SBH: 5 Super Useful Planning Tips

almost can't believe it's the end of January already! But actually, well, I can. Because I've been working hard y'all, almost non-stop for the month of January. The posts are coming in later than I'd have liked because 1) my ASOS haul arrived really, really late and I wanted to photograph everything on the same day (whilst I found good, natural light!), 2) I've been hard at work at the 365 Legacy Planner, due for release... TODAY! and 3) Chinese New Year is coming. Between baking new year goodies, staying on track with my clients, and preparing for my launches this year, I've had less time to blog. Which makes me kinda sad - I like this space.

But still - there is nothing magical about January 1st, or January, for that matter. Y'all might know by now, but I'm a firm believer in starting now. That's why I took my time with the Legacy Planner, and kept quiet about my launches when everyone else was going at it fast-and-furiously. So today's Small Business Hour is about Planning for your Business and Life for the next 365 days, whenever you wanna get started.

Needless to say, I'm an advocator for planning. Even for creative business owners. Planning helps you measure growth, successes, and joy while keeping your whole life in check. I've found that in my first two years of business, I've never really sat down to plan for my year. And as a result? I had nothing to compare with - so I didn't know exactly how much progress I've made, or whether I've made any at all! Without goals, you are also limiting yourself instead of letting your inner go-getter really stretch beyond your comfort zones and reach for bigger and better things.

So today I have five, super useful, super productive planning tips for ya!

sbh-planning Every year without fail, I will head to a pretty stationery store that I like and get new paper goods for the new year (stationery addict here). These stationery will be specially chosen for specific purposes, because I hate seeing pretty stationery go to waste. I will look up tons of variations online, decide on which would fit my lifestyle and schedule more, then go ahead and click the Buy Now button. Which brings me to Tip #1...

1. Evaluate your current lifestyle + schedule.

Have you been grabbing scraps of paper from everywhere and scribbling down your ideas (which run at a hundred miles per minute in your brain)? Have you been stuffing papers into a drawer or a beaten-up box and telling yourself that you'll get to filing them someday? Or have you been hoping for a catch-all that will fit into your favorite bag?

Take notice of what you've been doing. Then research for any stationery that will fit your needs the best. You don't have to limit yourself to only one - there are ways to use different kinds of stationery together to make it custom-fit into your life and make you super-duper productive! (You can take a peek at my 2014 solution below!)

2. Create your designated "dumping ground" in your office.

Wherever you're working from, as long as you have a desk or bookcase (or any storage solution for that matter), create a small "dumping ground". My dumping ground is a small drawer that fits into my IKEA Expedit Shelf perfectly. You can use anything you can find that fits - from a pretty woven basket to a spare cardboard box, as long as it fits A4-sized papers. I chose a drawer because I can conceal the mess within, but really it's organized chaos in there.

I place my spare papers (used stationery that's blank on the other side), unimportant documents that need to be filed or shredded and anything that keeps my desk messy in there. Then, because it's small, I have to clear it every one to two weeks, which makes for perfect timing. When the "dumping ground" fills up, I start my (yawn) process of filing and shredding documents and clearing anything else that's been dumped. This way, I not only keep the mess off my desk at all times, I also remember to deal with scrap papers and other documents that need my attention - but not immediately - all the time.

3. Have a basic notebook + post-it pad.

As mentioned in tip #1, you should always evaluate your own life and schedule to see what you need. But a basic notebook + post-it pad will fit into almost any lifestyle, so I really recommend getting them as your starting point if this is your first "real" planning year. I always start with a plain, ruled Moleskine black notebook, and a graph post-it pad.

I use my Moleskine as my "bring-it-with-me" catch-all. It's basically like a physical Evernote, I keep ALL my scribblings, business ideas and to-do lists inside this little baby. With a useful pocket, I also put in business cards and other important papers that need to be brought out with me. My Moleskine can be rather battered and full, but that's how I like it. Some pages are just post-it notes pasted all over, with no actual writing on the book itself. Have fun using your notebook and post-it sheets together, however it fits your life. This is a good jumping board to start out from, because it's affordable and so easy to use!

4. Plan out your goals for the next 365 days.

While the first 3 tips are mostly on organizing your paperwork, I want to dedicate a whole tip to planning your goals for your life and your business. I have separate goals for these two areas of my life, for very obvious reasons (demarcation and focus). With your goals in mind and in plain sight, it's easy to follow through with them (70% done is better than 0%!). You can scribble down these goals in your Tip #3 stationery, or you can have a whole other dedicated area for planning out your year.

