It's August. Seriously. When did that happen? Normally by now I've completed a detailed mid-year evaluation and posted my quarterly check-in on the blog. Whoops!
Actually, it was less a simple oversight and more an issue of reorganization. By mid-July, I knew a few things weren't working out as planned, so I decided to make some changes.
The usual mid-year check-in was scrapped. It was a dud in several areas, but I also introduced several new things that I'm not prepared to share just yet. So rather than post an updated goal list when things are still in constant flux, I went back to my bigger yearly list.
With only five months left of 2015, it's crunch time. I'm updating and purging that list instead, re-prioritizing some projects, and moving to a more specific schedule. I've also been trying out a new planning strategy to help me knock some of those bigger things off my list.
That's what I'd like to talk about today (plus I've put together a free download for you so you can try something similar if you think it'll help you).
More Planning, More Often
My old system was to have a big yearly evaluation and strategy session, broad quarterly evaluations (which I'd share publicly), and private monthly updates to those plans when necessary. The problem was that it became too easy to skip the monthly updates, and before I'd know it, the next month would come around.
Big things I should have started working on early in a quarter would get postponed to the point of being replaced. Recently I decided it was time to evaluate the big picture more often. I plan to do that weekly.
My daily and weekly to-do lists aren't going anywhere (still loving Todoist for that by the way). This new planning in is addition to that. Here's how I'm breaking things down each week:
One Big Goal Each Week
This is the primary project I'm working on. This will usually be one of my own projects (a book manuscript, a course I'm working on, etc., although occasionally larger client projects, like a white paper or ghostwritten e-book, will fall into this position).
This is a simple list of what I need to do to accomplish that big goal for the week. Think of it as a project-specific to-do list. I try to limit myself to five key action steps for this. (I'm not a big fan of limiting to-do list items, and I don't. In my Todoist account, I can break these down even further. This is simply for my weekly planning sheet.)
Other Must-Do Tasks for the Week
Let's say my big goal for the week is to hit a certain word count goal in a manuscript I'm working on. But I also have a few client blog posts, a press release, and a case study to write. Those client projects are much smaller projects, but they still must be completed. Those would go on this list. So do posts for my own key blogs. I also put important admin tasks on this list (like updating WordPress plugins because that's an issue of security).
I always have more on my plate than what falls into the previous categories. Those other tasks get dumped here. These might include anything from posts on my less important blogs to non-critical development projects (as I always have at least a few sites in varying phases of development). Again, these are fairly high level tasks. So "two posts for X blog" might go on the list. And anything more specific would go into Todoist for my daily breakdowns.
It's a pretty simple system, but it's already helping me. I don't know if I'll stick with it permanently, but it's nice having a simple reminder on the wall telling me what the week's end game is.
Download Your Free Goal & Task Tracker
If this is something you'd like to try, I put together a simple goal and task tracker worksheet you can use. I do this on 5x8" index cards instead (as I've mentioned before, I'm a bit of an index card and white board junkie). But this worksheet has areas for everything I've mentioned above.
Here's a preview image. You can download it by clicking either the image or the download button below it.
I want to emphasize again that this worksheet is about bigger-picture planning. It's not meant to replace your normal daily to-do list if you have methods that work better for you. (For me, that means breaking things down as far as possible because I like checking things off the list, and the smaller the tasks are, the more likely I am I tackle them whenever I have a spare few minutes.) You can use this on a weekly basis as I do. Or it would even work for monthly planning.
It's also important to remember that when I say "more planning, more often," I'm talking about fairly quick evaluations and adjustments. Filling one of these out shouldn't take you more than ten or fifteen minutes on a weekly or monthly basis. If you get too caught up in planning, you won't get much work done. (Been there!)
How do you like to track your goals and tasks? Do you use worksheets, typical to-do lists, one big yearly goal list, monthly evaluations, or something else? How is it working out for you so far? Please share your strategies, stories, or favorite tools in the blog comments.