I don’t really consider myself a visionary entrepreneur who thrives in seeing the ‘big picture’ but there’s something about new year business planning that really speaks to me.
I’m a huge advocate for dedicating some time at the end of the calendar to create a business plan for the new year. It’s when many of us are naturally feeling really refreshed and ready for something new, so it makes a great time to apply those feelings to our businesses.
I’m going to walk you through my process for breaking down goals into the step by step action plan I want to implement over the coming months. I’m a very ‘do this, then do that’ kind of person and I thrive on a broken down to-do list that I can check off.
So I structure my planning process around that.
I encourage you to take the key essential elements from this system and execute it in a way that works for you. Do you love to journal about your ideas and then narrow down from there? Cool. Obsessed with a brain dump list of ideas to sort through? Do that. Live in a google doc spreadsheet? I fully support it.
Experiment and find what works for your brain and go for it. It’s more important that you actually do the process than how you do it.
WHY YOU NEED A NEW YEAR BUSINESS PLAN
Ever reach the end of the year and think, “where the heck did my year go?!” Me too.
When you take the time to create a business plan for the new year, it helps you stay on track towards the original goals that you set for yourself. So instead working away all year and reaching the end of it feeling like you’ve made no progress, you’ll know you took action to move your business in the direction you set out for.
As entrepreneurs, we tend to get what is often referred to as “shiny object syndrome”. This means that we are constantly being distracted and working on things that aren’t crucial to our goals because we feel like we need to be doing them even though they aren’t performing for us.
For example, if one of your biggest goals is to build an incredible client onboarding experience – posting on instagram every day isn’t helping you do that. Even though there might be a lot of other successful business owners telling you you need to be doing it. So your plan for the year keeps your focus on the things that are actually creating progress.
This process also helps you review your performance at the end of the year! There’s an old saying that goes something like, “If you don’t know where you’re going, how will you know when you get there?” This absolutely reins true here.
At the end of the year when you look back, you’ll have a true measurement of the progress you’ve made based on what you wanted to achieve.
That helps you truly gauge where you’re at and how you’re doing, rather than finishing your year wondering what the hell happened to it.
START BY REVIEWING YOUR PREVIOUS YEAR
Alright, it’s time to finally get into creating our annual business plan! The first thing I recommend you do is review your previous year.
Look at what you dedicated time to working on
Now I know you might not have a clear, measurable plan from your previous year.
If that’s the case, dedicate some time to reviewing the tasks you worked on in whatever to-do list method you use. My team works in asana, so I would personally scroll back through my projects and tasks in that system to see what 1-3 main projects I was working on each month throughout the year.
This doesn’t generally include things like client work and invoicing that keep your business running. We’re mainly looking at the things you did that were growing your business, like blogging, pitching to new clients, launching new services, etc.
Did you already have clear goals set at the beginning of your year? Go you, friend!
Dedicate some time to reviewing what they were, whether or not you hit those goals and what you did to work towards them by moving through the tasks you did throughout the year the same way.
Figure out what worked and what didn’t
Maybe you wanted to grow your client roster by 50% by the end of the year so you pitched to new potential clients every week. Did your roster grow as a result of that approach or should you consider a different strategy to move you closer to that goal this coming year?
Then, out of the big things you did each month of the year, think about what you enjoyed doing and what you didn’t. Let’s continue with client roster example. Maybe you interacted with your target clients in Facebook groups as your pitching strategy. Did you look forward to doing that every week or did you put it off until every Friday afternoon because you couldn’t stand it?
One of the beautiful things about owning our own business is that we can structure our workdays around what we love to do. So I encourage you to rethink how you approach certain tasks where possible so that you look forward to working every day! You probably won’t be able to replace everything, but I find there’s always a few things we can shift.
HOW YOU WANT YOUR LIFE TO LOOK DIFFERENT NEXT YEAR?
Do you want to raise your prices and take on less clients. Maybe you want to create a passive income stream so you have more time in your schedule or maybe you want to take every Friday afternoon off so you can go to yoga.
