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“A goal without a plan is just a wish.” Amen. My only regret for last year is that I didn’t plan for– well, anything. I quit my job in finance in October, and to be completely frank, I had no idea what I was doing. I had no business plan, I had zero posts pre-written, and I worked according to a demanding week-to-week editorial calendar that left no time for leisure. I’d get pitched for a campaign, and I’d work my posting schedule around it. No more. I’m determined to formulate an effective and strategic plan of attack for an extraordinary 2016, so I’ve committed to regular meetings with Ashley Brooke and Mash Elle to iron out annual planning logistics and set goals for the coming weeks/months/years. We’ve already had a few strategy sessions, and their value has been astronomical. In case you’re looking to organize something similar, here are 10 useful annual planning tips for effective organization and inspiration to help you set, reach, and exceed your goals for the coming year:
one | schedule designated planning time
Set aside designated time each month for planning. I plan for the week two Mondays prior using this incredibly handy Sugar Paper Weekly Planning Pad, and I meet with Ashley Brooke and Mash Elle on a monthly basis for long-term goal setting and “big picture” forecasting. These dates are set in stone, and no matter how much I may want to skip or resist, I force myself to sit down and iron out a plan of attack. I highly recommend connecting with other local bloggers and forming a similar arrangement; it’s an invaluable open forum for questions, concerns, and accountability. If you’re looking for a cute planner, here are my favorites for 2016 and 2017.
two | get inspired
Looking at a blank sheet of notebook paper can be intimidating, so keep inspiring books and pictures handy. I recently invested in an entire bookcase of fashion history books, including Kate Spade New York’s All in Good Taste and The Fashion Book, so if I’m having trouble styling an ensemble or coming up with beauty or fashion-related blog post topics, I skim through one of my 87 books and/or magazines for inspiration– and it always works. Pinterest is a great alternative, too!
three | fuel accordingly
Don’t give yourself a million reason to interrupt your progress mid-planning. Before you begin, make sure you have your coffee and a handful of nutritious grab & go snacks at your disposal. Sahale Snacks® just launched their new Sahale Snacks Layered Nut Bars, and the Almond Vanilla Latte Layered Nut Bar has completely elevated my standard of what snacking should be. A top layer of rich Madagascar vanilla is paired with espresso and crunch almonds, drizzled with real white chocolate, and then layered on top of creamy cashew butter to create one of the most delicious things I’ve ever tasted. It’s a 200 calorie pick-me-up that satiates my sugar craving and makes me look forward to snack time every day. Plus, Sahale Snacks is committed to having a larger impact on the world, which makes me love them even more. They seek fair, sustainable business relationships that enable people to improve their lives as a result of working with them. If espresso isn’t your favorite, their Salted Caramel Apple Pecan Layered Nut Bar is equally scrumptious.
four | think big picture
Prioritize. Your goals should be in sync with where you see your brand at the finish line. Write down all the milestones that are most important to you and your business– and then number them in order of importance. I learned an awesome tactic for creating a mission statement that’s 100% aligned with both your personal and professional goals in a financial services book called Tested in the Trenches, so if you’re having trouble drumming up goals that’ll mean something to you in the long run, give it a gander. After working in finance for five years straight out of college, it made me realize I was in the wrong industry. Once you know your mission and have a coherent idea of where you want your brand to go, it’s much easier to plan accordingly and move forward with enthusiasm.
five | set smart goals
Be SMART about goal setting. The popularized acronym stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time-Sensitive. Make sure you write down all your goals, elsewise they’ll likely get lost in the shuffle, and tweak each one to ensure it’s SMART. Bounce them off your family, friends, and other bloggers for feedback.
six | eliminate distractions
Just like snacks, don’t give yourself an excuse to disengage. Turn off the TV, put your phone on silent, and vow to stay off social media. Set up your meeting materials in the room with the least amount of potential distractions, like a dining room. Even though getting together with your friends is cause for fun and celebration, plan for chatting at lunch or dinner afterwards. Make sure you stay on topic and redirect any deviations back to the task at hand during designated planning time.
seven | stay organized
Write everything down, and keep all your thoughts in the same notebook or folder. Then, within the next 24 hours, take your notes and construct specific goals and deadlines, which should be marked in your planner or calendar or both immediately. Take your time reflecting on your notes, too, since great information takes a while to process. Staying organized is more about staying focused than anything else.
eight | ask for accountability
One of the most valuable things about blogger strategy sessions is creating accountability. Ask each other what your goals are– and hold each other to those goals. Check in with each other at every meeting and discussed what worked for you and what didn’t.
nine | request feedback
Don’t be afraid to ask what you’re doing wrong or right. It’s rare that a PR representative or brand will tell you with 100% transparency why you weren’t selected for a campaign or why a particular marketing strategy did or didn’t work. A fellow blogger will, especially if you’re providing the same value in return. Create mutually beneficial relationships where there’s an equal amount of give and take, and you’ll both get the best out of the exchange.
ten | track progress
Setting long-term goals is pointless if you have no system for tracking your progress. Designate a day each week to create your own personal progress report. I keep mine in an Excel spreadsheet on my computer. There is a variety of online tools you can utilize to document your habits and goals, as well, such as Joe’s Goals and Daytum. It’s motivating to see your hard work paying off, and it helps gauge the efficiency of whatever tactics you’re investing your valued time and money in.
It’s time to start living the life beyond ordinary, and it all starts with a plan. If one of your resolutions for 2016 is to improve your annual planning tactics, I hope you found these annual planning tips useful. Feel free to ask me any additional questions in the comment section. Goal diggers for life!
I’m sharing #beyondordinary in my life as part of a Sahale Snacks® sponsored series for Socialstars™.