Productivity: My Monthly Planning Blueprint (Steal This and Achieve More)
“The key is not the will to win… everybody has that. It is the will to prepare to win that is important.”
It’s a new month!
I’m always excited every time it’s a new month because I LOVE to plan. You know that feeling everyone has when it’s the New Year?
No, I’m not talking about hangovers.
You get excited because you wanna see a new and improved version of you. Well, why wait only once a year to improve yourself? I put the same amount of effort into planning each every single month. I treat each month as if it’s a new year. I gain feedback so much faster this way.
At the end of each month I conduct a personal review. I analyze what I accomplished in the previous month, and I set goals / optimize my systems for the upcoming one.
It’s all about seeing the forest from the trees. You’re busy grinding away each day – I get it. But you need to give yourself space to see if what you’re doing is effective.
So at the end of each month, I carve out a few hours to plan. Don’t be intimidated by the time I spend, or how much work I put in. I’ve been doing these for over a decade. Focus on a small piece. For each hour of planning I do, I end up saving 10x the hours.
I conducted my personal review a few days ago for this month and wanna walk you through it. By doing monthly personal planning, you’ll be more efficient and accomplish more of your goals.
The Bigger Picture
Everything happens in my calendar. I live and breathe in my Google Calendar. The first thing I’m looking at is what major events and trips I have planned for the month.
Looking at my calendar for September 2016, I see that I’m spending half the month traveling to Europe and Asia. This means I have to make adjustments and I can’t be as intense compared to if I spent the whole month at home.
It’s tough to make “improvements” as I travel. My environment isn’t as predictable, my systems can’t come along with me, and there’s a ton of time wasted actually travelling.
Knowing this, I’m more about “maintenance” and making sure I don’t fall off the train. Normally I workout 6 times a week. Since I’ll be working and traveling so much, I’ll adjust my goals to 3x. (Because working out 3x a week is better than working out zero for the month).
Now I think…”How can adapt the environments to help me achieve my goals for the month?”
I have my executive assistant find gyms ahead of time near where I’m staying, and I’ll book times to go in my Google Calendar. When I’m in Berlin, I’ll see that everything I need to work out is planned for me. This includes the time, location, price etc. This eliminates the “friction” that comes with behavioral change.
Start the month off thinking about if there are any major events that will affect you.
*Are you going anywhere?
*Is anyone visiting you for a week?
*Is there a major project due?
You have to account for these events and adjust for the effects they’ll have.
The Personal Finance Review
You gotta get your money game right. I conduct a personal finance review each month to make sure I’m heading in the right direction.
I log into Mint.com and look at my spending for the month.
I ask myself two questions:
1. Are there any recurring services I’m using that I should cancel?
A $99 a month service you’re not using = $1,200 a year. I noticed that I was paying $7 a month for an anime subscription. I haven’t used it in months, and I prefer to watch Anime on Netflix.
2. Was it worth it?
For any larger purchases, I’ll ask myself a few weeks later if it was worth it. I bought a $500 Robot Vacuum to automate my carpet cleaning a few months back.
It’s not that beneficial. I work at home more often now and don’t like the noise, and I forget to turn it on when I’m out. (I don’t have a set schedule when I’m away). My maid comes once a week and vacuums. I’m going to sell it and re-coup some cost.
By questioning this it’ll help me prevent unnecessary purchases in the future.
I relentlessly cut the “fat” in my finances. I rather use the money towards “luxuries” that have much more value to me such as my personal trainer, massages, and vacations.
Remember that millionaires go broke all the time because they can’t control their spending.
All my bills are automated and systemized, but I check the statements to make sure nothing looks weird.
You live alone. You spend most of your time alone. You die alone.
But relationships are what gives meaning to life. We all go through challenges and difficulties, and relationships are what make us feel like we’re not alone.
Relationships were easy when you’re a kid. You live with your parents so you talk to them daily. You see your friends every day at work.
But then everything changes after college.
You’re not living with your parents anymore. If you moved away you’ll find that you see and talk to them a lot less than you realized. It gets harder, and harder to make new friends.
And your existing friends? Situations change. Your best buddy got married and has kids now. You guys can’t randomly get fucked up on a Saturday anymore. Your overachiever friend has multiple businesses. It’s up to you to figure out how you can keep the relationship growing and nurture it.
You could argue that “Facebook” has made it easier to stay in touch, but I find the connections to be shallow. Liking someone’s status can’t compare to talking with them on the phone.
I wanna challenge you to be intentional about your relationships.
So each month I make a note on who I wanna spend some time with. If I’m not calling my mom enough then I’ll put it in my calendar. I’ll arrange lunch or dinners with people I need to see. I’ll book some calls with my mentors.
It’s easy to lose touch with key people in your life because of the “whirlwind” of work. You have to be intentional about who you spend your time with.
