Where are all my planners out there? Get excited, because you’re about to get the low-down on how to plan your year in advance. Yes, I mean your whole. entire. year. Whaaattt?!? Even if you’re not a planner, this is still so easy to accomplish!
You might know by now that I'm a big fan of doing crazy things. And you might also know by now that sometimes, those crazy things work like a CHAMP and somehow end up making your life a lot easier (and even less crazy!) in the long run! Today, we're talking about one of those crazy little things: how to plan your YEAR out in advance!
Yes, you read that right.
I introduced this concept years ago, and since then, Freebs from all over the globe have fully converted. The concept is simple. Take a night to pull up all of your activity schedules, school calendars, work days off, holidays, and loads of other goodies explained below. Get them on the calendar, get it done right, and enjoy planning AHEAD all year long!
Oh baby baby, it feels so good!
How is this possible? Isn't this really hard to do? Are you crazy? All questions you are probably considering right now. While I can't promise you that I'm not crazy, I CAN promise you it's much easier and more valuable than you might think! It will definitely help get your act on track for the next year!
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Here's a video showing you exactly how to plan your year in advance. We release new videos every week on YouTube, so make sure that you sign up for notifications! Click HERE to watch how to plan your year in advance video online, or keep on scrolling to see how we do it:
See? Not so scary, right?! It's actually much simpler (and more practical) than one might think. Keep on reading to get some great tips on how to plan your year in advance. Plus, I've got a free Plan Your Year Ahead printable that will make sure you cover everything in your planning sesh!
TIPS TO SUCCESSFULLY PLAN YOUR YEAR IN ADVANCE
It’s really not hard to plan your year ahead. It may take a few planning sessions, but you’ll be so glad you did! Your family time will be more purposeful and intentional in the coming year. It’ll also keep you from forgetting those important events that can sometimes pop up and surprise you if you’re not prepared for them. Follow these tips to get the scoop on how to plan your year in advance!
Do keep in mind that you’ll still need to have weekly check-ins to make sure your next week is good to go and set in stone. We have ours on Sundays. We’ll look over our calendar to see if everything can stay as we have it scheduled.
You don’t always know everything that will be happening during the year when you do your initial planning sessions, such as school programs, extracurricular activities, etc. So just know that you have to be flexible every week to make sure everything will work. But it’s so much easier to have most of your year planned out!
BLOCK OUT TIME TO PLAN YOUR YEAR
As explained in the video above, planning a whole year in advance can take some time. Just be sure to block out some uninterrupted time to make it happen. Also, keep in mind that you might not be able to plan your year in advance in just one session. If doing it at home is too distracting or too full of interruptions, go on a date and do it at a restaurant!
However you decide to do it, grab your calendar RIGHT NOW. Pencil in some times/dates when you can sit down with your spouse and make this planning thang happen!
PICK A THEME
Each year Bubba and I like to pick a single word to focus on… a theme of sorts. One year it was THRIVE (as we worked on getting organized and setting up systems to help us in not just surviving, but thriving). Another year was FELLOWSHIP (as we were working on making friends and serving others). One year was STRONG (as we worked on how to grow together as a family and couple).
Picking a theme as you plan out each year will give you an excellent guideline. You'll know what to focus on and work on for the entire year, both as a family and as individuals. Trust me, you'll be amazed at how much you can achieve and improve within your life by creating something specific to focus on and make the heart of everything you plan and do throughout the year!
USE A DIGITAL CALENDAR TO PLAN YOUR YEAR
This tip is the KEY to planning your year in advance. We all know I LOVE me some cute paper! I mean seriously, I just came out with my own productivity planner and budget planner! But when it comes to your schedule (anything with a date, time, and place to be), you MUST keep it in a digital calendar!
You can write your to-do list on paper, and you can certainly copy your digital calendar into your planner each week. Heck, I do! (Seriously, I LOVE using my productivity planner for this!) But your home base should always be digital to avoid double-booking yourself, losing the important information, or other common inefficiencies that come with paper planners. Just trust me on this one!
We use Google Calendar because it's free, digital, easy to access from anywhere (on our phones and computers). Plus, Google basically runs the world, so I know they won't be going anywhere any time soon. I have my own calendar and Bubba has his own, but we can see each others' calendars.
We can mark up our own calendars how we like but can see each others' activities at all times so we always know what's going on. If there's a calendar event we both need on our calendars (like a date night, or someone's birthday — something that we both need to see), then one of us will create the event and just “add” the other person, so it's not showing up twice on our calendars.
COME PREPARED TO PLAN YOUR ENTIRE YEAR
When you're ready to sit down and do the dang thang, make sure you have EVERYTHING you need. Print off your Year Ahead Planning Printable included in this post. Pull up or dig out whatever you need to fill in all those boxes. You will also need your phone and computer, power cords, and snacks. Always snacks. Here are the areas that we make sure to put on the calendar…
ADD BIRTHDAYS AS YOU PLAN AHEAD
Go through every family member and close friend, and make sure you have their birthdays on the calendar. The good news is you only have to do this once! You can set the timer as recurring so it automatically shows up in future years, too. We set reminders early to send cards in the mail and set reminders the day of to call and wish them a happy birthday.
