New Year Planning: How to Plan the Year in Advance
I’m going to let you in on my best-kept secret to maintaining an organized and balanced lifestyle.
This secret has allowed me to travel nearly every weekend of the year (for basically free, I might add), reach nearly every single annual goal, and actually have the time to pursue activities I love.
This secret is simple: it’s to plan the year in advance.
I know what you’re thinking… “how can you possibly plan the ENTIRE year in advance?”
I totally get it.
It might sound overwhelming, a lot of work, and nearly impossible to know your future plans (unless you have a crystal ball, of course).
Never fear. New year planning is NOT that difficult, and I’ll walk you through every detail.
I’m telling you, this process is probably the biggest game-changer you’ll experience in a long time. It is absolutely worth your time and energy.
Get ready to change your life!
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Why Plan an Entire Year in Advance?
As I said, new year planning might sound crazy. But, hear me out.
A few years ago, I found myself at the end of yet another year with nearly nothing checked off my adventure list and all my goals abandoned. Each weekend, I tried to come up with something to do but usually just ended up on the couch binge-watching a new TV show.
Once I realized I was letting my year slip by, I decided to try an experiment. I sat down and created a list of about 50 fun activities I wanted to try within the upcoming year and strategically planned my goals. I then added these activities and goals to my calendar as if they were actually scheduled events.
At the end of this experimental year, I was shocked to realize that I had just finished the best year of my life. NO. JOKE.
Instead of thinking of things to do last minute, I had an arsenal of pre-planned activities just waiting for me. In addition, I had already set aside time to work on each of my goals.
I spent my year hiking, rock climbing, camping, road-tripping, traveling, mountain biking, reading at the park, and so many amazing other activities like attending free community events at the zoo, local museums, and botanical gardens.
It was absolutely amazing and, long-story-long, I’ve been yearly planning ever since.
Benefits of New Year Planning
So, what I’m trying to say is this: planning the entire year in advance is a game-changer.
If my little story didn’t convince you, perhaps some of my favorite benefits of new year planning will:
- Never find yourself stuck at home with nothing to do
- Save money by having free (or super cheap) pre-planned fun activities on the calendar
- Save even more money by taking advantage of early-bird travel deals
- Strategically use your paid and holiday time off
- Travel and go on adventures you enjoy throughout the year
- Have a list of “Plan B” options to ensure you never get sidelined by a rainy day
- Decrease stress and increase happiness by spending more time doing activities you enjoy
- Ensure you reach each of your goals by blocking out time to work on them
There are many other great benefits but I think you get the picture. Or, at the very least, you’re convinced that I’m obsessed with this process and it’s worth the effort to test out.
Alright, I’m convinced. How Do I Begin New Year Planning?
Now that you’re convinced to give this new year planning thing a shot (yay!), let’s begin the process, shall we?
Important: As you complete the steps below, do not get hung up on the details. This is the time for big-picture planning, you can figure out the rest later!
Step 1: Schedule a Time to Plan the Year
I’ll be honest. The worst part about this process is that it can take a bit of time. However, you will end up saving WAY more time in the long run.
I recommend setting aside at least 2 full evenings or one full day. If you have a partner and/or family, have them help to make things go faster and ensure everyone is on the same page!
Tip: Right now – add to your calendar and/or to-do list “Plan the Year.” This way, you are sure to actually complete this process!
When Should You Complete the New Year Planning Process?
There are no rules! You can plan the year (or the next 12 months) at any time of the year.
I personally prefer to plan the upcoming year at the end of December (it’s a fun activity right after the holidays) but you can easily complete this process whenever you’re reading this!
Fun Idea: Turn up some background music, pop some popcorn, grab a yummy beverage, and make a pizza to turn this process into a fun activity!
Step 2: Gather Your Supplies and Tools
A great time-saver is to collect all of your supplies at one time (especially all your calendars!). Here are some of the supplies you might want to consider grabbing:
- Your to-do list (to jot down tasks that come up)
- Budget Spreadsheet or Planner
- Goal Planner
- Each of your calendars (print them off if you feel that will help)
- Collect all of your notes about the upcoming year (scribbled on sticky notes, taped to the fridge, written on your phone, etc.)
