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Welcome to episode 62 of the Launch Yourself podcast.

In This Episode

If you love creating a plan for your business, but you’re not necessarily great at following a plan, you’re not alone. I outline my annual business planning process – what I do every year that works, and what I’ve found that doesn’t work for me. And how I’m doing my annual planning for 2022. I share my starting reflections phase, how that informs my word of the year, and then gets turned into a paper calendar plan, to a detailed profit plan – all the things!

Here’s a look inside this episode:

  • How I start planning – with positive and negative reflections
  • Creating your word of the year – why I do it, and how to choose it
  • Breaking things down by quarter only and how that informs the first draft of the plan
  • How that plan becomes a detailed profit plan
  • Ensuring you edit all the things, to be able to actually deliver on your goals

Click here to listen in!

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Melissa Anzman:This is the Launch Yourself Podcast, episode number 62, all about annual planning. For more information and show notes, go to Launchrself.co/62.

Welcome to the Launch Yourself Podcast. My name is Melissa Anzman. I'm a best selling author and the founder of Launch Yourself, where we help experts grow profitable digital businesses. Each week, we will peek behind the curtain of how you can launch yourself and your business to the next level with actionable tips and strategies you can implement in your daily life to grow your profitable digital business. Thanks for spending some time with me today. Now let's get started.

I am excited and a little bit nervous or hesitant about doing this episode, mainly because planning isn't something that I'm Super awesome at. So because of that, I wasn't sure if you actually wanted to know how I planned for the year, or maybe you'd rather learn from an expert. So what I'm going to do is I'm going to share with you what I've done, what I do every year, what's worked, what hasn't and how I'm adjusting for this year going forward, and also some pitfalls that I run into just in case you're a little bit like me, and maybe you like planning, but perhaps executing on your plan is where you fall short.

I don't know about you, but I look around and sort of listen to a lot of these planning and expert podcast as far as how to do goal setting and how my year goes. Great. And I kind of get a little frustrated because that's not how my year goes. That's not how I necessarily work. I'm goal driven, but at the same time, I kind of go with the flow. So I have a bit of a mix, and what I'm going to do is share with you again, like what has worked for me, what absolutely hasn't and how I am approaching this year.

Now I have adopted my processes from so many others over the years. Like I said, I listen to or watch a lot of stuff on this to help get better, because I sort of feel at times that I may be the problem when it comes to planning, and then I'm like, no, it's the system or the process or what have you. So I don't have an answer to that. Probably a little bit of both. But I will be sort of using a compounding menagerie of what I have learned in different processes. If you've seen some of these or heard some of these in the past, that is why nothing is necessarily unique to me. How I put it all together is just my process.

The first thing I do every year, and this has served me very well for the past ten years. This is something that I started on a whim and continue to come back to it. So it really has worked, and it's a little different than what most people do when it comes to annual planning. And that is, I start with a look back.

I actually journal some specific questions. They are the same questions every single year in order to pause, reflect and actually celebrate some of the things that happen in the past year. Now, some of these questions always feel like a gut punch, and you'll sort of see it in my journaling of like that hurt or, Whoa, tough question there. But the thing is, is they're helpful for me to sort of get all the feelings out, whether it's excitement or disappointment or bitterness or crazy happiness around something.

I use these questions, this annual process to sort of get it on paper so that I can close out the year and then move on. So there's two different sections. The first is positive reflections, and I always start with that. I want to look at the positive first and foremost, because I don't tend to do that during the year. So the questions I ask myself are, what was time well spent now? It would be great if I kept, like, a Journal or a list or jot things down. And sometimes I do throughout the year.

But understanding what my time was well spent on really helps me to focus going forward. So what was time well spent is the first question. The next question was, what was money well spent? So what are the things in my business that I invested in or the people I invested in or the courses I purchased? Like, what was really helpful for my business and actually moved it forward? The next question is, what did I accomplish? And this is one that I usually get like, what did I accomplish? Because sometimes I don't feel like I really accomplished much.

