Welcome to my new series on How to Plan! I’ve been wanting to write this series for over a year, but I was so scared of it not being perfect or well researched enough. But I think after a year of learning, it’s time to share everything I learned with you!

Whenever the new year starts we all are ready to sit down and plan for a successful year. However, most times are plans are too overwhelming so we quit, or they aren’t clear enough and then we quit.

I’m going to try to make this short, easy, and simple for you to follow. Be sure to come back every week for the How to Plan Your Month, How to Plan Your Week, and How to Plan Your Day posts in this series!

How to Plan Your Year For Success

Below are the step-by-step process I take every year to plan my year for success.

Step 1: Review Your Past year

The reason why most experts tell you to first review your past is because in order to get clear on what direction you want to go, you must first figure out where you are now. You may not be where you want to be right now, but in order to be successful next year, you need to look at where you are currently.  So before you plan ahead, you must first look back on the previous year. By doing this, you will be able to see what is working and what isn’t working. 

Look at how you spent your last year. You can look at your calendars or your planners to see what you did with most of your time last year.

Think about your goals, did you reach them? What worked well, and what didn’t? If you can change anything about how you lived your last year what would you change and how would you change it?


ACTION STEP: Write all of this down. Journal everything you can and evaluate the past year.

STEP 2: Your Vision & Theme Word

Now that you now where you have been, it’s time to create your roadmap on where you want to go. If you want to plan your year, you need to get clear on where you’re going.

Your vision

Your vision will be your guide and your theme word will help you filter your goals and tasks.

For your vision I want you to imagine it being December 31st, 2020 (or the last day of next year’s if you’re reading this in the future). What have you done in the past year? What have you accomplished? How is your life? How do you feel? What does your day to day look like? Your vision should be written in a present-tense form to make it feel like it already happened. Write down everything you want your life to be like in one year.

A way that I find that helps build my vision is by answering the following question:

“At the end of 2019, I want to be/have/do/finished/accomplished _____________”

You should focus on your priorities. What is important to you in your life? Family? Friends? Love? Children? School? Work? Spirituality? Community? Decide and make it a reality.

Your theme word

Now choose a theme word that describes your vision. Your word is going to be the word of how you want to feel, think and be for the following year. It’s something you can apply throughout your life. Everything you do you can ask yourself, is this living up to my theme word? It can act as a filter for everything you do, and it can guide you in the right direction. It can be one word or it can be a short phrase. For example, my past theme words were: FOCUS, CONSISTENT, & FINISH. They all mainly pertained to me and my business. I wanted to grow my business but in order to grow I needed to stick to my plans and take action on it.

Here are some other examples: Shine, strength, courage, discover, simplify, inspire, visible, radiant, motivation, adapt, ease, begin, progress, joy, forgiveness, compassion, organized, bright. If you can’t find a word that resonates with you look up words in the thesaurus.

ACTION STEP: Write down your vision & choose your theme word

STEP 3: Set SMART Goals

Use your vision and theme word to decide on your goals for the year. When setting your goals and planning your year, determine if it fits your vision or theme word. Try to limit your goals for the year to only 3 or 4 goals. The more focus you have, the more you will get them done. Because in reality, success comes from tackling one small task at a time.

It may be helpful to think of categories for your goals, such as Financial, Health & Fitness, Recreation, Home, Family, Personal & Spiritual Development, Career, etc.

A SMART goal means that your goals are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound.

  • S – Specific – What do you want to accomplish? Who needs to be included? When do you want to do this? Why is this a goal?
  • M – Measurable – How can you measure progress and know if you’ve successfully met your goal?
  • A – Achievable – Do you have the skills required to achieve the goal? If not, can you obtain them? What is the motivation for this goal? Is the amount of effort required on par with what the goal will achieve?
  • R – Relevant – Why am I setting this goal now? Is it aligned with overall objectives?
  • T – Time-bound – What’s the deadline and is it realistic?