- Print off a few (or twenty) free project planning worksheets
Related: 15 Essential Planner Supplies
Example Calendar Types:
- Work calendar
- Partner’s work calendar
- Paid-Time-Off records (for both you and your partner)
- Professional society calendar
- Personal calendar
- School calendars
- Club calendars
- Sport calendars
- Gym class calendar
- Community calendars
- Birthday and anniversary calendar
- Gardening calendar (for your region)
Snag Your Free Project Planning Checklist and Planner
Throughout this process, you’ll probably find that several projects will begin to pop up.
You can easily begin planning out these projects by using this simple, easy-to-follow, free project planning printable page.
Step 3: Set Your Goals for the Year
Setting your goals before you begin the new year planning process will help guide your choices. For example, if you want to focus on your health in the upcoming year, you might opt for more active events on the weekends.
Because we are focusing on just the big picture, just quickly complete the Yearly Goal Setting Checklist and schedule a time to plan out your goal-related details at another time.
Big-Picture Goal-Setting Steps
- Review and revise your personal mission statement to remind yourself of your priorities and life purpose.
- Revisit your long-term goals and bucket list. How can you make progress on any of these this year?
- Brainstorm your goals for the year and narrow them down into the most important goals you wish to pursue.
- Quickly brainstorm how you can reach each goal (break them down into habits, projects, and tasks) and determine which goals will require the most time.
- Schedule a time to take a deeper dive into your goals at a later date.
Related: How to Set Your Short-Term Goals – A Step-by-Step Guide to Yearly Goal Setting
Step 4: Set up a Centralized Calendar and Notes Page
Next, decide what calendar you will want to use for the year. Be sure to put some thought into this decision so you don’t have to re-make your calendar a few months down the road.
Personally, I prefer using a digital calendar alongside a paper planner for my day-to-day planning and to-do lists (I use my favorite printable goal planner). This way, I can sync my calendar with other family members and take advantage of repeating events (like birthdays) while having the ability to still use a paper planner.
But, of course, there are a ton of other great options you can choose from such as:
- Any Online Calendar App (like Google Calendar, Outlook, etc.)
- Binder-Style Planner (like Filofax) with printable pages (I offer a ton of options in my shop)
- Fully-Bound Planner
- Bullet Journal (this is a more flexible option – here is how to set one up)
- Wall Paper Calendar (be sure it has at least 12 months, this is a great option)
- Desk Calendar
Tip: Set Up a Color Code
To keep your calendar organized, set up a color code for each area of your life. This can easily be done in digital calendars by using the “Add New Calendar” button and giving that new calendar a color.
For example, you might choose to have your work, personal, and birthdays all have a different color. Or, perhaps each person in your family is assigned a color.
Another Tip: Set Up a New Year Planning Notes Page
While you complete this process, I encourage you to keep a notes page. This will be a HUGE time-saver for the next time you complete this process. It is also a great place to keep track of your bucket list ideas, yearly traditions, favorite activity ideas, goals, and more.
Step 5: Create Your Baseline Calendar
Next, begin creating your baseline calendar.
Start by cleaning up your calendar for the year ahead by deleting plans that are no longer relevant and addressing any events, notes, or tasks that require a next action item.
Next, add all your days off (including half-days) as well as days off of any family members you wish to know about. This might include public holidays, personal time off, school breaks, etc.
Step 6: Add Set-in-Stone Career Plans and Events
Now it’s time to add your work-related plans to your calendar. This might include:
- Quarterly reviews
- Major deadlines
- New projects
- Licensing requirements, deadlines, and renewals
- Important dates and events
- Work celebrations
- Co-worker birthdays and retirement dates
- Class or college calendar dates (registration dates, tuition due date, holiday breaks, exam schedules, etc.)
Tip: If you run into a time conflict, be sure to address it now (or add it to your to-do list).
