208 [Part 2] The 4 Levels of Planning

The 4 Levels of Planning


Welcome to part two of the 4 levels of planning. By the end of this episode, you will have the tools you need to create an effective quarterly plan that aligns with your annual goals.

In today's episode, I cover the basics of quarterly planning, discussing how to incorporate your personal, work, and business activities seamlessly. Beyond this, you’ll gain insight into how to prioritize and protect time for business activities without sacrificing your personal life events.

Aka get my (never-before-shared) cheat sheet of what you need to do when doing annual, quarterly, monthly, and weekly planning.

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Hey friends, welcome back. We are here in the middle of our four-part training series on the four levels of planning, so this week's episode is episode number two. So if you missed the first one, which is all around annual planning, you may wanna go listen to that real quick before diving in here today. Today I'm gonna be breaking down the type of information, the what, that you wanna put into your quarterly plans. All right, and you're gonna hear some of it's gonna tie back to annual planning. So, without further ado, let's go ahead and get started.

Welcome to the Work + Life Harmony podcast. I'm your host, Megan Sumrell. I'm the creator of the TOP Program and TOP Planner teaching all things time management, organization and productivity for women. I'm also a mom and wife and, just like you, juggling hashtag all the things while running multiple businesses and a family. Guess what? You don't have to feel constantly overwhelmed, exhausted and stressed out. There is another way. When you have the right systems and tools to plan and manage your time, you can live a life of harmony. This is your show to learn from me and other amazing women how to master your time, planning an organization to skyrocket your productivity, so you can have work life harmony If you're ready to stop feeling overwhelmed, this is the show for you, and if you're new here, I'd love to get you started with my work life harmony assessment. All you have to do is DM me on Instagram, @MeganSumrell, with the word harmony, and my team will send it right over. 

Hi there, welcome back to work life harmony. Today's episode is part two of our four-part series where I am breaking down the four levels of planning. So if you missed the first one, where we actually covered annual planning, you may wanna go ahead, pause, go back and watch that one or listen to that one before diving into today. So again, just a quick recap here. This is a four-part series where I'm gonna be breaking down my four levels of planning, starting with annual planning. Then this one here today is gonna be quarterly planning, and then I'm gonna be covering monthly planning and weekly planning. All right, so let's go ahead and dive into quarterly planning. This is now where we start to get a little bit more detailed with our planning. Now, again, if you haven't listened to the annual planning, you may wanna do that, and hopefully you have grabbed the free checklist that I've got to go with this four-part series. You can go ahead and get that at megansumrell.com/4levels. We've got a link to it in the show notes as well, because this is gonna be a great reference for you throughout the year as you are starting to step into these four levels of planning as well. So we're gonna be focused on that quarterly tab.

Now what? Again, back to my flight analogy. When I talk about annual planning, I like to think of it as that 30,000-foot view. Right, we're sketching out roughly where we want to land our plane and how we think we're gonna get there, knowing that things are probably gonna change right. Now, quarterly planning, which is what we're discussing here today, is where we're more like that 10,000-foot view. We're not at our full cruising altitude, but when you think about you know when you've been on a plane, this is where you can actually see some things that make sense. You might see a lake that you know, the houses that you know. Right, you're not right off the runway, but you're starting to get a lot of clarity, but at a bigger picture.

Now the way I'm gonna be breaking down what goes into your quarterly plan today. This is a little bit different than the path we took for the annual planning. First, I am going to be talking about how we tie into the work that we did on our annual plan and then create more clarity around it with our quarterly planning, and then we're gonna end on touching on specific things to put in your quarterly plan in their different buckets, such as personal stuff, things potentially for work or job, and then things if you are a business owner, all right. So first I wanna talk about one of the key things that we want to do with our quarterly planning, and this, again, is one of the secret weapons of what I teach with planning is, first and foremost, we want to actually go back and look at what we built in our annual plan, specifically around those longer-term projects. You might want to think of them as goals, your desires. I like to label them in two different ways. I like to think about our have tos like what are the things that honestly have to happen, versus our want-tos, those things that we desire to do, but those are the things that typically we don't do because we get so caught up in our have tos. Right Again, when we're talking here at our quarterly planning level, when I'm talking about our key have-tos and want-tos. I'm talking about those longer-term projects, goals etc. Not the specificity of oh, I have to go to the dentist three weeks from now at 10 o'clock in the morning. All right, we're not talking about that granular level. Get to that in our last level of planning. So one of the things that we want to do with our quarterly planning is to actually review our annual plan specifically around what were those key want-tos and have-tos.

