One of the most valuable exercises I’ve ever done for myself is create a personal plan. It’s something that I have done every year since 2009. The first time I did it, it was a 30-day process. I did it because a friend invited me to do it together as accountability partners and the program included one task every day for 30 days. We did it together in December 2009, spending the month to craft our personal plans for 2010.
Since then I have taken time on my own to revise the plan every year in December. Having done it once, it doesn’t take me nearly as long and some of the ground work from back in 2009 is still relevant enough to carry forward. Perhaps the part that is most amazing to me is that when I really stopped to dedicate time to figuring out big personal ideas for myself, like my desired legacy and life purpose, they haven’t changed since 2009. What does change is my vision for the year. That changes because each year changes me and, if I’m doing the work that I detail in my personal plan, ideally I outgrow the vision and need to re-create it the next year.
What’s so great about a personal plan?
I finished my personal plan for 2018 at the end of December and it’s been top of mind for me in recent weeks. It’s definitely an exercise that I think many people can find helpful, especially if you haven’t done anything like it before. The reason I value this process so much is that, yes, I’m a planner and it speaks directly to the organizational high that I get from thinking about putting milestones on the calendar. But there is more to it than that, because I’m not talking about simply thinking about all the things I want to accomplish next year and setting deadlines.
Without first taking the time to think through who I envision myself to be next year, putting goals and target deadlines on the calendar would be arbitrary and random. Any good plan is strategic, which means being intentional in selecting what you will focus on next year and thinking about why you want to do certain things to determine if those things align with the ultimate vision you set for yourself.
Not only does this process help me to think intentionally about how to be the person I want to be, but also it’s given me a valuable and transferable skill. I have found that working through my personal plan each year makes me better at strategizing and planning for other things in my life, including personal creative projects, work projects, and my career development.
So how do I create a personal plan; where do I even start?
If you’re serious about creating a personal plan for yourself, you can absolutely do it without an official program to follow. And even though it’s the end of January, it’s not too late to tackle this exercise for 2018. In fact, you can do it anytime—it doesn’t have to be exclusively a new-year activity. Here are the steps I’d suggest to get you going:
1. Recruit a friend to do it with you, so that you can be each other’s accountability partner.
2. Make an appointment with yourself every day for the next 20-30 days and put it on your calendar. Ideally it’s at a time when you won’t be distracted by work life or home life and is the same time every day.
3. Collect your ground work material. Dedicate one day to each of the following:
- Your strengths. Email 3-5 people who are close to you and ask them to tell you what they perceive to be your top 3-5 strengths.
- Your accomplishments. Think about what you have accomplished in 2017 and list them. When you stop and reflect on what you’ve done in the past year you may be surprised at how long the list is. Celebrate and be proud of all that you have done.
- Your assumptions. What do you assume to be true about the pace of change? The economy? Your field or industry? Demands on your time? Your family? Potential stresses to your physical and mental health? Write out what you assume about each one of the aspects of your life.
- Your opportunities. Think about what opportunities are available to you in 2018. Do not limit yourself to what you’re currently aware of. Think and dream big. Answer the question, what is possible for me next year?
- Your desired legacy. This one may be hard. Imagine what you’d like people to say about you at your funeral. What are the things you’d like people to remember about you the most? Craft your legacy into a one- or two-sentence statement.
- Your life purpose. Use your desired legacy to craft your life purpose. Think about what you hope to accomplish with your life and write a one-sentence purpose statement. This can also be your life mission.
4. Begin to craft your vision statement. Once you have your desired legacy and life purpose articulated, you can begin to craft your vision for 2018. This may take a day or two to land on something that is compelling for you. Answer the question, who do I envision myself to be in 2018?
5. Dedicate several days to developing strategies for achieving your 2018 vision. Each day revisit your vision and look at it through different lenses: your strengths, your assumptions about change, your support system, the gap between your current reality and where you envision yourself next year. Write out potential strategies that you come up with evaluating your vision statement through each different lens. Do not limit yourself at this stage; try to come up with as many strategies as you can.
6. Once you have exhausted the analysis of your vision statement and potential strategies, narrow your strategies down to the best 4-6 to focus on for 2018.
7. Develop 4-6 SMART goals for each of your identified strategies. SMART goals are Specific, Measurable, Action-based, Realistic, and Time-bound.
8. Compile your plan together in a single document including your vision, strategies, and SMART goals for 2018. Include also all of your groundwork materials as an appendix of your desired legacy, life purpose, opportunities, and planning assumptions.
9. Share your plan with 3-5 people who you trust and who can offer objective feedback. Ask them to specifically help you discover any potential blind spots in your plan.
10. Add your planning deadlines to your calendar for 2018 and celebrate the accomplishment of compiling a personal plan for the first time!
My 2018 Vision and Strategies
A post like this would not be complete unless I also share my 2018 vision and strategies. So here they are:
In 2018 I envision myself to be healthy and full of vibrant energy that fuels my creativity, to have an audience large enough to generate passive income from my independent work, and to remain supportive of my husband and family.
My strategies for accomplishing this vision are to:
- prioritize self-care.
- complete a draft of my memoir manuscript.
- be more visible online.
- develop and implement a marketing plan.
- practice greater awareness of others’ needs.
Each one of these strategies are supported by SMART goals that have target deadlines throughout the year. I have already scheduled time on my calendar on one day each month to revisit my strategies and goals, and to plan activities for the coming month that support my vision.
This is a pretty ambitious plan and my hope is that sharing here will keep me more accountable to following through on it.
If you think you’d like to work on your personal plan for 2018, I created a free workbook to help guide you through the process. Enter your email address below and you’ll automatically be sent the download link. If you have a personal plan for yourself, or have you done something else similar to this process, I’d love to hear about what has worked for you in the comments, or let me know with a comment below or DM on Instagram. You can also send me questions and I’ll try to help as much as I can. Here’s to a wildly successful 2018!