Step 7: Add Family and Personal Events, Calendars, and Reminders
Next, begin adding important family and personal-related events, calendars, and reminders. This might include:
Major Family and Personal Events:
- Pre-planned vacations
- Scheduled date nights
- Family reunions
- Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Grandparents Day
- Other family get-togethers (like Sunday dinners)
Important Work Dates for your Partner:
- Out-of-town meetings
- Travel dates
- Big events
Additional Dates from Your Other Calendars:
- School events, time off, trips, and deadlines
- Gym classes
- Sporting events, tournaments, practices, and other competitions
- Local concerts and performances
- Volunteer events
- Community events calendar (5K races, free events, etc.)
- Church events, performances, and volunteer dates
Step 8: Add Important Reminders
Now it’s time to begin adding in any important reminders for you and anyone else you wish to keep track of. This might include:
Medical and Personal Appointments:
- Annual doctor appointments
- Eye doctor
- Vaccinations (yearly flu shot, etc.)
- Other medical appointments
- Hair cuts
- Other beauty appointments
- Medical appointments for family members
- Medical appointments for pets
Automotive and Home-Related Reminders:
- Car maintenance reminders (oil change, tire rotation, etc.)
- Car weather preparations (switch to studded tires, switch fluids, etc.)
- Home maintenance schedule (check fire alarms, clean gutters, etc.)
- Weatherproof your home (cover garden, flush sprinkler lines, etc.)
- Gardening dates (when to plant, harvest, etc.)
Financial Due Dates:
- Bill due dates (electricity, internet, water, garbage, cell service, streaming services, etc.)
- Debt repayment dates
- Annual sales (Black Friday, Cyber Monday, etc.)
- Financial planning routines (these are serious money game-changers, learn more here)
Related: A Complete Guide to Budgeting (+ Budget Routines)
Productivity Tasks and Annual Routines:
- Daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly planning routine reminders (learn more about planning routines here)
- Weekly, monthly, quarterly, mid-year, and yearly goal planning reminders (learn more about goal planning routines here)
- Create a yearly reading list (here is mine)
- Begin brainstorming gift ideas for family members (so you can strategically shop sales throughout the year)
- Personal or career-related routine reminders (such as weekly prep routines, career development routines, etc.)
- Yearly reminders for other important tasks (such as rotating seasonal clothes, paying your taxes, spring cleaning, holiday shopping, etc.)
Step 9: Incorporate Your Goals
Now that your calendar is starting to take shape, it’s time to revisit the goals you set up in step 3 and incorporate them into your calendar. Do this by scheduling any goal-related events, tasks, and reminders that you believe will help you reach each of your goals.
For example, perhaps you have a goal of earning a professional license by the end of the year. This usually requires you to pass an exam, gain experience, and apply for the license. On your calendar, you could choose to block off time for studying, add application deadlines, etc.
Another example might be a goal of running your first half-marathon. To reach this goal, you might decide to block out time to train, compete in local 5K races, and add the date of the final half-marathon.
Step 10: Create Your Bucket List for the Year
Next, it’s time for the fun part!
Take a break from your calendar and turn to your new year planning notes page.
Begin by brainstorming everything you hope to do this year. This might include:
- New experiences
- Fun activities
- New foods to try
- Annual traditions you want to continue
- New or existing hobbies you enjoy
- Anything already on your calendar (might help you brainstorm)
Then, begin considering other fun activities and trip ideas you might want to do this year such as:
Annual Holidays and Major Events:
*Note: These are just some examples. Of course, there are a TON more!
