Update: The newest versions of the Monthly Action Planner are kept on the Free Planner page.
A missing piece with the planners I’ve had available for a while has been that there’s no global view. Weekly views are great for planning projects, but they’re still not quite the right perspective for planning meaningful action in the longer term. That’s where this new planner comes in.
Go ahead and grab it. It’s free, and it hasn’t bit anyone (yet):Monthly Action Planner - October 2009 (11221)
Here’s a quick rundown on how to use it. Start with…
Major events are the types of events that are going to disrupt your weekly flow. Often times, they’re either their own projects or they’re distracting enough to keep you from doing some things that you otherwise would.
Do you have any of the following events coming up?:
- Significant medical events
- Moves – as in, moving from one house or apartment to another
- A new job or a significant change in your current job responsibilities
If so, mark down when they happen. For instance, if you have a vacation that’s going to last two weeks, mark down what it is and when it will be in the Major Events block. I’d also make sure only put vacation-related goals down in the weeks you’re going to be on vacation; realistically, you’re probably not going to do anything else anyway, so you might as well get real about it now rather than beat yourself up during and after your vacation.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. After doing some brainstorming about your upcoming major events, move to…
Objectives relate to projects in the way that projects relate to tasks. For instance, “Write The Awesomesauce Ebook” is an objective that’s broken down into component projects like “Write Chapter 1 of Awesomesauce Ebook.” The project “Write Chapter 1 of Amesomesauce Ebook” is broken down into discrete tasks.
While we’re on categories and organizing, you may find it useful to associate the level of actions with a timeframe. So:
- Objectives relate to months.
- Projects relate to weeks.
- Tasks relate to days
To be clear, I’m not saying that projects take weeks to accomplish – rather, I’m saying that projects should be the main focus when you’re doing your weekly planning.
Yes, these conventions violate GTD principles, but I’ve found that they’re a lot easier to understand and use.
Okay, so now that you’ve got the skeleton of your month laid out, you can move onto…
Below the two aforementioned blocks are blocks that correspond to each available week of the month. These blocks are where you write down what goals or projects you plan to work on during those weeks.
The little numbers do not necessarily relate to the numbers in the “Objective” block. However, the goals/projects that you put in here should relate to the objectives you listed.
For instance, let’s go back to the objective “Write The Awesomesauce Ebook.” That’s a great objective, but thinking about writing it won’t get it written. Writing it will get it written, and to write it, you have to allocate some time to it. Otherwise, it just becomes a bee that sleeps during the day and stings you at night.
The weekly blocks may frustrate the hell out of you because there are only five slots. These blocks are intentionally limited, though, for two reasons: 1) to keep overwhelm down, and 2) to force help you make meaningful stuff the priority. Time and resources are finite – make ‘em count.
Where This Planner Fits In
I’ve designed this planner to fit reasonably well with either the Weekly Productivity Planner or the Freelancer Workweek. I personally find the Freelancer Workweek more useful – anecdotally, the design of these planners roughly track my deinstitutionalization from the academic/corporate world. I should probably write about this.
Strategic thinking, done correctly, helps you push the ball forward in a meaningful way because it helps you project effectiveness further into the future. Effectiveness comes from linking today’s action to this month’s objectives – that way you can work “in the trenches” with the confidence that it’s worthwhile.
I hope this aid helps you make this vital link. As always, I appreciate your help, feedback, and support. Thanks!