How I planned my 2018

How I planned my 2018

I’ve been back at work for 2 weeks after my month-long break over Christmas and New Year (and my birthday too!) and so far January has been a complete whirlwind. What with VIP days with new private clients, late Christmas lunch with the Business from the Heart mentoring Alumni (pictured) and kicking off a brand new Membership Community (currently in “pre-beta” mode) with a Vision & Planning Masterclass. This week I feel I can finally put two feet firmly back on the ground and get into my regular business rhythm.

Enjoying a belated Christmas lunch with my Business from the Heart mentoring Alumni

My last blog of the year was a review of 2017 and so I’ve decided to make the first blog of 2018 about how I went about planning my 2018. First, the good news…

The new year starts in February!

Maybe you haven’t got stuck into you 2018 planning yet – if so you might be reassured to know that according to Chinese Astrology the energies of the new year (this year the very grounding energies of the Earth Dog) don’t actually start until February – so this week could be the perfect time for a bit of planning.

How I planned my 2018

The steps I’ll share with you today are based on a combination of systems I’ve learned in mentoring programmes I’ve been a part of over the years. Not only is it the process I use each year but it is the same process I took my founding members through earlier this month in our Vision & Planning Session. It got such a great response from those who took part that I’ve decided to share it with you.

I’m going to break the process down for you step by step:

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

I read this book about a year ago.  For me 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 and even burn out.  I’ve always been pretty good at focusing my attention on just one thing at a time (for example I’ve got 3 online courses, but I only ever actively promote and sell one of them) but this was an important reminder and helped me to streamline what I did in 2017.  It was a very full-on year and I did work a lot – but it felt a lot less overwhelming than it had in previous years.

Step 2: Get your planning “bits and pieces” 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 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).  I also have a journal or notebook to hand where I journal about my vision and capture my ideas.    Next 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 take them through a “closed eye” process to help them to tune into their vision for their life and business in 3 years from now, which helps to guide the direction of the year to come.   For me planning is very much a combination of having a big vision for what I want to achieve, plus understanding the very practical steps that I need to take if I’m going to get there, plus the milestones (and the celebrations!) along the way.  So taking time to get clear on where you are going is an important part of the process.

Step 4: Set your Theme for the year

This isn’t necessarily a strictly business theme (though it might be e.g. it might be “sales mastery”, “collaboration” or “focus”.  I like to choose themes that work in the wider context of my life but impact on my business.  Last year my theme was “Space”. This year it is “Play”.  To remind myself that it doesn’t all have to be hard work, and that it is OK to play and have fun both in my work and in my life – and that this might even have a positive effect on my business!   I write this theme at the very top of my sheet.

Step 5: Set your Overall Focus for the year

The overall focus is a clear business goal that you want to achieve.   I write this along the bottom of my planner, but it could go along the top.  My big goal for 2018 is to is to grow the Business from the Heart Membership (which hasn’t been officially launched yet) to 220 members. This will give me the revenue to allow me to turn my attention to running it full-time.


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 2018. 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.  All the crazy ideas for new projects.  Get it all down, a post-it note for each one.

Step 7:  Add your Post-it items to your Planner

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. So I schedule out December and July as holiday months. Then I put in any other key projects that are fixed.  For example, I have my annual launch of the online programme in September – so my “one thing” for September becomes the launch, and my “one thing” for November is my live event.  These get fixed into the plan in advance.

A sample planHave just One key focus per month

The aim is to have just one key focus per month.

This allows you to see that you don’t have to fit everything in your “ideas bank” in by next Tuesday!  You can see that you have a whole year ahead of you (and guess what! There’s another one coming along straight after that!) – it doesn’t all have to be done at once.

Most importantly it 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 part of the year are:

  • January – Kick off the new “pre-beta” membership community.
  • February – Create a new journey for the membership and record the content.
  • March – Set up the new membership site.
  • April – Pre-launch ready for launch of the Membership Community in May/June.

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 rather than trying to fit in too much I can reassess.   Either I’ll prioritise the membership and say no to the opportunity, or I’ll decide to run with the new idea and rearrange my post-it plan to make space for it – maybe by moving my launch along by a month.

Personalise it  

It has to work for you and your life. For example, if – like a lot of my community – you’re a mum, you might want to have just 3 “quarters” to follow the terms. You can make any tweaks to adapt it to work for you.

Full disclosure:

Okay, Okay I’ll come clean.  I don’t really have just “one thing” per post-it per month (though I do try to).   Some months I have two.  Sometimes 3 (but never more than 3).  That’s because the reality is that there often is more than one priority and we can’t say that one is more of a priority than the others.  For example, I’m going to be hiring a new member of my team in March.  It’s a key role and so it’s essential I get the right person.  So that case March ends up having two “One Things”.  Membership site set up and hiring.

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.

For me this is mainly:

  • My weekly video (or blog if I’ve fallen off the wagon with my video schedule)
  • Joint venture relationship nurturing and development

For you this could be making 20 sales calls each week, spending 30 minutes networking on Facebook daily, or writing and scheduling your fortnightly blog. It’s the rhythm and heartbeat that you do all year round that keeps the business alive.

I don’t include delivery of programmes or serving my private clients in the “heartbeat” as that all happens anyway because the calls and sessions are fixed in the calendar.   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 Backlog

This might be the best part of this plan of all!  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, other areas of our life start to suffer, and yet for all the sacrifice none of our projects really get off the ground.

The backlog is a series of post-it notes that goes along the very bottom of your sheet.  These are the things you want to do but you can’t fit in now without impacting on the success of other priorities.   They go in the backlog because they are not being “thrown out”.  They are just waiting for the right time.

This year my Backlog contains two things that I’m desperately keen to get done, but when I look at my priorities for the rest of the year I can see that there isn’t really space for them.

These are:

  • Recreating and relaunching my “Webinar Success Blueprint” course on how to sell from webinars – I’ve got better and better at this with a 27% conversion from a live webinar in the autumn and I really want to share my most up to date knowledge of how I do this.
  • Making the Get More Clients Saying Yes! course sales funnel evergreen so that I can offer it to people all year round, rather than just during my annual launch.

Great ideas?  Yes. Will they get done this year? Probably not if I want to achieve the primary goal of growing the membership.  But they are 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 Backlog 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 have a detrimental impact if you do them at the wrong time.

I hope you’ve found it useful seeing how I plan out my 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 2018, why not schedule out some time to follow this plan – and let us know how you get on!

If you’d like to go deeper and get further insights into how I did my planning, I’ll be doing a live Q&A in the free Selling from the Heart Community Facebook group on Wednesday 31st January 2018 at 6.00pm (UK.) I’d love to see you there, so please pop it in your diary and click here to join the group.

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


  1. Mel Noakes on January 31, 2018 at 8:13 pm

    Love this blog and the whole process. I’m lucky enough to have gone through this process with you in person and it REALLY works. I also love how visual it is, so much so i use it for my personal life too!!

  2. Edward Buinowicz on January 31, 2018 at 11:33 am

    Hi Catherine, I like your planning technique and am quite excited to implement the same system to my business. I have purchased the book and will, hopefully make a plan after reading the book. A super simple series of steps that would seem to work, and it’s almost February!!!!

  3. Susan on January 30, 2018 at 5:28 pm

    Really useful steps. Thank you. Also very timely as in a couple of days I will be submitting a formal business plan. It’s made sorting out goals a whole lot easier.

    • Catherine on January 30, 2018 at 8:18 pm

      Hi Susan, I’m so glad you found it useful and timely! I love the flexibility of the post-its because it means you can easily reassess rather than be stuck to a rigid plan.

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