My Vision and Planning Process

My Vision and Planning Process

Happy New Year! Whether you are fully back to work this week, easing yourself in gently (like I am) or still on your Christmas break, I hope you’ve had a wonderful holiday season and that you are feeling optimistic about what 2024 will bring!

After 3 years of pretty major challenges with my health, in July this year I finally got to the bottom of the underlying cause and it feels great to finally have a treatment plan and to have turned a corner and feel so much more like my old self again – so 2024 is looking bright for me!

The end of 2023 was very busy in my business, so I’ve just enjoyed a much needed 2 week hibernation (6 days in the Moroccan sun, a family Christmas, then a week of pottering at home, walks in the woods, oodles of rubbish TV, LOTS of sleep and very little time online), and this week is a slow and reflective start to the year.

One of the key things I do at the very beginning of each year is my vision & planning for the year ahead. We also encourage our Business from the Heart Members to revisit their vision & plan using the vision & planning process embedded in the membership at this time as it’s a great way to reconnect with their passion and purpose.

In the spirit of a new year, I thought I’d share this vision and planning process with you. Perhaps you’re already organised and clear on your focus for the first few months of the year,  and you are ready to hit the ground running.  But if you haven’t yet looked ahead to 2024, or you have done but would benefit from a boost of renewed motivation, then you’ll find this planning process powerful.

The way my business cycle goes I’m always very busy all the way through the autumn months. First I launch and then deliver my Get More Clients Saying Yes! course, then a launch of the Business from the Heart Membership, which means that from September right up to our Hearties end of year Christmas party in December I am busy with launching, course delivery, supporting my clients to get results, and welcoming new members. Before I knew it, it was time a mad rush to pack for my holiday, get to the airport and fly to Morocco where I got to relax in the sun with some good books and replenish my energy.

This busy autumn period means I typically do my planning for the year ahead in the early part of January – this year I’ll be leaning into it fully next week.  It’s never too late to create a clear plan.

Even if you’re still in holiday mode and don’t do your planning in February, that’s okay — it’s not too late! 

I’d hate for you to get to the end of this month and go:

I haven’t done my year’s planning yet so there’s no point in starting now.

Because the clarity and focus it gives you will make a huge difference to the rest of your year, and after all January is just a date. You’ve got a big vision to achieve and great work to do, is it really going to matter that you “get there” a month later than if you’d “hit the ground running” in January?? Of course it isn’t!

Having a clear plan for the year helps you to focus and motivates you. You’ll feel that you have renewed energy and vitality. I hope you have your post-its at the ready!

And in fact, you can revisit your plan at any time you need a boost of motivation, and clarity about your priorities. I take the Hearties (the wonderful people in my Business from the Heart membership) through this process twice a year in a live workshop, and have a video series taking people through the process that they can access at any time they need a refocus.

Here’s my Planning Process:

Vision & planning process 2023

Let me share with you the steps that I follow to do my own planning every year.

Step 1: Read “The One Thing” by Gary Keller

I’m a huge fan of this book. When I first read it, it wasn’t so much an eye-opener as a reinforcement of what I’ve always instinctively known — that trying to do too much and focusing on too many projects at once leads to doing none of them well, a huge amount of frustration, a feeling of lack of progress, and eventually burn out.  I’ve always been pretty good at focusing my attention on just one thing at a time but this book was an important reminder and really helps me streamline my focus and actually feel pride at what I do accomplish – instead of always having a lot list of things I’m “failing” to achieve. I highly recommend it — especially if you are someone whose natural tendency is to try and spread your time across multiple projects but rarely feel a sense of true accomplishment.

Step 2: Get your Post-its ready!

Next, gather together what you’ll need to get into planning and creative mode. For me, this is a very large sheet of paper (A1 or A2), a bunch of small and large post-it notes and some blu-tack to stick it to the wall (but you can do the same thing with a sheet of A4 and some small size post-its if that’s easier to get your hands on). You’ll also need a journal or notebook to hand to create your vision and capture your many ideas.  Divide the paper up into months and quarters, 3 months per row (see the image further down).   Then you’re good to go.

Step 3: Get clear on your Vision

When I work with my clients on this I like to begin win a visioning process to help them to tune into their vision for their life and business 2-3 years from now.  They then use this to guide the direction of the year to come.   For me, planning is a combination of having a big vision for what I want to achieve, then tapping into my intuition about what feels right for me, and also understanding the very practical steps that I need to take if I’m going to get there.

And of course, it’s important to set clear milestones along the way so you can measure (and celebrate!) your progress – even the small steps.  Taking time to get clear on where you are going is an important part of the process.

