I t’s a word that strikes fear in the heart of some while others cringe at the very idea. The four letter word I’m talking Victor Ad by Bill Medcalfabout: PLAN.

And, baby, I know that the mere thought of planning makes your brain imagine you’re tied down to a railroad track with an express train heading your way.

But I am here to tell you that if you want to live your life on your terms, aligned with your deepest desires, then maybe it’s time to shift your thinking when it comes to creating a plan.

I am the first to admit that I like plans. From the time I was a little girl, I planned things. Often on paper. I was such a planner that I received my bachelor’s in 3 ½ years, without attending summer school. I have a Project Management Professional certification.

Spreadsheets are my Jam.

But I also know that if I keep my eyes only on the plans, I’ll miss the beautiful juicy bits of life. Experiencing the magic of presence. Hearing the call to adventure. Allowing for serendipity. Trusting my gut even if it doesn’t play on paper.

You can’t love your life if you’re living in a straitjacket.

But let me be frank with you, sugarplum. You cannot live a life of your own design if you don’t choose to create it. Yes, creation sounds loose and free, but conscious creation requires focus.

Without a plan, there is no direction for the trajectory of living. You may say that you like to live by the seat of your pants, but, darling, the seat of your pants living is really an unconscious existence and reactive approach.

The truth is, if you do not choose consciously create the kind of life you desire to experience, then, my darling, you will always feel as if missing. You will forever be thinking that the answer to your happiness is a new job, a new lover, a thinner body, or some other change to your outer life.

Creating a plan for how you desire to live your life, though, will allow you to change your life from the inside out. And that, my dear, is how you not only create lasting change, but fall in love with the day to day experience of living.

“If you don’t design your own life plan, chances are you’ll fall into someone else’s plan. And guess what they have planned for you? Not much.” –Jim Rohn

That’s why one of my secret weapons to continuing to thrive in my life and love it owes part of its thanks to the review and planning processes. I wrote about my review process last week, and now that I’ve shared with you why planning is crucial to living your life on your terms.

Here’s how I tackle my annual planning with quarterly adjustments.

One – Schedule Time.

I know this may sound like a broken record, but if I don’t get it on the calendar it doesn’t happen. I block off a day sometime in the fall for my annual planning and a two hour block at the beginning of each quarter.

Two – Prep, Set the Stage, and Get Spiritual

Planning is even more soul critical to me than the review process. I do all the same preparation activities (meal planning, clean my office, gather stuff, grab my review file), stage setting activities (eat a good meal, grab a fresh water, etc.) and spiritual activities (mediate, light my candles, etc.)

Three – Create / Update Spreadsheets

I know this may put me in the super-anal club in the minds of many, but each major project I touch has a spreadsheet. I have a master Excel Book to serve as my admin for my coaching practice, which includes a
I also have spreadsheets for each course I’ve created to plan the lessons and activities.

Critical to my planning process is creating spreadsheets for the coming year and updating them. Spreadsheets don’t have to be confusing, it’s just a way to organize information.  PROMISE.

Four – Answer the Questions

During the review process, I create a running list of questions that need answered or clarified. Now is the time I make decisions.

Five – State My Purpose

Write my purpose statement for each of my roles. Declare how I desire to feel as I execute each role. Yes, I write these down. Alchemy happens when you handwrite your goals and desires on paper.

Six – Get Cozy With My Calendar

I put all the big picture items on my calendar first. Trips on the books, holidays that mean days off or travel, and recurring meetings. I block off time each week for writing so that it remains a priority.

Then I look at those big dream things that require time. Do I want to release a new program? Do I want to finish my book, and, if so, when? Are there any retreats I want to attend? Have I committed to assisting anyone else on a project? Do I have any other appointments to plan for (medical, recurring client calls, group calls, etc.)?

If there are conflicts of any kind, then my personal life holds veto power.

Seven – Set Priorities

What is the number one thing I desire to experience? What is the number one thing I desire to create? What’s do I desire to shift about myself as a person? What do I want to accomplish career wise? How can I be a better partner?

What are my top three priorities for the coming quarter? (Yes, every quarter, I check in with myself and ask what’s important.)

This is also when I begin contemplating my WORD (or three) for the coming year.

Eight – Create An Action Plan

What are the steps I need to take to get from HERE to THERE? Any big project gets a handwritten action list that’s stored in my planner. I create tasks for longer-term future goals. For example, in 2016, I want to create a new program, yet it won’t be a priority until next spring…so I set a reminder in January to begin outlining it.

Nine – Close the Day and Celebrate

This is the kind of deep work that demands a celebration. A celebratory meal is usually on tap for the night. I also plan a date with myself in the following week, like a trip to the bookstore or meeting a friend for coffee.

Ten – Share

Most of the review and planning process is internal, and as an extrovert, it’s important for me to verbalize stuff. I share the big picture view of my plans with JB, not just to verbalize, but because he’s a brilliant strategist and can give me feedback, especially if he sees any holes in any of my plans.

Then, of course, there are a few others I may want to share with. For example, I’ve been writing letters about the creative process with a girlfriend, so I share some writing goals with her.

I only share my plans in a public manner when it’s closer to completion. For example, I am working on a book generally based on my blog posts that will be available before the holidays, so now I’m sharing that news with you. 😉

My darling, nothing in life is certain. Creating a plan, however, will allow you to experience the kind of life you most desire. As you can see from my planning process, it doesn’t have to be stuffy or end up with you feeling  like you’re forcing yourself into a straitjacket.

Planning allows you the freedom and permission to pursue your desires. Planning means you are defining success on your terms.

And, my dear, choosing to create a plan means that you are taking responsibility for your own happiness.

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Life coach Debra Smouse helps women feeling overwhelmed by life and/or their schedule recreate their life into one worth falling in love with. A self admitted tarnished southern belle, she now resides in Dayton, OH with the man of her dreams.
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