A Master Project Planning Strategy For Exploding Your Success In 2024
How are your 2024 projects going so far? Are you in need of a new system to take you to the next level?
This is the second step in my planning strategy, if you missed Step 0 and Step 1, click on the links to get caught up. Step 0 is giving yourself a really good year end review for 2023 (or any year that just finished). I can’t stress enough how important it is to spend some time reviewing, reflecting and analyzing your previous performance, so that you know where you are, and what you actually need to focus on to achieve the success that you desire in the future.
Step 1 is about setting yourself up for success by putting together a high level vision of what you want to achieve and figuring out how your current mission fits into that vision. With your mission for 2024 in mind, hopefully you set up some SMART goals that align with your vision and mission.
We are now on to Step 2 of Our Master Planning Strategy
The planning strategy for Step 2 is all about taking those big year long goals and breaking them down into quarterly and monthly chunks.
One thing that I have noticed, and science backs this up, is that having a goal is great, however, if all you ever do is put that big goal on a “To Do” List, it somehow never gets done. Or maybe you start it, but then lose track of it in the mess of life. Today we are will take our goals and chunk them into achievable milestones.
A Goal Is Actually A Project
The first key to this planning strategy is understanding that a “Goal” is actually a project. It doesn’t matter if your goal is to lose 10 pounds, or write a novel, in either case you have actually just given yourself a project. When you make this mental switch, you realize that a project is made up of a bunch of smaller, measurable steps that lead towards the completion of the project. This is a process that you are probably familiar with from work or school.
Start At The End – Deadlines
Now that you have a series of projects for 2024, lets give each one a deadline. While many, or most of your projects may have a deadline that is the end of 2024, it’s possible that some of them you want to have completed sooner than December 31, 2024. Whatever your end date is, assign an end date to each of your 2024 projects.
The next step is to figure out how many quarters you have until you want to have each project completed. A quarter, for our purposes, is 3 months. The beauty of this system is that you can start at any point. So, if you realize that you want to set a new goal or project at some other point in the year, you can simply calculate an end date, and figure out how many 3 month blocks you have until then.
For each project, now that you know how many quarters you have to complete it, break the project into that many large steps, mini projects, or milestones. Pull out your handy dandy planner (electronic or paper, I prefer an undated one like this, or a bullet journal) and write each milestone at the end of each quarter. If you are starting at the beginning of the year, that would mean that you have milestones due at the end of March, June, September, and December. As I said though, if you start a project at another point in the year, you can choose to align it with this timeframe, or simply break the project down based on how many quarters you have between when you are starting and the end date.
Continue this process for each goal / project that you have for 2024. Once you are done, you should have a list of things that you want to do during each quarter of the year. Take the quarters that are further off in the future, in this case Quarters 2, 3, and 4, and mentally (or physically) set them aside for now.
Monthly Breakdown Planning Strategy
Looking just at Quarter 1 (whatever monthly alignment that is for you), take each of those project milestones that are due by the end of the quarter, and further break them down into monthly milestones. What this means is for each thing that you want to have done by March 31, 2024, what do you have to accomplish by January 31, and February 29 to keep you on track to be done with that part of the project by March 31?
Again, pull out your planner, and write down what your monthly milestones are going to be. At this point these should be things that you are fairly confident that you can do within the span of a month. If, at this point, you are looking at what you need to achieve, and realizing that it simply isn’t doable, move your project due date further out into the future. Redo the quarterly and monthly breakdowns. Repeat this process until you get to a point where the monthly milestones are things that you can actually accomplish.
How to Handle Reality
You may also realize that some projects are simply not going to fit into your life at this time. That’s ok as well. You can either move the entire project further out into the future or decide to drop it entirely. If the project is a non-negotiable for you, you will have to do some hard thinking about what you need to cut out of your current life and obligations to make room for the time and energy that you need to devote to achieving your goals. This is a less fun, and immensely important part of the planning strategy.
You have your 2024 goals broken down by monthly milestones. The thing is, life, at least for most of us, includes a surprising number of mundane details that aren’t about maintaining progress on our projects, they are about simply living. The goal is for this Master Planning Strategy to encompass all areas of life, nothing gets left behind or forgotten. So, to be fair and complete, we need to add those things to our quarterly and monthly milestones that need to be done, just because we like to stay alive, and live in nice, well maintained surroundings.
I divide these things into three basic categories: food, cleaning and physical wellness. Include time on your calendar for each system.
The first system is “Food” this includes everything that is involved in making sure that I am fed in healthy manner. This system is unique to each person, their needs and resources. My Food System involves: menu planning, write a grocery list, add start times to calendar, get groceries. What do you need to include in your Food System? Having a Food system will help you to move from haphazardly trying to figure things out on the fly, to having a plan when you need it.
One thing that is common when you cook at home is that you then have to clean up. The kitchen isn’t the only area of your home that needs regular cleaning and maintenance. It’s likely that your bedroom, bathroom, and every other room in your home needs seem level of regular cleaning and maintenance.
Again, having a documented system and plan in place for doing these things keeps them from slipping off your radar until a crisis happens. For me, cleaning the bathroom, doing laundry, vacuuming, dusting and maintaining the various appliances in my house all are part of my “Cleaning” System. It’s important to figure out how often you want to do each chore. It may take you some time to figure out the cleaning system that works for you. I do encourage you to start with some kind of a plan for cleaning and maintaining your spaces, and then work it from there. Figuring out the system that works for you will take some time and experimentation.
The final system that I have is my “Physical Wellness” system. In this case, I have a certain number and variety of physical fitness activities that I want to do each month. I try to cover all aspects of physical fitness, so that I can live my best life. If you aren’t familiar with the various parts of physical fitness, I encourage you to read my post about it, here. It’s part of my series on Putting the Puzzle Pieces of Your Life Back Together.
Again, this part of the planning strategy system is going to look different for each person, and while you can certainly gain inspiration from others, ultimately, you will have to find what works best for you as a unique individual. This system will also, inevitably, change as you go through various seasons of life. There will be times when you can and /or will need to devote more time and energy to it. Just as there will be times when you will need to focus your time and energy elsewhere. For me, I decide how many times I want/need to do various activities, in total, for the month. For example, I might decide that I want to do yoga 3 times, go for at least 12 runs and go to the gym to lift weights at least 6 times.
Your Planning Strategy Needs to Allow for Wiggle Room
From there I will have a general idea how that breakdown will play out over the course of the month. However, I have learned to leave myself some wiggle room, so that if I get sick, injured, or busy with other things, I can still complete my fitness goals.
If you have followed along to this point you should have a list of all the things that you want to do by the end of each of the next three months. In the next installment of this series, we will break it down even further into weeks and days. This system will give you the habits and tasks that you need to do each day to take the small, important steps that will lead you to achieving your vision for 2024.
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