But the fact is, when I ask myself this question, I actually look back on my calendar. I look at launches, I look at revenue, I look at all of those things and have a great list of things I actually did for the year. And sometimes I have to look deep. Sometimes it's not so obvious, but other times they're big accomplishments. I like to capture all of them in one place. The next question is, did you make progress on any long term business goals? Now, I don't have a ton of long term business goals. To be honest, I don't do well with long term thinking, like the whole what are you going to be in five years?

I have no idea where I'm going to be tomorrow. Okay, but when I ask myself this question, it's more of am I honoring my path, my mission? Am I on the way to where I want my business to go? Are there some big things, like create a specific course or launch a podcast or a type of newsletter that I actually did? The next question is what felt successful? Now, sometimes we don't necessarily get success from the things that felt successful. So if you are driven by your numbers or money or those types of accomplishments and you didn't hit those goals. But yet you felt really successful in trying and doing this is what that question captures. So maybe it's not a huge success in your eyes, but at the same time, it absolutely helped you feel like you were thriving or making progress.

And the final positive question I reflect on is what obstacles or mental blocks did you overcome this year? I love this question a lot of times, like I will struggle throughout the year, and sometimes it's the same mental blocker or situation. Other times there's various, it's a whole mixed bag, but as soon as I overcome them, I sort of forget about them. And I don't want to fall into those same mental blocks or traps as I did in the past in the future years. So I capture them. And I do this if various ways one.

Sometimes I remember because they're that painful, right? But a lot of times I'll go back into my Journal or into notes that I've taken and just sort of walk through, like, where was I stuck? What did I overcome? And how did I do that? And so I just made quick notes. So again, going forward, I know that I've done it in the past. I don't need to struggle with that same stuff going forward. So those are the positive reflections. But of course, if I'm looking at the positive, I also want to look at the more dare I say negative reflections.

I don't have a better word for it, but we'll go with it. The first question in that category I ask. And by the way, I tend to do these reflections in two different days. So I will sit down and do the positive reflections one day and I'll come back the next day and do the negative reflections. And that just makes sure that I give enough time and space to both things. You don't have to do it that way. But for me, I have found that that has worked best. So the first negative reflection question is what time was wasted or what was time wasted? This is crazy helpful for me.

So a lot of times I will procrastinate or not do stuff because of X, Y or Z. And I want to know truly, where was my time wasted? Not like on a daily basis. I'm not that granular, but generally, where could I have moved faster? Where did I learn? Like, focus on learning or a program that did not help me? Where was my time in training? Next person that didn't pay off? These are really dramatic examples, but I want you to really think deep around, where was your time wasted? Because our time is super precious. The next question is, what was money wasted? Now this question. I love this question because there are times throughout the year, every single year that I will invest in something or someone or a solution or what have you and I walk away thinking that was money wasted?

And actually, when I think that I'm like, oh, that's going on my year in list and there was one big purchase that made it to the list. It must have been 2020. But there was one thing that I was like, this is the biggest money mistake I've ever made, and I cannot wait to write it down to let it go very much. So what was money wasted on your business and it could be small money. It could be big money.

But again, the whole point here is understanding so that you don't make the same mistakes or investments or what have you going forward? The next question I ask myself, is what was the biggest challenge, and I forced myself to choose one. So I will jot down all the challenges that I had and then sort of Mark them down to the actual biggest one. And sometimes it's a mental challenge or block. Other times, it's like I couldn't get enrollment up here because Facebook ads weren't working or what have you?

But I really want to look at what my biggest challenges. So again, I can come up with strategies to overcome them so that I have an eye out for the year forward. And so on. The next question is, are you ending the year with any unfinished business? Again, a gut punch your question for me, how many times have you looked at your goals and you've been like, yeah, I'll just roll that over to next year or I didn't quite get to that or what have you? And so what do we need to sweep into the new year that's unfinished or going to the next question? Are there any outstanding goals you want to let go of? This is hard.

If you find yourself not accomplishing goals or achieving things or meeting your personal milestones in this manner for your business, it's time to really look at, like, what can we just let go of? What can we take off of our should list that we continue to hold or have on our to do list year after year? That now it's just time to have a clean slate and let it go. And there have been many things over the years, as I wrote down the answer to this question that I'm like, I need to let go of this. And I also want to be clear. These can also be self limiting beliefs and thoughts.