Two quick tips:
1. Think about who you want to spend less time with. People change. Ever meet someone who is extremely negative all the time? They don’t provide any value to your life and just suck the energy out of you. Get rid of them.
Avoid negative people and your life will be so much happier.
I know it can be tough if you’ve known them for a long time, but I think of life like a book. Some characters are only meant to be there for certain chapters of your book.
My employee: “If Charles’s life was a book it’d be Game of Thrones. He’s killing everyone lol”
2. Make a networking list in Evernote or Excel. Systemize it. I have a list of people that I make sure to touch base with at least once a month. I note what cities they live in and make sure to meet up with them.
Is this too much effort? Not if you know the power of networking. I don’t leave this to chance.
Health is the most important thing in my life, even above work.
Right now I’m doing Brazilian Jiujitsu 3x a week, and strength & conditioning with my personal trainer 3x a week. I sleep 8 hrs a day, and I have healthy meals delivered daily.
It’s simple. More health means I have so much more energy when it’s time to work.
Look at your systems and always keep improving them little by little.
1. Are you getting at least 7.5 hours of sleep each night? If not then make this a priority.
2. Do some type of physical activity each day. Go to the gym 3x a week.
3. Take Supplements. (Vitamin D, Fish Oil, Magnesium are great starts)
4. Schedule a massage at least once a month.
5. How’s your diet? Lower the amount of sugar you eat. Drink more water. Eat more greens.
You don’t need to overhaul everything in a month. What’s one SMALL victory you can have for this month?
It’s hard to start going to the gym 3x a week if you haven’t been to one in years. A great goal could be sign up for the gym, and go once a week. And then next month, go twice a week.
Let yourself have fun!
Fun prevents you from burning out. The happier you are the more productive you are.
You can combine fun + relationships to knock two birds with one stone.
I’m always trying to learn a new skill. Right now I’m trying to take more Salsa classes. In the new few months I plan on getting my Scuba diving license, singing lessons to help with my public speaking, and I wanna try rock climbing.
I don’t watch TV or movies as much as I use to, but I make a list of anime and shows I wanna watch.
If you have the means, a quick weekend trip is always good to recharge.
You need to keep learning to keep growing. I spend 30 minutes to an hour each day learning.
Every single month I like to pick a “theme.”
If next month the “theme” is productivity, then I’ll gather all the books, podcasts, courses, and articles I can on how to improve my productivity. This is meta – learning.
When you’re reading from multiple sources back to back, then you can connect the dots and see the bigger picture.
Executing Your Goals
This is the part where most people fail at.
They have a list of things they wanna accomplish, and a month later nothing gets achieved.
The first thing you gotta do is narrow your goals down to just 3.
Three only, no exceptions.
These are results you want to accomplish 30 days from now.
– Lose 20 lbs this month (It’s not realistic)
– Become smarter (It’s vague)
– Beat Uncharted 4. (You can set more ambitious goals)
– Go to the gym 4 times this month
– Take a weekend trip to Naples with John.
– Read 3 copywriting books
Habits / Routines
I live my life around habits and routines. I have routines in the morning, afternoon, and evening.
If your goal is to read 30 minutes a day, then set a time each day to read.
Measuring Your Goals
I love numbers. I try to set some kind of Key Performance Indicator to let me know if I’m close to attaining the goal.
The first way is to set a numeric goal. The second way is to measure your effort.
Outcome / Numeric Goals
Lose 4lbs this month
Spend less than $500 on food this month
Go to BJJ Classes 6 times this month
Drink 1 gallon of water a day
Stretch 15 minutes a day.
I like to use Momentum on the iPhone to track my Habits. http://momentum.cc/.
I use a Google spreadsheet to track my personal KPIs.
Analyzing the Previous Month
At the end of each month, I take time to analyze what happened.
What did I do right?
What did I do wrong?
I want to analyze my own behavior and understand my motives.
Lets say your goal was to go to the gym 4x this month, and you ended up only going two times…you wanna investigate WHY.
Maybe you felt tired after work? Then try going in the morning.
Maybe the drive to your gym is too long? Then sign up for a gym closer to you. Or you can workout at home.
I look at myself objectively. I’m like a scientist looking at data and trying to improve.
Use My Monthly Planning Blueprint Every Month
We all have goals in life.
But there’s a giant leap between dreaming, and accomplishing. Anyone can be motivated and declare on Facebook what they’re going to do. But in reality, most of the goals don’t get done.
Instead, people complain. They make excuses.
But remember we all have the same 24 hours in a day. I’ve discovered the biggest difference between dreaming and doing is planning.
You need to plan, and adjust. Things don’t always go as planned so you have to analyze why.
If you wanna get to the next level then view each month as a new opportunity. Invest a few hours planning and you’ll find them worth it.
Next month I’ll show you how to conduct a monthly review for your business.
Featured Image by Anton Matyukha