How I Plan to Crush the New (School) Year

Happy New Year – New School Year that is – this year I’m not heading back to the classroom, but years of conditioning have led me to see Labour Day weekend as the start of something new and exciting. While I did a big reset two months ago – at the mid point for 2018 – I also decided to use September’s fresh start as motivation to really get ready to crush life.

My planning process this weekend is just an expanded version of what I do each month. I should note that my process relies on some existing plans and systems that I have in place, including; up-to-date calendars, a list of new years resolutions (refreshed on July 1, 2018), and rolling to-do lists for work and home.

Step 1: Assess progress: take note of anything that got accomplished in the previous period (month, week, etc.), mark any completed items, and any time sensitive items that remain incomplete.

Step 2: Update to-do lists (professional and personal) to reflect ongoing and new priorities for the coming period. I maintain the following lists;

  • New Year’s Resolutions (reset on July 1); each of my resolutions has a timeline or deadline attached to it so I can quickly see which items are behind schedule or should be added to the to-do list for the month ahead.
  • Monthly Goals; this list includes a habit tracker for each of my ongoing habits – such as drinking 8 glasses of water per day (as part of project hydrate) and reading a chapter a day (which supports my resolution to read 25 books in 2018), a list of ongoing resolutions or resolutions to work on in September (based on my resolutions list), and, key tasks – based on personal to-do list items from the previous month. (this list is updated monthly)
  • Weekly Goals, in support of my monthly goals; this list includes a week’s worth of each habit tracker from the monthly goal list, as well as any habits I’ve identified to support this month’s new goals – for this month I’ve added a tracker for writing a book outline (spoiler, I’m hoping to turn my weight loss and minimalism journey into a book). My weekly goals list also includes a list of people I want to catch-up with (because as an introvert I have to bake “spending time with people” into my mental health resolutions in order to actually do it, and a list of tasks that need to be completed – based on the tasks on the monthly goal list, as well as a rolling to-do list. (this list is updated weekly)
  • Professional To-Do List; a rolling to-do list of tasks and assignments I need to get done for work, this list is also informed by the critical paths that I build out for specific projects and events that I am working on in my professional life. (This list is updated once or twice a week, always along with the weekly goals list, and sometimes on Wednesday if I’ve been taking a lot of notes in the margins or have a long list of action items from a meeting).
  • Daily “Punch List”; this is the list that drives my daily routine, and is based on my calendar blocking for the day (more on that to come), as well as my weekly goal list – including any “habit” tasks to be completed that day, and a few names from the “spend time” list, as well as a couple of items from the rolling to do list (assigned in priority order). (this list is updated daily).

Step 3: Update my calendars. I use calendar blocking to organize my days – my personal calendar has my work day blocked off, and my work calendar deals almost exclusively with my work day, where there is an overlap in timing I will duplicate the event in both calendars. I block time in order to complete the key tasks on my weekly goals list, and my professional to-do list; and, from the blocked time I feed into my daily punch list.

Step 4: Update all other trackers and lists. Currently, my primary tracker which I update weekly (and appears in the monthly and weekly goals list) is my budget; each week I track all income and expense lines from the previous week, and colour code expenses against budget so that I can see where I am close to or over budget, and where I might have some room to offset or find additional surplus. I also review my weight loss/gain trend, and my rolling shopping list (because of my recent weight loss I have a list of the key wardrobe items I need to purchase in my current – smaller – size).

It looks like A LOT, but truthfully it took me almost as long to craft this post, as it took me to review my progress and plan for the month ahead. Use this – the new school year – as an excuse to review your progress, celebrate your successes and plan to make progress on some of your stalled items.

If you do nothing else, ask yourself what habit can I establish and track, that will help me make progress on my greatest priority? While I still schedule my meal prep and wardrobe prep each week, I’ve stopped tracking them on paper because the habit has stuck, it’s a powerful tool when you build habits with intent.

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