I have done the Lara Casey Goal Setting Series for two years now (it's FREE!), and she has some amazing Making Things Happen Goal Setting Powersheets in her shop. Her goal setting series is super thorough and helps you dig deep to discover what you really want to make happen, instead of just scribbling goals that you will forget tomorrow (like "Lose 15 pounds" or "Be tidier"). You can also check out my free eBook The Legacy Mindset, which helps you set five daily habits to help you build upon your legacy and focus on your calling with ease.

These help you map out your goals for your year on separate, easy-to-use sheets that you can tack on your vision board, or just keep in your pocket or folder. This prevents it from getting lost in your mountain of papers throughout the year, and the Powersheets even cater to checking in four times a year to see if you have made progress towards your goals.

No matter how many people may say that "setting goals is so passé" because you don't keep at them anyway, I strongly believe that goal-setting is creating your year roadmap. With your intentional goals in mind and in sight, you can get back on the bandwagon even if you have fallen off throughout your year.

5. Plan out your vacation days and set vacation responders in advance.

Get your days off marked in your calendar FIRST, pronto! So many times, we hold so many roles in our lives that we forget to give ourselves off-days, and as a result, become worn out and accomplish even less than we could have in the year (I call it the "faceplant-on-the-bed syndrome"). Mark out public holidays on your calendar, and decide if you want to take extra days for them (many small business owners take a whole 10 - 15 days off Christmas). Then plan out your vacation days (like you would have at a 9-5 job!), like your anniversaries, children's birthdays or any special occasions that you want to take a day or two off for.

In addition to these, I also try to stick to a strict no-work-on-weekends policy, no matter how busy I get (this year is the year I'm going to really stick to this, amen! Haha!). I set a "It's the Weekend!" auto-responder on ALL my work e-mails and let them deal with the work for me. I come back on Mondays refreshed and ready to conquer my inbox! A great autoresponder can also help you direct your potential or current clients to more of your work. I add a "While you are waiting for a response..." paragraph at the end of my autoresponder, suggesting fun projects to try out, direct them to my free eBook (which is the perfect length for weekend reading!) or lead them to my new offering.

Bonus Tip 6. Forget ALL these hassle and just use a catch-all system.

Last year, when I was at my busiest (and most lost), I really had on my heart a desire to create a catch-all, or command center for every part of my life and business and blog. With so many things vying for my attention, I found it hard and frustrating to have so many different systems at work. I really wanted to create and launch this "command center" idea before 2014 started, but I researched and redesigned it so many times because I wanted to perfect it and make it as useful as possible for so many of us entrepreneurs out there.

legacy1I created the 365 Legacy Planner for entrepreneurs and business owners who are also juggling many other roles. It has everything you possibly need to keep your life in check, in wonderful, cheery, colorful templates that fit into any binder that you prefer. They come in Life + Blog Edition and Life + Blog + Biz Edition and encompass everything from daily and meal planners to crafting your offerings and products for the next 365 days. It is undated so you can use it again and again, every year, and print out as many, or as few pages as you would like.

I have been using this ever since I finished designing it and it is a God-send. It helps me keep everything in check effortlessly, and I can always slot stray papers into clear folders, clip on cut-outs and inspiration photos and remember every meeting date and time!

My Planning Picks for 2014

Apart from the awesome-sauce 365 Legacy Planner, I use a few simple but pretty things at my office to help me get through the day joyfully!

legacy1

I use a monthly and weekly planner from Kikki.K, and I set aside time every week/month to sit down quietly and complete these planners. You can also do the same in the 365 Legacy Planner so that you can have it with you wherever - but I keep these pads in the office to strike out whenever I'm done with a task. I then reuse the empty back by cutting my used papers into two, and put them in my dumping ground for my stray ideas! I LOVE to heaven and back my square grid super sticky post-it notes, and I have a bunch of them with drawings, calligraphy and mockups stuck inside my Moleskine. The cutesy small Post-It notes are for reminders and stray ideas as well. They are too cute to pass up and come in four different designs per pack! I use my iCalendar everyday as it is synced with my iMac, MBP and iPad so I never miss ANY scheduled appointments, or important work launches and client invoicing stuff.

I absolutely LOVE planning and organizing so I find these all very fascinating, and I hope that I have inspired you to take small baby steps to start getting your life and business organized and start goal-setting for the next 365 days!

Psst: By Kara Anne readers get 20% off during the first week of the 365 Legacy Planner sale on Etsy. Enter 'yay20' during checkout.