All these elements need to be present in your goal. You must have a clear and well-defined goal that you want to achieve within a specific period of time. Your goal must be achievable, not one that is going to overwhelm you, it must be attainable and measurable. Without a way to measure your success, you may miss out on the celebration that comes knowing that you are on course to achieving your goals.

Write your goals and action steps down on paper. Put it in a place where you can see it every single day. I like to rewrite my goals every day to make sure that I am always working towards it.

ACTION STEP: Write your goals down and set it up to the SMART principles.

STEP 4: Your Why

When time passes and your goals get harder to stick to, you’re going to need a really powerful why to help you to keep going. It will help you overcome those obsatables, or when you feel like procrastinating. To figure out your why try to ask yourself why over and over again. I found this exercise on the Asian Efficiency blog, if you want to learn more about the Five Whys exercises check it out here.

ACTION STEP: Do the Five Whys exercise to figure out your true why.

Step 5: Get an Overview of Your Entire Year

Now we finally get to get into the planning part of the process! I’m sure this will easy for you!

Take out your calendars. I use Artful Agenda which syncs to my iCloud and Google Calendars. See what is going on this year. Jot down and map out all of your vacations, anniversaries, holidays, birthdays, commitments, family events or traditions, school breaks and schedules, school activities, sport activities, and more! Anything that takes space in your calendar – has a date and time where you’re not free. Jot it all down on your calendar now.

If you’re using a digital calendar, be sure to also set reminders so you can have time to plan for each of those events (like remembering to buy a gift for a birthday). I always like to set up reminders for – 2 weeks before, 1 week before, 1 day before, and 1 hour before. Is that too much? I don’t think so, it’s perfect for me since I am constantly forgetting everything!

Next review your goals for the year ahead and think about what you want to get done throughout the year.

ACTION STEP: Plan out your year on your calendar and/or planner.

Step 6: Assign Your Goals to Each Quarter of the year

The reason why 3 months (or 90-days or 12 weeks ) is the perfect time frame is because it’s the perfect amount of time for an actionable plan. It’s short enough where you won’t lose focus on your goals, but still long enough to make progress on your goals.

In this step, we want to be able to focus throughout the year. By assigning 1-2 of your big goals to each quarter you can focus on them better. You won’t be trying to do five goals at once and only getting each goal half-done.

By assigning your goals to each quarter you will focus and finish one goal at a time and end the year with at least four goals done. Take a look at your goals and think of a project that will make progress on your goals. Assign those projects throughout your year.

When assigning your projects be mindful of what is going on during that time. Will you have enough time to finish those projects?

ACTION STEP: For each goal you set for the year, assign your goal or projects to each quarter of the year.

Step 7: Set up your Habits & Systems

Another important step with how to plan your year is to set up some new support habits and/or routines. These will help you reach your goals. Take a look at your morning and evening routines. What can you adjust to fit your goals in? Rework your systems. How can you make things easier? If you’re constantly running into problems or forgetting things, create a better plan and system for it.

For example, if you find that you’re constantly forgetting items whenever you go on a trip, then create a packing list that you can use over and over again, and use that before every single trip to ensure you never miss anything again.

People with systems succeed because they are focusing on the tasks and steps that help them reach their goals consistently.

Read more about systems and workflows to streamline your life in this post here.

ACTION STEP: Think of ways you can make your life easier and more automatic with habits, routines and systems.

Step 8: Review Your goals

Be sure to also create a system of checking in with your goals every quarter! Stay accountable, keep track and constantly check in your goals. Review your quarters and see how much progress you are making on your goals.

If things didn’t go as planned, adjust your plans and try to find ways to avoid those obstacles next time. The key to success in planning your year is constantly checking in with yourself and your goals.

ACTION STEP: Set aside time consistently to review your goals and projects. Learn about what worked and what didn't work. Adjust if necessary and plan your next quarter.


You don’t have to start planning your year in December or January. Your year can start anytime. Your quarters can start any time.

The years when I really take the time into planning my entire year and follow my calendar have always been so successful.

I hope this helps you plan your year, good luck!