Step 4: Set your Theme 

This isn’t necessarily a strictly business theme (though it might be e.g. it might be “sales mastery”, “collaboration”, “consistency” or “focus”) —  I like to choose themes that work in the wider context of my life but impact my business. One year it was “Space”, another Play”. Last year it was “Hands off” to remind me to leave the team to get on with their work and not interrupt them and take myself out of flow by constantly dipping in to do tasks or “help out”. This year, after a very intense year last year between lots of health challenges, and big work projects and launches it is “Spaciousness”.  Write the theme you choose right at the very top of your sheet.

Step 5: Set your Overall Focus 

The overall focus is a clear business goal that you want to achieve. This gets written across the top of the sheet underneath your Theme. This is like having ‘One Thing’ for the whole year. This One Thing will guide all of your other decisions. This is the One Thing that if you were to achieve it, will make all of your efforts worthwhile, and that also by pursuing it, you will see knock-on benefits across your business as a whole. Knowing that One Thing that you are working towards helps to focus your other activities and helps you know what opportunities and ideas are genuinely good ones and what to say no to.

Step 6: Braindump

The next step is to brain dump all of your goals and ideas — and I mean all of them. ALL the things you want to achieve in the coming year. ALL the things you know you “should” be doing but are not. ALL the things you want to do because you know they’ll impact your business positively in the long term but you are not getting around to them. ALL the crazy and inspiring ideas for new projects. Get it all down, a post-it note for each one. Yes, there will be a lot, but that’s the point — only when you’ve got them all out of your head and on to a post-it can you go about organising and prioritising them.

Step 7: Add your One Thing items to your Planner

Add your post-it notes to your planner, allocating each one to a particular month.  The challenge here is to have just one key focus per month!

Here are some guidelines for doing this:

Put the important things in first.
I like to put my holidays in first as these are the things I will let slip if I don’t plan them in advance. Then I put in any other key projects that are fixed. For example, I always do the annual launch of my Get More Clients Saying Yes! course in September – so my “one thing” for September becomes the launch, and then my “one thing” for October is delivering on that programme. These get fixed into the plan in advance.

The aim is to have JUST ONE key focus per month.

This allows you to see that you don’t have to fit everything that belongs in your “ideas bank” in by next Tuesday! This is what leads to overwhelm and spinning your wheels. Instead, you can see visually that you have a whole year ahead of you (and guess what — there’s another one coming along straight after that!), so it doesn’t all have to be done at once.

This process also allows you to see where you are taking on and committing to too much — which is where you hit overwhelm and frustration.

As an example, my “One Things”  for the first half of the year just gone were:

January: Planning + an affiliate promotion of someone else’s programme
February: Back-end Foundations — putting in new place new systems, processes and team members to make the rest of the year run more smoothly
March:  Building an evergreen sales funnel for the Business from the Heart membership
April:  Marketing to send new people into the new evergreen funnel
May:  Live launch of Business from the Heart Membership
June:  Planning and setting up partnerships ahead of the September launch of the Get More Clients Saying Yes! course

By doing it this way, I know what my core focus is every month and it helps me to protect those things that are the highest priority in achieving my long-term vision. Then if an “unmissable” opportunity comes along, or I realise I want to change tack, rather than trying to fit in too much I can reassess. Either I’ll prioritise the One Thing and say no to the opportunity or idea, or I’ll rearrange my post-it plan to move the One Thing to make space for it – maybe by moving a launch along by a month. Or accepting a key project won’t happen this year and moving it to the Futurelog.

As it turned out I was hit by a series unrelated health issues that lasted from March through to the end of June which threw this plan out completely and the membership launch didn’t happen and the evergreen sales funnel wasn’t completed until mid July!  But that’s the beauty of a flexible “post-it” note plan.  It wasn’t easy to make less progress than I’d hoped, but it did made it easier to re-prioritise based on the “reality” I found myself in, brush myself off and start again from July.

Personalise it!
It has to work for you and your life. For example, if you’re a mum, you might want to have just 3 “quarters” to follow the school terms and just keep your Heartbeat ticking along during the holidays. You can make any tweaks to adapt it to work for you.

Full disclosure:
Okay, okay this is where I should come clean!   I rarely manage to have just “one thing” per post-it, per month (though I do try). Some months I have two. That’s because the reality is that there often is more than one priority and both need equal attention. That’s just the reality. But I try and make sure that if I have 2 (or sometimes even 3!) “One Things” in a particular month and that it is entirely realistic that I’m able to complete them in that month.

