How To Effectively Get Sh*t Done This Year
If you often feel totally overwhelmed and if, even with the best of intentions, you can’t seem to get stuff done, this article is for you.
This is a remake of a really popular post I wrote a few years back. I have improved this yearly planning system even more over time and I actually went as far as creating a physical planner called “The Maker’s Roadmap” which you can learn more about right here.
Although I will be using examples from my own planner to illustrate this yearly system, you can absolutely use it with any planner you might like.
It’s time to get sh*t done, so let’s dive in.
Step 1 – YEARLY
Your Yearly Vision
As we progress through this system, you will notice that I do not set yearly goals, nor do I recommend you do.
It’s not that they’re necessarily bad, but they are quite unrealistic so in a way, quite useless too.
Your business changes every few months and trying to predict exactly what will happen a year from now can be much harder than it sounds.
Instead, we will be setting quarterly goals to keep things in a timeframe that is easier to understand and work within (more actionable).
So, no yearly goals here but instead a “yearly vision”.
I don’t do gratitude journals, diaries, or anything like that but I do like to sit down once a year for a real look into where I am at (personally and in my business) and where I want to go.
If you have a few empty pages in your favorite journal or your favorite planner, you could use them for it, or simply use a blank sheet of paper. It doesn’t have to be fancy.
The idea of a yearly vision is to set goals that aren’t necessarily based on quantity but on quality instead. The reason we’re writing it down and not just thinking about it is that a year from now, you need to be able to come back to it to reflect on what worked out, and what didn’t. It’s always interesting to see if/where we changed direction.
Examples of questions you can ask yourself during this exercise:
- What is your vision for the year?
- By the end of the year, what are 5 things you want to be proud of having accomplished (personal + business)?
- What do you want your business to be like and feel like a year from now?
- How do you want to feel like a year from now? (personal only)
- What would make you feel “this was a good year”?
- If you had to pick one word (only one!) to define your focus for the year, what would it be? E.g.: nurture, health, family, expand, simplify, experiment, etc. Just one word.
One Step at a Time
This is something I borrowed from Elise Joy and I absolutely love this part of the system.
Now that you’ve set a direction for the year to come by defining your vision, you should be able to find what ONE thing you want to commit to doing every day this year.
You have to be REALLY specific for this one. You can’t say “exercise” because that’s too vague meaning there’s a greater chance you won’t stick to it. Try things like “do one hour of yoga” or “stretch for 15 minutes” or “meditate 10 mins” or “paint for 30mins”, etc.
Once you’ve picked your daily goal, define what is green (=achieved or overachieved), yellow (underachieved) and red (=failed). Grab 3 color pencils and color at the end of each day accordingly.
My one this year? Stretching (for my back). I color green if I do 30 minutes or more, yellow if I do less than that, red if I didn’t stretch at all.
By the end of the year, you will be able to look back and see what color dominates. Remember, this isn’t about coloring every day green. It is perfectly fine to skip days and to have red dots. Seeing a full year at a glance also makes you realize that even if you skipped 10 days, you still have plenty of time to get back on track and start coloring green again. This is simply a way to keep you on track and accountable and to look at the big picture.
Step 2 – QUARTERLY
Quarterly Goals and Projects
This is the core of this yearly productivity system. As I mentioned earlier, instead of setting yearly goals, we are going to be working in 3-months cycles, which is much more actionable.
Four times a year, every quarter, we sit down to do a few key things:
- Review what worked and what didn’t over the last 3 months;
- Review your marketing/traffic/sales over the last 3 months (see example below of the “quarterly shop review” from the Maker’s Roadmap Planner);
- Based on that, decide what are the 3 focus areas for the next 3 months;
- For each focus area, set a measurable goal;
- Define what projects you need to work on to reach that goal;
- Prioritize those projects.
1. My review from the last 3 months tells me my sales have stagnated and my traffic is down. This makes me realize my conversion rate has actually improved (I make the same amount of sales with less traffic). I realize I have forgotten to look after my Pinterest account the last quarte (it used to work well but I might have gotten a bit complacent) and that if I was to fix it, I would probably get more traffic and more sales next quarter.
I also know I need to make some changes to my shop SEO as my traffic dropped slowly after the SEO algorithm changed.
