The Four Levels of Planning
If you’ve been following me for a while or if you’ve used my TOP Planner, you know that my approach to time management really focuses on weekly planning and monthly planning.
Unlike many other experts in this space, I teach you how to organize things from the bottom up rather than the other way around.
But there are two other levels of planning beyond weekly and monthly. And especially with a new year fast approaching, I want to give you some insight into all four.
I’m sharing what makes them each different, why they are all important, and when you should actually be doing them.
Level 1: Weekly Planning
The reason I always begin with weekly planning is that this is where you live day in and day out. This is where things happen in a tangible way.
I fundamentally believe that we are never going to make progress on our big goals, dreams, and desires if we haven't found a way to clean up our day-to-day weekly living so that we have the space to do everything.
The real intent behind weekly planning is to make sure that you are spending your time on the things that are most important to you. And, to ensure that you're not over-committing yourself and you're not getting over-scheduled.
Weekly planning should obviously be done every week, but there is no one set day for you to do it. I personally do mine on Sundays, which works well for me. I have students who do it on Fridays or some who have a chunk of time Monday morning where they lay out the plan for the week. The important thing is that the timing works for you.
Weekly planning really is that secret sauce that is going to help you get out of overwhelm and allow you to add some calm and openness back into your life again.
Level 2: Monthly Planning
The next level up is monthly planning. Monthly planning should, of course, be done once a month.
The intent behind monthly planning isn't to lay out in great detail every single thing that's happening in the upcoming month. Because, especially with the world we live in today, we've got to leave room for change.
The real underlying purpose, intent, and value in monthly planning is to help you set foot into your month with some really good boundaries around your time.
For instance, if I’m looking at the month of December, I know that the holidays are going to limit the time I will actually spend working. I can look at the month and see entire weeks that will be spent focused on my family and enjoying time together.
This means that my work time in December is limited and it’s not the right month to take on extra opportunities when they come my way. Because those opportunities, however great they may sound in the moment, are ultimately going to lead to overwhelm. For the same reason, it’s not the right time to begin new projects in my business.
Level 3: Quarterly Planning
This is not a level of planning I often discuss, but I do believe that, once you have mastered weekly and monthly planning, there is value in these higher levels of planning as well.
Just like with weekly and monthly planning, the name quarterly planning makes it very clear when you do this type of planning.
Quarterly planning is where I spend the vast majority of my energies on goal-setting, intention-setting, and visioning. Because when I'm looking at the quarter, I'm looking way ahead into the next 90 days and considering what big things I want to say that I've made progress on. It may just be that I've started on a project or milestones I want to work on.
This is not where I think about day-to-day operations. This is not where I'm not looking at my routines and my checklists or protecting boundaries.
I like to think of quarterly planning as shifting out of the more tactical hands-on kind of planning and moving into the strategic long-term planning.
However, the quarterly planning process should involve actually breaking down your goals and getting them into actionable items that can feed into your monthly and weekly planning.
Again, if you haven’t mastered weekly and monthly and aren’t in a place where you feel like you have room to breathe there, quarterly planning is going to be much more overwhelming and not where I recommend you focus.
Level 4: Yearly Planning
When it comes to this level of planning, I approach things very differently than most people, and honestly, I approach it very differently than I did years ago because my life has really changed and so has the world.
My yearly planning is where I take the opportunity to look back over the last year and figure out what worked well and what didn't. I consider what I want more of and what I want less of. This is the space where I allow myself to go to those crazy dream places where the sky is the limit.
My yearly planning isn't so much about getting a calendar out and putting actual dates in as it is about mindset planning.
Then the work that I do in my yearly planning feeds down into my quarterly planning... which feeds into my monthly planning... which ultimately feeds into my weekly planning.
But again, if you don't have the weekly and monthly planning processes in place, this level of planning can lead to overwhelm, and that’s never where I want you to live.