Strategic Planning: Using a Wall Calendar System

As I’m mapping out a time line for the coming new year, I thought I’d take a moment to share my system with you. For the most part, I use computer-based planning tools because that keeps everything in one place—essential for any kind of organization. Yet for being able to strategically think about the year as a whole, I find this wall calendar system absolutely essential. Although I’ve developed my analytical skills over the years, it’s not my basic nature. I’m actually a right brain-dominant visual learner. Besides, a big layout is just more practical. My lap top screen simply isn’t big enough for me to see everything I need at once!

Wall Planner

The following is the 4-part process I use to mock up a yearly plan on a wall calendar system. There are other planning tools that I use, but I like to start with this one. Scheduling is so very important. Shall we begin? Here are the steps:

Step 1. Contemplate
Most of my projects start this way. I like to let the concept of what I’m planning simmer awhile. The most important parts will eventually bubble up to the surface and begin organizing themselves in my mind. Sometimes this looks identical to procrastination in that there is no doing, only thinking. I might leave my office to go get a cappuccino, head out for a walk, or load up a bunch of new music on my iPod. This is not the same as avoidance however—it’s more about clearing out my head and getting in a creative mood. For something as important as my New Year’s planning, I will take a few days off to decompress and let inspiration come.

Step 2. Prepare
This is one of the rare projects that I prefer to do with paper instead of my computer. Later, it will all get entered into my Outlook calendar and task-management system. For the creative process itself, I use the following tools, available at any office supply store:

Jumbo Yearly Wall Calendar (erasable)
Essential to the project, the one I use is a 2×3’ wet erase poster made by the At-A-Glance company. It allows me to see the year as a whole and how the weeks/months flow together. I keep the poster up all year long on the wall over my printer and fax machine.

Wet erase pens
Note that these are not the same dry erase pens you might already have! When you buy your calendar, make sure you ask about the wet erase pens. I use 6 color-coded pens:
o Blue: Seminars/tradeshows/meetings that I am definitely attending
o Black: Business events that events I might attend
o Red: Business activities or project due dates
o Green: Personal activities
o Orange: Travel days
o Purple: Holidays/birthdays

Post-it notes
For use with the wall calendar system, I prefer the small 2” square ones in multiple colors.

Push pins
Important detail for hanging up the calendar. Six will do the job.

Chocolate
Very important to have nearby. Only dark chocolate for me, but if you prefer, you can have milk chocolate.

Step 3. Schedule Already-planned Events
Grabbing my color-coded wet erase pens and date book, I look for events with firm dates and write them on the wall calendar. A few things I make sure to do:
• Read the fine print on the wall calendar. I circle the major non-working holidays, and just underline the ones that are less important to me.
• Look at the upcoming year for things I already have scheduled.
• Look over last year for recurring annual business events & personal holidays.
• Look at dates when I am speaking/teaching, and reserve preparation time where available in the 6-weeks before.
• Mark out the days I am traveling for events.
• Copy everything from the wall planner into my date book & double check it.

Step 4. Schedule in New Events
• Mark out the last 2 weeks in August & December as my annual time off.
• Squeeze in a few 3-day weekends, especially between busy months.
• Check industry resources for dates of other important tradeshows and events.
• Speak with my collaborative partners about scheduling our seminars.
• For very tentative commitments, use a post-it note as a movable reminder.
• Copy everything from the wall planner into my date book & double check it.

It takes me a couple hours to plan out my year on the wall calendar, not including the time it takes to think about it before and after. In fact, thinking about it afterwards is almost worthy of a step 5. If you’re like me, you might want to make sure you’re not overbooking yourself. The big events on the wall calendar might not take up all that much time, but there are many corresponding tasks that need to be accomplished. Take care not to get overly ambitious and book every minute of every day! Most of us entrepreneurial types tend to underestimate how long things actually take to implement.

 

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About the Author

Jaya Savannah - Chief Inspiration Officer. Strategy Coach for Holistic Businesses. Trainer, speaker, and writer. Spiritually aware, yet street smart. Elephant lover.

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