- New Year’s Day (January 1)
- Valentine’s Day (February 14)
- St. Patrick’s Day (March 17)
- First Day of Spring
- April Fool’s Day (April 1)
- Tax Day
- Earth Day (April 22)
- Cinco de Mayo (May 5)
- First Day of Summer
- Independence Day (July 4)
- First Day of Fall
- Halloween (October 31)
- Election Day
- Thanksgiving Day
- First Day of Winter
- Christmas Eve and Day (December 24-25)
Winter Seasonal Activities:
- Go to a hockey game
- Watch a winter-inspired movie
- Go snowshoeing
- Put together a large puzzle
- Play a board game
- Go sledding in the mountains
Related: 50 Crazy-Fun Winter Activity Ideas
Spring Seasonal Activities:
- Visit the farmer’s market
- Play a round of golf (or mini-golf)
- Go on a waterfall hike
- Visit a flower field
- Check out a local art festival
- Attend a hot air balloon event
Related: The Ultimate Spring Bucket List – 50 Activity Ideas
Summer Seasonal Activities:
- Visit a beach, river, or lake
- Go to a nearby theme park
- Go camping at a state or national park
- Visit an aquarium
- Host a BBQ get-together
- Go mountain biking
Related: 50 Exciting Summer Activity Ideas
Fall Seasonal Activities:
- Go apple picking
- Hike during the color-change
- Go on a train ride
- Get lost in a corn maze
- Attend a fall festival
- Watch an autumn parade
Related: The Ultimate Fall Bucket List – 50 Cozy Activity Ideas
October Seasonal Activity Ideas:
- Visit a pumpkin patch
- Fill your home with spooky decorations
- Carve a pumpkin
- Host a costume party
- Have a Halloween movie marathon (here are my favorite Halloween movies!)
- Visit a ghost town
Related: 50 Spooky Halloween-Inspired Activity Ideas Perfect for October
Holiday Seasonal Activity Ideas:
- Cut down and decorate a tree
- Drive around and look at neighborhood holiday lights
- Have a holiday movie marathon
- Go ice skating
- Visit a holiday market
- Build a gingerbread house
Related: The Ultimate Holiday Bucket List – 50 Festive Activity Ideas
City Activity Ideas:
- Go bowling
- Tour a local factory
- Go window shopping
- Attend a concert
- Go to the zoo
- Visit a museum
Outdoor Activity Ideas:
- Rock climbing
- Mountain biking
- Day trip to a new town (driving distance)
- Spend the weekend in a new city (flying distance)
- National parks road trip
- Go on a train trip
- Visit a major destination on your bucket list
Pro Tip: Community events are my number one tip for adding free and cheap events to your calendar. For example, in Denver, Colorado, you can attend the zoo, art museum, science museum, botanical gardens, and more all for FREE on certain days of the year! I recommend a simple internet search such as “Free events near (city name)” and “(city name) community events calendar.”
- Free zoo days
- Free museum days
- Community parades
- Local theater shows
- Expos and conventions (many are free or insanely cheap to attend!)
- Groupon and Rakuten deals
Date Day/Night Ideas:
- Axe throwing bar
- Escape room
- Dinner at a new restaurant
- Movie theater (you can even take note of big movie releases)
- Picnic at the park
- Day at the arcade
Themed Weekends and New Experiences:
You can also add a few “themed” weekends and new experience ideas to your bucket list.
For example, National Dinosaur Day is June 1st. My family and I now have the tradition of having a “dinosaur weekend” the first weekend in June. For this day, we watch the Jurassic Park movies, visit the science museum, make dinosaur-inspired food, decorate the house with dinosaurs, and try to go on a hike with dinosaur fossils. It’s super fun!
Here are some of our favorite themed weekend ideas:
- New culture
- New holiday
Related: How to Create a Motivational Personal Bucket List (+50 Ideas)
Step 11: Fill in Your Calendar
This part is the most important, so don’t skip it!
It’s one thing to create a bucket list for the year, it’s another to actually add it to your calendar. This simple action will make it 10 times more likely for you to enjoy that activity!
Quick tip: Before you add your bucket list to your calendar, I’ve found that one easy way to ensure flexibility is to create a separate calendar (or color code) that is titled “Activity Ideas.” This way, as you get closer to that date, you can move your plans around to account for weather, illness, or any other unexpected situation. Once you decide on your plans, you can switch this activity from your “Activity Ideas” calendar to a calendar reserved for set-in-stone plans (ours is titled “Olden Family Calendar”).
How to Add Your Bucket List to Your Calendar:
- Start by adding your favorite holiday traditions
- Identify your available long weekends – add your longer trips to them
- Fill in as many free (or budget-friendly) community events as you can
- Use your bucket list to fill in ideas for holiday events and birthday weekends
- Fill in the remainder of your free time with the rest of your bucket list (see tips below)
Tips for Filling in your Calendar:
- Consider adding activities to random afternoons after work to help spice things up during the work week (perhaps one or two activities per month)
- Try to evenly divide and alternate between different types of activities (example: the first weekend might be a hike, the next a trip to the city, the next a weekend at home, etc.)
