Photo credit: Original image by Andrew Bonamici
When looking at the blank slate of a whole new year, It’s tempting to make all kinds of ambitious plans, but I would argue that it’s a good idea to take a ‘less is more’ approach.
I find that most creative business owners have tons of ideas, but typically most of our ideas take longer to implement than to come up with. A great way to avoid frustration and burn out is to come up with a sane, do-able yearly high level plan. If you have time left over, you can always to do more!
Here are a few things you can do to make sure you’re creating a realistic plan for 2014, that will allow for productivity, sanity, joy and contentment.
Set fewer goals.
My advice is to come up with no more than five goals a year (I try to stay with three). The reason is that each goal is going to generate lots of activities and projects. So the more goals, the more there is to do.
Baseline your calendar.
Look at an average month and think about all the things you have to, want to and need to do in your life, not just business related things: Picking up kids from school, going to a yoga class, a book club, family time, cooking and eating dinner, vacations, etc.
Block these things out on a calendar, in real time; so if the yoga class is an hour, and it takes you half an hour to get there and home, block out 2 hours.
Now look at all the ‘unblocked’ space. This is a snapshot of the time you’ve got for projects and goals as well as the ‘unstructured’ time you should leave for renewal. This empty space is also important for time-consuming unexpected events (like a lice breakout at your kids school).
Keep this time snapshot in mind when planning for the year.
Try to estimate.
Estimating is a tricky business, basically it’s fancy guessing, but it can help when you’re trying to create a realistic plan. Think through as many of the steps of a project or towards reaching a goal as you can. How long will each of these things take in both active and elapsed time? For things you’ve never done before estimate a generous amount of time, since there are a lot of unknowns involved. Add 30 percent more time than you think it’s going to take, or even double it.
These three activities will help force you to think through all of the things you want to accomplish in the next year. Sometimes when we unpack all of our dreams and aspirations we find that there is a LOT of work involved. It’s important, of course, not to be under-ambitious, but I find with us creative types, the bias is to try and tackle too much rather than too little.
Another helpful catch phrase to remember is ‘We plan, God laughs’. A yearly plan is helpful map, and if created thoughtfully it will serve us well. But we also have to remember that life will throw us curve balls and when it does, we have to adapt and act accordingly. That’s a lot easier to do when we haven’t overwhelmed ourself trying to achieve the impossible.
How are you planning to under promise and over deliver this year?
Eleanor Mayrhofer is the e.m. behind e.m.papers, the printable stationery company she quit her day job to run full-time. She also helps indie business owners with project and time management by sharing what she learned working as a project manager with her Steal This Process blog and program.