Now, in the annual planning episode, I talked about how we want to get some high-level possible milestone dates and progress along those goals, dreams, desires etc. Well, when we step into quarterly planning, the shift here is now we're actually going to set specific dates in the quarter the upcoming quarter that align with specific milestones on those longer term projects. All right. So in our annual planning episode, I gave an example of a friend of mine who is mapping out wanting to be able to run a half marathon. Well, we had some draft milestone dates around distances that she feels she wants to be able to run comfortably. But then when we got into the quarterly planning, now we're actually setting specific dates on by the end of this month specifically. I know that I need to maybe be able to run, say, six miles at this pace in order to meet my goal.

Now, the other part that ties in now at the quarterly level, which is a little bit different than annual, is now in. Our quarterly planning is when we actually create and write down the specific activities that need to happen over the next quarter in order to meet that goal. All right, so at our annual planning we're not breaking down those super-specific activities, right. But when we step into our quarterly planning now is when we're looking at the next 90 days, we're looking at the realities of our life and saying, okay, what are the specific things that I am going to be working on, either daily, weekly or monthly, in order to achieve that next kind of milestone in my goal? Or it might even be to complete one. And this is an exercise that we go through in quarterly planning, both for those have-tos anything that must happen in the quarter but also with our want-tos. We're going to plan and prioritize and protect the time to make sure that we are creating, preserving space for those things that we want to spend our time on, not just the things that we have to. So this is one of the key exercises that happens at that quarterly level where we're really focusing in on those next 90 days with key dates and specific activities that we know that we are going to do. Now, when we're doing this, we're looking back at our annual plan to say what were the things I wanted to achieve this year, and then we're pulling information from that. Right. We're not just creating an annual plan, throwing them on the shelf and never looking at it again. We are revisiting it every quarter to make sure that we are honoring the commitments, the desires, etc. That we have. So that's one of the key things that happens in quarterly planning.

Now, the next kind of bundle of information that we want to put into our quarterly plan is anything around travel. So any trips whether they're personal, work-related, it doesn't matter should be captured in your quarterly plan. And now is the time for us to also block off what I call buffer time or bookending our travel dates. I've talked about this on other podcasts before. Anytime I have a trip that's going to be three or more days, I always want to make sure that in my calendar I'm actually blocking off and protecting the time before my trip and the time when I get home from my trip, so I have time both to prepare and then time to recover, especially if it's like a week-long vacation where you're really stepping away During your quarterly planning is your opportunity to make sure that you're actually protecting your time around travel, all right.

The other piece of information that's going to go into your quarterly plan across all aspects of your life work, personal, etc. Is anything that you have current commitments for. So what have you already said yes to that is now going to consume or pull from your budget of time in the upcoming quarter? Now, when I teach the very detailed quarterly planning process inside of my Plan-a-Palooza community, there are some specific activities that we go through here to help us back into knowing how much free time do I actually have this quarter, so that we know stepping into it, is this a quarter where I've got a lot of wiggle room, or am I stepping into this upcoming quarter already knowing I better not say yes to anything else, right? So that is why we need to capture and make sure our quarterly plan is including any of those current commitments that we have. So those are kind of some of the key pieces of information that cross all aspects of our life right Our goals, dreams, desires, want to's and have to's, whether they're personal or work, travel time with that buffer time personal or work and then our current commitments personal or work. So now let's talk about what else goes into our quarterly plan specific to those categories.

