Now you have your hopes mapped out, what will the month ahead look like? Start your planning by writing down a list of what you need to do. You might like to use colour pens, coloured paper or a new diary or smartphone app – be creative and make it special so that the very idea of planning feels more exciting and enjoyable. As the month progresses and you make your way through the list, tick things off or cross them out because this gives your brain a lovely hit of dopamine, one of the feelgood chemicals our bodies produce that will help you increasingly look forward to making plans and carrying them out.

Quick tips to get started

  • Invest in a diary or smartphone app that gives you an annual, monthly and weekly view of your priorities.
  • Make sure your diary or app is something you love and will be excited about using.
  • Play around with the diary or app to find the way it works best for you.
  • Make this diary or app your touchstone throughout the day to guide what you do.
  • Give yourself the pleasure of ticking things off!

Want to go with the flow?

The world’s most effective leaders understand that forward planning is essential for success. By loosely planning each year in advance, month by month, you’ll be well prepared for the busy times, but also able to factor in plenty of fun.

An annual calendar puts you in charge of how you use your time. It gives you the perspective and focus you need to move from the passenger seat to the driver’s side of life. It’s the next step in bringing your purpose, vision and hope map to life.

Five steps to plan your year

Start with the obvious and jot down birthdays, holidays and other regular significant events that are part of the rhythm of your life. Don’t get bogged down in small details yet – focus on the big-ticket occasions that shape your year.

1. Add your hopes
Looking at your hope map, are there key milestones, events or opportunities you want to note? For example, the date of the marathon you want to run, a conference you want to attend or the go-live date of a major project.

2. Bust the energy drainers
Add any known energy drainers that will have to be taken care of, so you’re prepared to tackle these head-on. For example, when will you do your annual tax return, service the car, spring-clean your living space?

3. Prioritise some fun
Plan some pick-me-ups in your calendar to keep your motivation and energy levels up. For example, have you booked an annual holiday, is there a concert you want to see, would you value a spa day with a friend?

4. Breathe
Take a deep breath and relax, knowing this list is there to guide you, not govern you, as you focus on the things you most want to complete.

Of course, if your annual calendar looks overwhelming at this point, now is a good time to see what you can delegate, what you can delay until next year or what you can simply delete. Be sure that when you look at the big picture of what will unfold this year, it is taking you towards the kind of success you want.

Think of this as your road map for life. You’re eliminating the dead-ends and wrong turns, and taking the fastest, most direct route to your destination.

Do you know what this month will bring?

Personal fulfilment depends on how you value each and every moment. Now that you’ve planned your year, as each month approaches it’s time to get more specific about what you want to achieve, the time you need to unwind and the golden moments you want to create. To create your monthly plan, first write down the key activities on your annual planner that occur in the coming month. Now, add:

  • Personal priorities

Book in personal time in the same way you would schedule a meeting. For example, my family’s first hour at home each evening is our most important meeting of the day. Do you need to plan time with your family, your partner or your friends?

  • Health and wellbeing

Exercise, food, fun and time out are vital and should be shaped around your work.

  • Hopes

What do you need to focus on doing this month so that you can move forward on your path?

  • Energy drainers

What are the drainers you need to take care of this month? Haircuts, gardening, paying the bills?

  • Mental breathing space

Make time for rest and recovery, when you can just hang out and be. I love my couch nights!

When you’ve finished drawing up your plan for the month, step back and take a look at the big picture once again. Is this the kind of month you want to be living? Is it moving you towards your purpose, vision and hopes? Are you looking forward to the month unfolding? If the answer is ‘no’ to any of these, put yourself in the driver’s seat and find a way to change the direction, shift gears or make the journey more enjoyable. This is your life; you need to make conscious choices about the way you live to achieve the outcomes you most desire.

Seeing a month mapped out in advance is liberating and keeps us focused and inspired. Here is an example of a template my clients use to help them plan each month.

(Extract taken from The Life Plan, by Shannah Kennedy. Head over to to order your copy or get in touch with Shannah here to find out about executive coaching options.)