What are those thoughts that I'm letting go of? What do I really not need to succeed going forward? The next question is, what was the biggest setback this year? And a lot of times we know what this could be. It could be something like for me in the past, it's been a failed launch or not meeting my launch goals or an idea that didn't pan out or a newsletter that didn't hit like, what is that biggest setback? Maybe we couldn't work for six weeks or we weren't able to deliver client work for whatever reason.

But really understanding our biggest setback of the year helps us set things straight and move on forward. And then finally, this is a big, deep breath question, which is, how did you hold yourself back this year? Now? These are again, those limiting beliefs, the mindset issues, the imposter syndrome, situations, all the things that we do to hold ourselves back when we put them down. In words, when we acknowledge them. To my experience, it loses its power. And so fully stepping into that in the reflection phase helps us again understand what we need to let go of how we sort of held ourselves back and how we can do better going forward. Now, those are all the reflections I do one day of positive reflections.

One day of negative reflections. I let them sit for a minute and then from there, using these reflections, I usually have a few things that I want to carry over and leave behind fully, and I capture them all. That's what this process is about. And with that deep reflection, I'm then able to come up with the second part of my planning process, which is the word of the year. Now I've had varying results using a word of the year to keep me focused and on track. But to me, this word that I choose can serve as a burst of motivation and inspiration, especially when things feel really hard. I use the word of the year as a commitment to myself first and foremost.

And since I am highly prone to shiny object syndrome and searching for easy ways out, when things get tough, that word tends to keep me grounded in the way that goals just don't. And that's probably more of a personality thing. Like I am goal driven, but also kind of not. And I know it's a little bit of a complex thing there. I like having goals. I like having a plan, but when things get hard, I may search out a shiny object, or I may give up or look for an easy way out. And having a word versus a goal just really helps center me and keeps me focused and just some ideas of how to find your word.

It's going to vary. It can be anything. I've had the word focus for one year. I've had persistence for another year. I used abundance another time, and so essentially, it's just the one thing that after I look at my reflections that I know I need in order to take my business to the next level and do it in a way that works for me. So there's no process. There's no fancy find your word of the year thing that I use instead. It's really that word that kind of bubbles up that I know I'm going to need to keep me focused and moving forward. And once I have my word of the year, it leads me to my actual goal setting process.

Now I mentioned that this year I am going to be doing it much differently than I have in the past. Sort of. So after the reflections in the past, I used to do all the things I've done, the extensive annual plan where I have taken everything and at the beginning of the year broken everything down into quarters, months and weeks and days, even sometimes. And frankly, I've never met a single one of those goals or action items, like when I do an annual planning session in the past, it just didn't happen.

I mean, things happen, my business changes, my focus changes what my clients need change. And when I get off the plan, I just kind of scrap it, and it really depresses me when I can't stick to it. And so I'm not going to do that. I'm not going to do an extensive launch plan schedule for the year. I'm not going to plan out all the launches and products and sales and lead magnets and all the things with explicit goals for the entire year. But what I am going to try for this year because it feels better to me, and it also feels more closely to what has been working for me is doing things in bite size pieces.

So I don't know if it's because 2021 hit me hard or I'm just in a different place for my business as a whole. But I want to actually have my planning help me this year. I don't want to have to scrap it when things go rough. I don't want to have to redo an entire plan when focus changes or my business changes, or my clients need change. And so I am going to focus on things only by the quarter. I am giving up the complete annual plan and super detailed outline of everything when I start the year. And instead I am going to use a singular focus.

I'm going to have a singular focus each quarter, and then I'm going to layer on all the details, various achievements and milestones that I need to make that one goal for the quarter possible. Now I'm going to use a similar process to what I've used for my annual planning, but I'm not going to look at the whole year. I'm just going to look at the quarter. So once I have my quarterly focus or essentialism goal for that quarter and that, by the way, can be anything. It can be a launch, a product, it can be a specific achievement like whatever that is for you have one goal.