So, on a personal level, the other types of information that I want to make sure are included in any quarterly plan is any personal vacations that are coming up during that quarter, any holidays in that quarter, and at this point in our quarterly planning we need to make sure that are there any activities that I need to start thinking about for that particular vacation or holiday? This is especially true when we roll into Q4, where there tends to be a lot of activities that require our time for those end of year holidays. So it's not enough just to have that date on your calendar, and our quarterly planning is now when we start to outline. What activities do I need to start on to prepare for those? The other information on a personal level that we dive into in quarterly planning is, if you have kids at school, what are important school dates in that quarter? And then, finally, how are you protecting time for yourself to make sure that the next quarter is not you waking up in service of others all day long and then collapsing in a bed at night, all right. So on the personal level again, we want to capture vacations, holidays, school dates, time for you, and then understanding what activities might you need to protect time for on your calendar to support those.

Now let's talk about work, and when I talk about work in this situation I'm meaning like a job where you report to somebody else or you're supporting another business organization, et cetera, every quarter for work. It's important to go look ahead at the next quarter and identify are there any large projects due for work that are going to take a considerable amount of your time that maybe now is the time for you to go into your work calendar and block off and protect time that you need to actually make sure that you will get those projects done on time. Now the final category to talk about here again is any of my fellow small business owners. So, as a small business owner, there are other things that I always want to make sure I'm considering with my quarterly planning, so similar to the work. One is do I as a business owner, have anything large coming up this next quarter that I need to make sure I have enough time protected on my calendar to be prepared for it.

An example with me in my business I run my annual plan a Palooza event in October. There is a considerable amount of time and energy and work that goes into that. So, actually, what I was doing my quarterly planning for both Q2 and Q3, there were large chunks of time blocked out and preserved to make sure that all of the work that goes into it, that there was time to do that, because what we don't want to do is be doing it at midnight or five in the morning. We want to work it into our everyday life. And then, another thing that's important for small business owners to do again, we do spend a good chunk of time for the business planning out each quarter. So one of the things that we do during quarterly planning is to go ahead and set the date for the next quarterly planning session so that we can coordinate because we do it as a team and get that time on everybody's calendar. And then, finally, looking ahead at our goals that we talked about at the very beginning, if you are a small business owner, chances are you have set some goals in terms of customer sales revenue, whatever metrics you're tracking Every quarter, it's incredibly important for us to actually review how are we tracking on those?

Do the goals still make sense and is there anything I need to change? Now I want to wrap up this episode really leaning into this idea of is there anything I need to change? So one key part of every single level of planning once we've done our annual planning, when we're doing our quarterly, our monthly and our weekly planning this is when we always have the opportunity to go back and look at here was the plan I set for myself for the year. Does it still make sense? And one of the key places that we do this is in our quarterly planning. So when we are going back and doing that goal review and we're looking at specific dates and trying to nail down the activities that we're going to work on for this quarter to help meet those goals, this is also the perfect opportunity for us to say does this still make sense? Are these goals still aligned?
For me, particularly as the year goes on, by the time you're doing your Q4 planning, you're probably a year away from when you had built that annual plan. Things will have happened in your life and this is why we go back and review our annual plan every quarter to also have the conversation of does this still make sense? Because you have the right to change your plan at any time that you want to, and so this is something that we're also making sure that we're thinking about during our quarterly plans is do I need to change something? Because maybe something happened in my life that is now making me no longer want to achieve specific goals that I thought I might want at the beginning of the year. All right, so you can see why now this quarterly planning again pulls from our annual plan. But now we're starting to fill in a lot of the blanks. So, if you want to think about a roadmap like a blueprint, your annual plan is just a blueprint. We've got sketches and all of that. Now, when we get into our quarterly planning, now we start to layer in more details. So now we're filling in a lot more lines inside of that blueprint.

And then I want you to join me with the next episode where we're going to talk about the third level of planning, because now we're actually going to start to color our picture in a little bit. Now, don't forget, if you have not grabbed your free checklist that we've built here to go along with this four-part series, head over to megansumrell.com/4levels. We've got the link below. Grab your checklist because you're going to want to be able to use this as we cover the next two levels of planning as well. All right, I'll see you next week.

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