongoing marketing activities like writing this blog post and the newsletter that will go with it and posting it to social media. Those need to go in the plan, too! The key is not to start with this step or this is all we’ll get done and we’ll never make progress on those bigger goals.
I am going to go against what all the “experts” say and tell you that I don’t plan this down to the hour when I’m doing my monthly planning. My schedule (and my attention span) are too unpredictable to accommodate that level of intense structure, and if I put “write blog post” at 9am on Tuesday, I already know there’s a 90% chance it’s not happening at 9 on Tuesday. Then I just end up feeling defeated. So I leave it more flexible than that. I get a bit more detailed in my weekly planning (which we’ll talk about next week), but for now I just write a few bullet points. Like topics for blog posts and newsletters, any new content I’m adding to The Hive, and any key social media posts I need to schedule.
Step 6: Plan rewards!
As entrepreneurs it is sooooo easy to get caught in the daily grind and hustle and forget to step back and pat ourselves on the back. No one’s handing out Employee of the Month plaques over here, so we need to make them for ourselves! I don’t know why we’re wired this way as humans (or maybe we’re conditioned to be this way) but it’s pretty common to dwell on all the things that don’t go well and worry about things that could go wrong. We have to consciously choose to stop and celebrate the things that go right.
So I always plan two rewards: one as a pat on the back if I complete the things I say I’m going to complete (those action tasks for my bigger goals.) And one treat to celebrate if I hit my income goal. They can be big or small, but they have to be totally fun and self-indulgent. It’s important to me to do both rewards because sometimes we don’t hit the income part and it’s not because of anything we did or didn’t do. We can’t control the way other people behave and that includes how they spend their money. All we can do is set things into place the best we know how. It’s important to acknowledge our hard work, even when things don’t turn out how we hope.
I looove my monthly planning days. It gives me a chance to experience the freshness and hope of the new year every single month. I like to make it extra special by taking my bullet journal (or this printable planning page) to a coffee shop and treating myself to a honey latte and croissant. (Plans made over carbs and caffeine are plans that stick! Someone should cross stitch that on a pillow.) But you don’t have to get that fancy, just set aside a little time (30 minutes to an hour should do) and make it happen!
Next week I’ll be sharing how a pack of post-it notes revolutionized my weekly schedule (and my life!)
And on June 22nd I’m hosting a LIVE Quarter 3 Planning Extravaganza!
Set your big goals for Quarter 3, break them into monthly, weekly, and daily tasks, set yourself up for success with a work schedule that supports your lifestyle and your natural tendencies, plus get live group coaching and ongoing accountability & support! It’s going to be ah-maze-ing! It’s all taking place on June 22nd, and is included with Biz BFF Hive membership! Join the Hive by June 22nd to participate in this exciting day!
Free Planning Page
Plan an amaaaazing month with this free planning sheet!
(You'll also get super goal-setting tips, tricks, and special offers sometimes via email.)