I'm going to start with one goal for the quarter, and all of my friends who know me are probably rolling their eyes and they're like, there's no way you're going to have a singular focus, but that is going to be my goal. This year is a singular focus per quarter. And then once I have that I'm going to work backwards on the calendar. Now I go to the dollar store each year and I buy one of their flat calendars for a dollar that comes in a little like pocket, a Poly pocket, and I get my pencil out and I start mapping things out with my pencil on that planning paper.

And first, what I layer in are my must the things that I know I am not going to move on, and this would include vacation time or any other dates that I know that I will be off like holidays or family obligations or doctor's appointments or what have you I put those there as nonnegotiables. I'm not working that day. I'm not going to do a launch those days like they are completely blocked out.

And then from there I just pencil in launch dates. Even if I'm going to do an evergreen product, I'll add the information to the calendar and then I continue to work backwards. So for example, if I'm going to be doing a webinar launch for a new product, I'll map out when the webinar is when the open cart close cart date is when the course start date is, and then I work backwards further and further mapping out things like the advertising window or the launch runway details or the blog post dates to help support the launch runway.

Now I used to leave all of these details out and then loaded myself up with work that would never get done. I would only focus on the launch date and not have in all of the work that comes before. But once I see it mapped out on a piece of paper, I usually get shocked into weeding things back into reality, and I urge you to do the same. Once you see all the work and know that you're going to underestimate the time it takes for you to do all that work. We've all been there, right? It's going to encourage you to continue to edit things as you see them.

And after I've added all those details and done an edit, I then take everything from my paper calendar and I create a word Doc and I know I'm Super old school. Some of you can work just off of the calendar. Some of you can just do digital, but this is what works for me in my brain. I need to write things out and see it visually throughout the three months, and then I take it and do more planning digitally.

And so the word document is broken down by month within the quarter. So the one document is going to have three months at a time at the top of the document. I have my one main goal and then I'm going to take everything from my paper calendar and map it to the dates. And so for each month I am going to outline the following things. So I have my annual heading or I'm sorry, my quarterly heading. See for the what I've done in the past. My quarterly heading of like what my one goal for the quarter is.

And then under, let's say January, I'm going to have outlined the following things first, what my focus is and where it's leading. So maybe I'm doing a new launch. So launching two new course, then I'm going to have the actual product information, the price point of the product by month and the total investment of it. And then I'm going to create a launch target of enrollment or buyers for that month. So even if you're not launching, you're going to have target numbers of sales.

The next thing I add under that month is the metrics that I'm going to need to reach that target audience. So usually for me, that means paid ads. And so what I need to add in there is how many people I need to get on my list or in my Facebook group or on my Instagram followers. In order to calculate conversions. To reach my target, I use calculations. I always go super conservative. One of my friends goes the other way, and we always laugh about it. But I like to sort of, say, worst case scenario planning to get the metrics for this from that.

Then I also know my ad budget again, using metrics and calculations. I know that if I need X number of people that has a Y percent conversion, I need to spend the dollars because the conversion rate for that is letter A. Sorry, I got my Alphabet next step, but I think you can understand what I'm doing here. So I work backwards to get my ad budget, so I can do planning around that.

And then finally, I have my estimated total profit for the month. If I reach my goal. These are the business details that I add in for each month on my word document. Now I do need to take that out and detail out all the milestones. So for example, what marketing items do I need to do to deliver and support that goal? Maybe it's number of podcast episodes or blog posts or guest podcasting pitches. Or what have you and for me in this document, I tend to focus and add things that are hardest for me. Not everything.

I don't want a document that details out the 20,000 little things I have to do to reach my goal because I would never look at it, and I would probably cry. So instead, what I add here are larger goals around, and the goals is the hardware, like larger activities that I need to do to meet that monthly goal, that monthly focus item. And so again, there are things that are hard for me. It's not granular things. It's not things like creating a landing page or funnel, because that to me, is easy and tactical.

But instead, I do the things that I would probably not do if they weren't on the list, and sometimes I still don't do them. And so I use this document to really push me in the areas that I would tend not to do if I could get away with it. Which is why I mentioned things like podcast episodes or social media posts that I need to do, and I'll include them there in numbers if I want. I can do in topic, but I tend to take the more tactical in a separate thing, which I'll talk about in just a second.