Step 8: Set up your Heartbeat

The heartbeat or “rhythm” of your business is the stuff that needs to happen regularly all year round to keep your business on track. These don’t go into particular months because they are happening all the time, so I leave space for the heartbeat along the bottom of my sheet.

Your hearbeat might include:
Creating weekly content — video, blog article or podcast
Social media activity
Developing joint venture and partner relationships
Weekly sales calls and direct reach out

This becomes the rhythm and heartbeat that you do all year round that keeps the business alive.

I don’t include delivery of programmes in the “heartbeat” as that all happens anyway because the calls and sessions are fixed in the calendar and so I’m never going to miss them. What I put in “heartbeat” are those crucial things that I know I can easily let slip if I’m not careful.

Step 9: The Futurelog

This might be the best part of the plan!

We all have a zillion ideas for all the amazing things we want to do in our business and it can all get very exciting. But if we are not careful we end up totally overcommitting to things with the result that we take on too much. What then invariably happens is that other areas of our life start to suffer and yet for all the sacrifice, none of our projects actually get off the ground.

Sounds familiar?

So the Futurelog is a series of post-it notes that goes along the very bottom of your sheet. (I normally have my Heartbeat bottom left and the Futurelog bottom right). These are the things you REALLY want to do but you can’t fit in now without impacting on the success of other priorities. They go in the Futurelog because they are not being “thrown out”. They are just waiting for the right time.

Last year my Futurelog contained two things that I’m desperately keen to get done, but once I’d plugged in my priorities for the rest of the year, I could see that there wasn’t really space for them as well, so they got put in the Futurelog – who knows, maybe they will make it into the plan for this year!

These were things like:

  • Launching a Podcast
  • Adding a “next level” to my membership for people who want more input and accountability from me personally
  • Improving the evergreen sales funnel for my course

Great ideas? Yes.

Did they need to get done last year?

Not if I wanted to achieve the primary goal I had set myself. But they were there in the backlog in case of a boost of inspiration or time opening up unexpectedly.

This type of “One Thing” planning helps you to create a realistic plan that will actually move you forward based on your immediate highest priorities and allows you time to focus on the tasks that are most important.

Everything else goes in the Futurelog until the time is right. 

That includes all those bright ideas that so often throw you off track — because sometimes even great ideas and opportunities can actually set you back if you do them at the wrong time.

Accountability

The next important piece of course is accountability. How can you be held accountable to actually sticking with and completing that all important One Thing each month? Can you buddy up with a friend, or create a small accountability pod of other business owners. In the Business from the Heart Membership we have small accountability pods to keep each other on track — *and* a thread in the Facebook Group every month where our members publicly share their One Thing, and then report back at the end of the month.

I hope you’ve found it useful to see how myself and our members plan out our year. If you’ve got a different system that works for you do post in the comments below. And if you haven’t yet planned your year ahead, why not schedule out some time to follow this plan over the next few days so you are ready to start your 2024 with renewed focus and motivation!

Want to follow this Vision & Planning process in more detail?

Business from the Heart Membership isn’t officially open for enrolment right now, but if you feel you’d like some guided and more detailed support with this process via the Vision & Planning process embedded in the membership and support from me on the live calls, I’ve sneakily opened a joining page just for the next couple of days.

So if I’ve inspired you, go ahead you can jump in now and get started with your plan with the support of me and the video series within the membership:  www.businessfromtheheart.com/join

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Please leave a comment as I would love to hear your thoughts

3 Comments

  1. Vicki on February 17, 2022 at 3:04 pm

    I love this Catherine! As you know planning is not my love but I wonder whether that’s because I’ve not truly been connected to my business. I’m finding lots of ideas and opportunities opening up to me currently do for the first time in a long while I feel planning is necessary and 1 thing doesn’t feel restricting but actually very freeing x

    • Helen Vits on February 18, 2022 at 4:23 pm

      This is so lovely to hear and we couldn’t agree more when you are in flow it will all start to come and that is the time to organise and get ready. Enjoy the process and a pleasure to be connected on your journey x

  2. Loliya Harrison on February 16, 2022 at 10:34 am

    Thank you for this reminder Catherine. I’ve been busy this last year with Coaching Cert at One of Many and Lead the change. I’m coming to the end of my Lead the Change year and completed coaching cert . No excuses now. I feel inspired to go back and watch the vision and planning recording now and start refocusing on where I want to go and be. Struggle with knowing what I want and often confuse it with what I should want. Visibility is my biggest challenge.

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