I have been, and will always be, a pen and paper gal. There’s something about physically writing things down that soothes my crazy brain and restore order to my thoughts. That’s why yearly planning tools for my business are a life saver!
To put it lightly . . . I have a lot of ideas. And when I say a lot, I mean almost too many. My brain gets scattered easily with all creativity running around up there. I get wires crossed, start things before finishing others, and get ahead of myself often. Yearly planning tools have been my lifeline and the reason I have made progress toward my goals.
A little side note before we get into everything:
When I first decided to write about my yearly planning tools it was going to be about just that: The tools I used. But as I got to writing so much more came out. Tips about blogging, encouragement through the struggle, pieces of my journey came out, and that’s what makes this post come alive to me. It’s real, because it’s a true bloggers journey though the messy first years. I hope it imparts some wisdom to you and gives you hope as a new, or even seasoned blogger.
Over the years I’ve figured out what what works for me. If you’re a creative, these tools might be up your alley as well.
This post contains affiliate links. For more information, see my disclosures here.
What I know to be true: Consistency is key
Without planning, I’m not consistent. It just isn’t my gift. Mine is creativity. The flow of thoughts and ideas.
When I was lost and confused about my career after having my dreams dashed early on, (I had wanted to be a veterinary technician. Looking back now, I’m so glad that didn’t pan out.) my great aunt took pity on my situation and booked me an aptitude assessment from the Johnson O’Connor Research Foundation in Seattle.
This was so enlightening and I still refer back to it today when doing new things. While testing I set the record in that location for Divergent Thinking, or Ideaphopria, which is the flow of ideas. I also scored extremely high in foresight, which is seeing possibilities and determining the best approach to goal setting. They sat me down with a pen and a blank sheet of paper, gave me a time limit, shared one idea with me, and told me to expand on it. I flew through that paper, my mind went crazy. That is my gift! And I’m truly proud of it. Consistency and follow though though, not so much.
A business with just ideas dies fairly quickly. It’s being consistent and following through to completion on those crazy ideas that a person achieves true success.
instead of goals, shift your mindset to one of mastering habits.
Goals are great, but without habits to back them up, they’re just daydreams. I love the metaphor James Clear uses to explain habits and consistency in his book Atomic Habits. It goes something like this:
Your latent potential is like walking into a room that’s very cold, say it’s 25 degrees. You can see your breath. Sitting in front of you on a table is an ice cube. You start to heat the room up slowly, 26 degrees, 27, 28, and the ice cube doesn’t change. You continue to move the temperature up, 29, 30, 31, still nothing. And then you hit 32. All of the sudden, at that one degree shift, it starts to melt. It was just a degree, like all the ones before it, but this one degree was the tipping point. All the previous degrees helped to get the ice cube to this point, but until 32 degrees, you never noticed a change.James Clear, Atomic Habits
That’s what planning and consistency help you achieve, they are the CORNERSTONE for growing solid habits that then euqal: success. (Melted Ice) 😉
You don’t see it at the beginning, which makes it so hard. Yet, proper habits and goals and ways to track them push you forward, guide you, and keep you showing up. Until one day, all the work and effort proves fruitful. Then guess what? We make more goals and dreams, we plan and track those, and do it all over again!
I use the tools outlined below to help me be consistent and build solid habits. I’m not perfect, but each year I challenge myself to be better than the last. I do this through constantly reading to get my mind in the right place (I recommend a few books below), and make sure to have a solid editorial and content tools/planner, as well as a yearly planner that meshes with my personality and aspirations.
Yearly planning tools:
The Yearly Planner
Guys, I’m a bit of a planner freak. I’ve tried Erin Condren, The Passion Planner, Happy Planner, and the list goes on and on. This year I’m on to a new one, and think that it’s the best I’ve had yet!
*Small note to those living in Spokane WA (aka my home town) There is a sweet gal I know and have come to call a friend who makes an amazing planner called The Modern Woman’s Business Planner. Not only does it contain organizational tools for clients/projects/services and a developmental tool to guide through the best marketing practices, it also contains beautiful drawings of local landmarks and quotes from local business women. And hey, you don’t have to be local to use it.
If you’re not local though, and want something more universal, have I got the planner for you. I was actually headed to Target to check out the Day Designer which I had several blogger friends rave over, but after stumbling onto this one I decided to go with it instead. It’s called Create & Cultivate & Conquer and it’s going to be a game changer, I can just tell! Plus, it’s only $14.99 at Target. Also one of the least expensive planners I’ve purchased.
I like big planners, I cannot lie. 😉 I want them giant. Coming in at 11″ x 9.5″ the Cultivate Planner is the perfect size. My big ideas need a big space to go. Smaller planners I struggle finding enough room to write. At its core the Cultivate planner is very simplistic and effective.
- January – December 12 month date range.
- Sticker sheet included.
- Weekly and Monthly spreads organize to-do’s, goals, notes and more#BOSSboard lets you doodle, brainstorm and visualize your dreams
- Special sections to track your Side Hustle, self-care and more
My favorite parts are the monthly and weekly spreads which provide plenty of space to organize goals, to-do’s and notes.
I like to keep work and regular life info in this planner. What I’m about to show you next though is a game changer for the blogger/social media person.
The Blog and Editorial Planner
When you get this, and use it, you just know you’re about to level up. The Create One-Year Blog & Editorial Planner is what the creative brain needs to organize their thoughts and goals, and then map out an action plan.