Now, after I add all those items for the three months of the quarter that I'm focusing on, I at the bottom have some three big sections as reminders from my reflections. So the first is what worked last year. I want to be sure I don't stop doing the things that worked. So from my reflections, I am adding the items that worked for me. The next thing I'm doing is adding them the things that didn't work.

Because again, if I see myself going down a path that is similar to last year that did not work, I want that to be on my planning document. I want to be reminded front and center that, hey, you've been there yet on that. It did not work for you. Do not go down that road as well. And then finally, the third section I have there are my areas of devotion, and I think this word or phrase came from one of my friends. I'm not quite sure, but I loved how we used it. And so I've added it there.

And basically what that means is my one to three main focus areas of the quarter. Now, again, we'll have that at the top, but I really here want it to be sort of a little bit more my why, like not necessarily the outcome I'm looking for or my granular essentialism goal. But seriously, why am I focusing on this? Why am I devoting my time to it? And after you do that, you now have a plan. You have a word, Doc plan?

Yes, you have a mapped out calendar as well on paper, but you have your plan now, if you're like me and you like to have plans for plans, the next step would then be to schedule all of your tactics into your calendar. Now, frankly, I suck at this part. I am totally devoted and loyal to my calendar when it comes to things like meetings, but I deeply struggle with my calendar when it comes to things like time blocking batching or scheduling work to get done at certain times. I deeply want to work on this because I think it is a huge area of improvement for me, but I still work on it.

Okay, so I'm constantly refining and working on what my CEO schedule looks like. It is still a work in progress. I still stuck at it, but I keep at it. Okay. It's one of those things that is on my list year to year that I'm not taking off because I know it's that important. Now I can detail a little bit more about a CEO's schedule in an upcoming episode. But for now, I want to just sort of say, essentially what you will do is you'll add in time blocks or appointments or focus areas or your big blocks for the week in each week so that you can ensure that you actually can create everything you need in order to cross off the milestones that you just planned for.

Now, I have often found for myself that while I do weed out and edit things along the way because I learned that lesson the hard way. This final part, where I break down all of these monthly things into weekly bite size pieces, is when I realize that I am being unrealistic, that I am trying to do too much, that everything I want to do is not going to happen. And so I edit things down more here.

And this is really where I look at things, and I like, I just can't do that or there's not time on the calendar to do that much work that week to achieve this milestone. And I know that it's critical to do that. And so sometimes I have to go back to the larger plan and take an entire launch off the plate or move it to another month or a quarter. But it's critical that we work in the time because otherwise it's just not going to get done anyway, which leads, at least for me, a frustration spiral.

And then when I'm in a frustration spiral and I'm off my plan, everything gets checked to the wind. Okay, so make sure that you at least do a little bit of the tactical planning of taking this plan by month and breaking it down for what work you actually need to get done by week to ensure that it is doable, whether it's doable by you or a team member or what have you? Totally fine, but be realistic because we know we tend to underestimate the time that it takes for us to do stuff, and we don't want to get ourselves in a pickle.

Or perhaps we're planning a big project and all of a sudden we can't do it. But our profit goals were tied to it and all the things. So weed, weed, weed, particularly at this point. Now, if you're interested in learning a little bit more how I plan or get a template or it's really just a word Doc of this process. Email me.

Go to hello@launchyourself.co. Let me know that you're interested in it and I'll send it your way. It's not an opt in. It's just one of the things that I do, and hopefully it can be helpful for you. And I also wanted to share this process with you because, like I said, I often don't feel connected with what other people are saying or doing in the planning space. I personally feel as though I suck at the execution of a plan until it's like dire. So I am a procrastinator at heart. I get a lot of work done. I'm a workhorse. I'm a driver. I'm all those things.

But when it comes to planning, my goals don't have as much value to me as some other things. And so instead of worrying about all the things or looking at the full annual scope, I'm trying to take bite sized pieces this year in hopes that it will help me drive my actual deliverables forward. Instead of worrying so much about the plan and where it's going. Hopefully, this helps you as well to join the Free Launch Yourself workshop, where you'll learn why your digital products aren't selling nearly as much as you plan for and how to diversify and scale your income by launching the right way.