It’s important to consider this because it helps to keep your business from taking over your life. We started this work as VA’s so we could gain more freedom and build our work around our life, not the other way around. Often though, we find ourselves working overtime and weekends because we feel like we have too or we’re overwhelmed with client work.
Asking yourself this question on a yearly basis (minimum!) will help you reconnect with what you want out of your business rather than what your business wants out of you so you can take action to move it in that direction.
BREAK DOWN THE PLAN
Now we’re to the point where we know what we want to change in our plan for next year.
I recommend setting three measurable top level goals for the year. These are the biggest goals you have for the year that are going to push you in that new direction that you want to head. Don’t be put off if they feel like a bit of a stretch for now, because remember – You’ve got the entire year to work towards them!
Now we want to break those down into your quarterly goals.
I also like to call these “90 days projects” since you’ll have a new one every 3 months throughout the year. How can you break down those top level goals into more manageable chunks? Something that you can reasonably take on within a 3 month timespan without feeling super overwhelmed. Write these four down!
Finally, we’re going to create your action items for each quarter. What are you going to do during each quarter to hit your goal for it? I recommend breaking this down for 1 action item per month. So it’s 3 items per quarter.
Our mission here is to make your top level goals as sustainable and manageable as possible by breaking them down as much as we can. It makes it way less daunting than setting a big goal like ‘double my client roster’. Then trying to aimlessly hit that goal without really figuring out how to do it.
When you have a clear plan for every month, quarter and year – You can literally see yourself moving towards the place you want to be. That’s going to keep you wanting to work and feeling productive!
HOW TO KEEP YOUR GOALS ORGANIZED
I am absolutely obsessed with post it notes for this process.
Not only does it give me a high-level overview of my business plan for the new year, it helps me (again) see the progress I’m making. Anytime I am feeling unproductive or defeated about my progress throughout the year, I take a minute to look at my post it wall plan to remind myself how far we’ve come.
It’s the fastest way I can pick myself, dust myself off, and keep moving forward confidently. Because yes, no matter what stage you’re at in your business – You still have these moments.
I obviously encourage you to do whatever works for you to lay out your plan. If a blank page and a pen or a list in your favorite note-taking app works, do it up my friend. I just happen to thrive off of color coded visuals, so post its are my jam. I also really like that it’s easy to make changes by simply sticking and unsticking things to the wall to reorganize easily.
Here’s a quick visual of how I lay out my color-coded wall at home with each of the four quarters:
After I have my goals set and my plan for the new year made, I then break down my monthly tasks in my project management system.
CONSIDER MAKING IT MOLDABLE
Speaking of things changing, I encourage you to remember that these plans are moldable.
You never know if and when things in your business might change. So I usually don’t commit to my plan 110% for the entire year.
I always create my top level, quarterly and monthly goals for the entire year, but I generally only plan my tasks about two quarters ahead of time.
This way, if I find that I’m behind schedule for the quarterly goals, I can shift back my schedule without having to redo a ton of small task planning. Not to mention that if your business is really new or changes rapidly, you might have to shift your plans a lot for the year depending on how you grow.
There’s other things that are just simply out of your control in life (I’m looking at you, covid…) that happen and throw off your entire plan for the year. So not laying every single nitty gritty detail for the year can save you time down the road.
This is really just a personal preference, as I know a lot of business owners who choose to plan out everything. But I find that it just doesn’t work for me!
REVIEW YOUR ANNUAL BUSINESS PLAN
Since you have a beautiful, color-coded goal wall, it’s easy to check-in on your plans any time. 😉
Make sure you schedule regular check-ins on your calendar to make sure you stay on track. I generally do this every other week. This is especially important if you choose to make your plan moldable, because it reminds you to build out your quarterly tasks on a consistent schedule.
It helps avoid that, “I haven’t even looked at this project in 2 months” syndrome. Yeah, I’ve been there too.
You’ll also be able to make those changes every month or so as needed when you check-in.
More than anything else, it simply give you a reminder to come back to the bigger picture of what you’re working on so you can see how far you’ve come and where you’re going! It’s easy to get stuck in the day to day and grinding away, but this helps you see everything you’re working towards! Which is super satisfying.