- Use the activity ideas that don’t fit onto your calendar as a “Plan B” list
- If your calendar is getting too overwhelming, you might want to consider using a spreadsheet to plan everything first, then move it over to your calendar
- Consider creating a “Plan C” list of at-home activities for when you don’t feel like leaving the house (see below for ideas)
Create an At-Home Bucket List:
It’s inevitable. You’ll get to the end of some of your weeks and think there is no way I’m leaving the house.
We’ve all been there.
No problem! Just simply move your plans to a different weekend and stay home.
The unfortunate part about these at-home weekends is that it can be hard to really relax and take a break.
For this reason, you might want to consider creating a quick at-home bucket list to reference. Again, this avoids the inevitable “what should I do this weekend?” and helps you relax by giving you something to do other than work.
At-Home Activity Ideas:
- Play a board game
- Fill a scrapbook
- Read a new book (here are my favorites)
- Go on a long walk or a short local hike
- Put together a puzzle
- Build a fort
- Try to find the closest geocache to your home
- Start a new crafting project
- Have family or friends over for dinner
Related: The Ultimate At-Home Bucket List – 105 Activity Ideas for When You’re Stuck at Home
Step 12: Begin Preparing and Pre-Planning for Your Big Trips
Next, take a look at your calendar and transfer any action items from your events and reminders to your to-do list.
For example, some of your trips will require a bit of pre-planning which might include the following tasks:
Trip Planning Tasks:
- Request time off from work
- Book flights, hotels, and other trip reservations
- Set a budget for each of your major trips
- Check your passport expiration date (and renew if needed)
- Turn your biggest trips into a project
- Invite friends and family to any fun upcoming plans
Related: The Ultimate Pre-Travel Checklist – Everything You Need to Do Before Your Next Trip
Free Printable Project Planner
You can easily use a project planner for each of your major trips coming up. This will help you stay organized, know what is still left to do before your trip, and keep track of information all in one place.
Step 13: Schedule Weekly Reviews
You have your calendar filled. What now?
The absolute key to success is setting aside 5-10 minutes each week to complete a Weekly Review and plan out the upcoming weekend.
Use this time to fine-tune your upcoming plans such as:
- Directions to the parking location
- Pre-purchase entry tickets
- Check hiking trail conditions and if entry fees or parking fees are required
- Top activities and attractions to check out at the destination
- Travel times
- Complete the Pre-Travel Checklist for longer trips
Step 14: Schedule When to Plan the Next Upcoming Year
One last thing to add to your calendar!
One year from now, be sure to add “New Year Planning” as a reminder to repeat this process.
I know, it was a lot of hard work to get here and you probably don’t want to do it again. BUT, as you make your way through the year and actually go on some amazing adventures, reach your goals, and more, I know you’ll be just as obsessed with this process as I am!
If you’ve made it this far and didn’t actually complete the process, schedule a time to do so. Don’t forget to save this post for easy reference!
Next, this guide walks you through the process of setting up your calendar for the upcoming year.
During this process, it instructed you to begin looking at your goals. However, you still probably need to return to your goals to hammer out the details and turn each goal into actionable tasks. Learn how to do that in this post.
Finally, you can easily create a solid to-do list for the upcoming year (as well as a personalized productivity system) by completing a yearly planning review. Learn how to do that here.
Finally, here are some related blog posts you might find helpful in your quest to get ready for the upcoming year:
- How to Plan your Goals for the Year
- The BEST Planner for Setting and Achieving Your Goals
- The Ultimate Yearly Review Routine: How to Set Up Your Productivity System
- Everything You Need to Do Before Traveling (The Ultimate Checklist)
- 12 Secrets to Keeping Your New Year’s Resolutions
If you’ve made it to the end, I’m honestly impressed.
That was… A LOT.
But, I wanted to be as detailed as possible to help you in your new year planning process.
As I said, I’m absolutely obsessed. It is a complete game-changer and I hope you find as much success in it as I have!
The post New Year Planning: How to Plan the Year in Advance appeared first on The Olden Chapters.