My mom, who runs Denison Ridge Weddings and also has a blog and wedding venue ebook, purchased this for me. And at first I thought, oh great, just another tool that waists my time and doesn’t truly help me get busy. (There are a lot of what I call “Time Sucker” books out there that don’t actually help with growth. They just spin you around in circles and share feel good words.)
Gosh was I wrong about this one!
I’ll admit, I was a bit overwhelmed at first with how much this thing contained, but when I added tabs, broke it down into sections, and read through the beginning completely I was on fire for this blogging tool and ready to use it to plan my whole year.
One of my blogging friends asked:
“What do you like most about it?” And this was my truthful answer:
“It’s like she knows me! How she has yearly goals in the beginning and quarterly goals throughout to keep you on track. She emphasizes emails and opt-ins and makes spots for when you’re sending monthly emails, the goals of the emails, what you want them to be about and when they should go out.
Also collaboration areas and all blog posts per month. Monthly spots for numbers and analytics so you can see growth and know what best to focus in on. There are areas to write out your best preforming posts per season so you know how to structure your new content. She just helps connect all the dots so you have a actionable plan to implement.”
Honestly, everything that Meera Kothand writes and makes for bloggers is a game changer. I encourage you to get these other books by her I’ll list below and read through them to help structure your year and get the idea ball rolling.
Meera just has the head for planning and making a blog successful. How she breaks down tasks makes what she talks about, like opt-ints, email strategies, content planning, and social sharing, seem doable.
If two planners seem like too much, I’d say go with with Create. I like two so I can keep my regular appointments and tasks such such as haircuts, PTA meetings, piano lessons and so-on separate. If you don’t mind storing it all in one place though, Create is your planner.
Other Books By Meera Kothand that are great yearly planning tools
This was the first book I purchased from her, and one of the reasons I feel in love with her work.
I know, looking at the title you think, yeah right. But truthfully, read the darn book and do what she says! You’ll be surprised with the outcome! This book is best read early on in the yearly content planning stage. Once you have an idea for your posts and social shares, so much of the work is already done!
This is great to read for right before working on your Create editorial planner, or in conjunction with. I’m a huge believe in making an income from doing what you love. And with how much effort and time goes into a blog, if you’re not making money from it . . . well somethings going to give sooner or later. This books has many nuggets of info. It’s a must if you think you’re missing ways to monetize your blog. (Spoiler, most of us are.)
This one I’d recommend for the beginner bloggers out three.
It’s essentially a tool to help structure your business from the ground up. If you still have a lot of questions about starting a blog, what you’re actually going to write about, and/or if you’re unsure if you have anything sellable to offer, or simply curious if you should make your passion a business, this book helps you dive into how to structure your business. There’s a lot of writing and planning it out, which helps your brain work through the kinks. Not necessary for all bloggers, I’d recommend it to those who feel a little lost in the process and need help to map out their plan.
Need a little push to get your butt in gear?
This is another book my mom made me read. (It’s like she knows me or something 😉 ) She bought it for herself, my sister, and me. I saw the title and instantly thought, I’m not scared! This won’t apply to me.
Again . . . how wrong I was.
This book is another that screams at you: TAKE ACTION! It also lays out a plan and works you through your Fear Archetype. Ruth has an assessment to help you identify your unique fear that keeps you stuck, and how to conquer it. I’ve read more business books that I can count, and this is in my top five of ones everyone needs to read. Another great is The Miracle Morning. I’ve read it multiple times and it always lights a fire under me!
In the end, don’t get stuck in the planning: Follow Through and DO!
Yearly planning tools are great, but a plan without action is waisted effort. So many get stuck in the planning phase, but fear of failure holds them back from the actual doing. They sit there and plan and plan and plan, wanting to map out a perfect road to success. Spoiler for those that struggle with that: there’s not one. No plan will go without hiccups and problems. But you don’t know how to reframe and what to do unless you start!
I love what I heard on a podcast once. I can’t remember who it was now, but they said: “Take a week, or a few solid days, and work on your content and plan for the next year. Bring a bunch of sticky notes, your content planners and tons of extra paper. Figure your goals out for next year, and reverse engineer what you need to do get there. After this planning session is over, it’s time to get busy and create!” I love the idea of giving yourself a limit on how much you can plan. Then there’s no getting stuck in that phase of your business.
A few keys to growth in the online arena
Want to get your page views up so you can apply to Mediavine this year? (One of the best ad services to monetize you site. You need around 30,000 pages views a month to apply.) You better believe you’re writing at least one high quality blog post per week, using a solid Pinterest strategy, getting Tailwind, (A need for Pinterest growth) and busting out content.
Want to launch a product this year? Start tailoring the majority of your content to that specific area. Show people you’re an expert. Open their eyes to the problems they might have, and the ways you can help solve them.
Get those emails into inboxes. Do you have valuable opt-ins on your site? I just switched to ConvertKit after being with MailChimp for years. MailChimp was the most painful email program ever. I absolutely hated it. But friends, it’s free for the first 500 subscribers. Sometimes free is the only option. But ConvertKit has already made sending emails easier.
In the end: SHOW UP!
I can’t tell you the years I wasted afraid to make a move because it might be the wrong one. Or do someone for a short period of time because I was afraid that piece of ice would never melt. I didn’t give it the time or effort because I was afraid of waisting my time. Oh how wrong I was and how much more time I waisted being afraid to go all in. If you take anything away from this little post, it’s that planning is great, but the true power lies in the execution.
Please don’t wait for January, or next quarter, or tomorrow to start working on your goals. The above tools are relevant today, right now. So get busy friends!
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