2. Focus area: Increase Traffic.
3. Measurable goal: Go back to 800 views in my Etsy shop/day (currently down to 500).
4. Projects and priorities:
- (Priority 1) Set up an efficient and systemized Pinterest strategy for my shop.
- (Priority 2) Add long tail keywords to my SEO.
Now you should be super clear on what projects you will be taking on board this quarter and what are your priorities.
It’s time to get into the practical aspect of this system, so you not only know what to do but also have an actionable plan to get it done.
Enter, the task planner.
Here again, you can use a blank piece of paper, a spreadsheet, an app, whatever works for you but the idea is to break down the projects you are committing to into as many tasks and subtasks as possible.
Of course, you won’t be able to know each step of each project before you actually get started, but try your best and as you start working on it, keep using your task planner to break down each step into small action-steps and estimate how long each will take (I recommend always x1.5 what you think it will take, for product research/development, content, and product photography x2).
E.g.: Instead of writing “Create a new product collection,” write down:
- “Set a date for the collection launch” – 10 minutes;
- Browse Pinterest for inspiration, and pin inspiring images onto a secret board” – 40 minutes;
- “Decide on a direction for the collection, textures, and colors that I’m going to be using” – 50 minutes;
- And so on.
This is very important and you’ll understand exactly why when we get to the “weekly planning” part of the system.
Step 3 – MONTHLY
Monthly Goals and Projects
Put quite simply, every month you need to look at your quarterly planning section and ask yourself:
What do I need to get done this month to get ⅓, ⅔ or 100% of the way there (depending if this is the first, second or last month of your quarter)?
Take a look at your list of projects and goals and their priorities and decide what will be your focus project and goals for the month to come.
Usually, each planner has some room for notes on the monthly spread pages, which you can use for it. The example below is from the Maker’s Roadmap Planner:
At the end of the month, it’s time to do a little review. Nothing too crazy, we have the quarterly reviews for that, but we still want to be reviewing what went well, what didn’t and where we might have been distracted (squirrel!).
The example below is from the Maker’s Roadmap Planner and the questions you should consider asking yourself during your monthly review are:
- Did you accomplish your goals for the month?
- Did you finish this month’s projects?
- What worked?
- What didn’t?
- What distracted you or got in the way?
- How much closer have you gotten to your quarterly goals this month
- Based on that and your quarterly priorities, what will be next month focus projects and goals?
Step 4 – WEEKLY
Weekly Projects and Daily Focus
You are now entering the day-to-day, very practical part of this system: when and how will you manage to fit in all of your tasks into your already busy schedule?
Each week, use your weekly spread (an example of the Maker’s Roadmap spread below but you could use the “notes” section of any other planner too) to remind yourself of the project you are working on this month, to keep them front and center.
- Block times on your weekly spread/calendar for the things you can NOT move around (day job, kids activities, etc.);
- Find a chunk of at least 2H straight (the more the better) where you will be working on your shop/business without any interruption (more info on this here);
- Fill in the gaps with the tasks from your task planner. This is where the magic happens because if you just have 40 minutes between work and picking up your daughter at soccer, you can still look for something on your task planner that you estimated would take around 30 minutes. Instead of not using this time or spending it wondering what to get done, you can get really specific and get to work quicker.
E.g.: 2:40 PM – 3:30 PM => Write Pinterest Bio and upload new Profile Pic for Pinterest Account. Compared to just writing in “Pinterest”, it saves you time trying to figure out what to actually do for “Pinterest” in 30 minutes.
At the end of the week, we do a super short and sweet review of what went well and not so well to help get organized for the one to come. Typically, I try to do this on Friday evening but I also regularly work on weekends, so I might do it on Sunday evening instead – do what works for you. If your week starts on Tuesday and ends on Monday, that’s fine by me.
A few simple things to ask yourself to review your week:
- What worked?
- What didn’t work?
- What are you happy happened (personal) or proud of having done (business)?
- What’s your focus next week?
- What should you stop doing or working on (distractions, squirrels, shiny objects)?
And there you have it!
I hope this system will help you achieve more this year and please feel free to leave a comment below, I read and reply to all of them.
Grow your handmade shop
access the free resource library
Unlock the library of free resources for makers and handmade entrepreneurs and receive weekly tips and freebies to help you craft a profitable and successful handmade shop!