ADD HOLIDAYS TO YOUR CALENDAR
Most calendars have holidays on them already. However, you want to make sure you note the days where the kids are out of school or you’re off of work. Set early reminders for holidays requiring cards or gifts, like Mother’s Day and Father’s Day.
I also make notes on my personal calendar for holidays that require prior planning for fun kid/family things like St. Patrick's Day and April Fool's Day. I'm the mom who never remembers to do cute stuff and scrambles to throw something together the morning of. Then I get so bugged that I can't get my act together. Planning those out really is helpful!
SCHEDULE VACATIONS THROUGHOUT THE YEAR
Vacations include any fun 3-day weekends (that you were able to prepare for because you noted the holidays you were off for!). If you’ve been saving for a vacation and your budget allows for it, then get those fun trips on the calendar! But they don’t have to be a trip. Just schedule something fun to do that weekend, like getting together with friends or going camping in your backyard.
Calendar out any existing travel plans, such as holidays or family reunions. This helps you keep track of which days you need to ask off from work and how many days you’ll need to be taking off the whole year.
Plan ahead for your desired, fun vacations. These don’t have to be extravagant vacations (it could be as simple as camping)! Whatever the vacation, pick the time, pick the destination, then be meticulous about adding up how much it will cost (don't just guess!). You then need to divide that total by the number of months you have to save up for the vacation, then start putting that amount of money aside each month.
SCHEDULE SERVICE AND FELLOWSHIP
We like to be service-minded when we plan our year in advance. We love to fellowship with others, so we make sure to add it to our calendar. Then as the date gets closer, we can figure out if we want to invite new friends over or strengthen our existing relationships.
Calendar in worship and meditation so it's sure to happen this year! We calendar service at our local religious Temple one time per month so we can plan ahead for a babysitter or trade with a neighbor.
Plan acts of service. We try to calendar out people who we know are pregnant, moving, or having surgery so we can remember to send them cards or take them meals if they are local. We also schedule any acts of service that we may want to do around the holidays so that we can start saving for them.
Plan for your responsibilities and duties. Bubba and I are both active at church and have to calendar in planning for lessons or we forget and scramble at the last minute! We also calendar out Fast Sundays, Visit Teaching, meetings, ward parties, and other good ol' Mormon things. 🙂
ADD FITNESS, HEALTH, AND WELLNESS
Make sure you schedule your medical anniversaries. Think well-child visits, mammograms, doctor appointments for school, and even your pet’s vaccine renewals. We try to calendar reminders for what we can so we can make sure we have enough in our Health Savings Accounts. Then we call and make appointments with plenty of time rather than trying to cram it all at the last minute.
Fitness is another one we make sure to schedule in! We've learned that if we don't schedule time to exercise, we won't do it. Bubba schedules his in weekly activities. I schedule my at-home workouts. We even schedule some family hikes, swimming, and other things we'd like to accomplish during the year that we otherwise forget about until it’s too late to do it.
DIVVY UP SPECIAL OCCASIONS
One of our top marriage tips is to trade off planning special occasions! For Bubba and I, it's namely Valentine's Day and our anniversary. If I plan Valentine’s Day this year, then he’s in charge of planning our anniversary this year. Then next year, we switch!
On that day, whoever is in charge does IT ALL. They plan the activity, they buy gifts for the other person, they do all the planning necessary (including booking the babysitter!). The other person gets to sit back, relax, and get spoiled for a day. Then we trade and the other person gets to get spoiled!
We also schedule date nights! Bubba and I try to have one every week. They don't have to be dinner/movie expensive dates. Sometimes we have a date night at home and watch a $1 movie in our basement. Or we have friends over for game night and dessert. Sometimes we go out on the town for date night and hire a babysitter. Sometimes we spend our date night calendaring out our year or have a money date (boring only if you make it so!).
It does NOT have to be extravagant, but it DOES have to happen. We trade off planning date nights to make it easier. Bubba plans the date one week, I take the other. We try to calendar those in as best we can, but we do switch our calendar around as needed if something comes up.
SET REMINDERS WHILE YOU PLAN YOUR YEAR
As you are adding things to your (digital, remember?) calendar, take an extra second or two and set reminders and alarms. This works great for things like birthdays, anniversaries, and other important events. Doing so will remind you early, giving you ample time to buy and mail gifts, and make plans for those special days.
SET GOALS FOR THE COMING YEAR
Goals are SO DARN TOOTIN' IMPORTANT! As you are planning out the year, take some time to set goals before you actually start the planning session. This allows you to work in HOW you plan to accomplish those goals right there on your calendar each month! Here are some examples of goals that we set:
- Financial goals
- Health and fitness goals
- Religious and spiritual goals
- Fellowshipping and socialization goals
We even include simple goals like remembering to connect with friends and family via phone calls, texts, and FaceTime. Whatever it is, break it down piece by piece throughout the year and schedule it as you would anything else.
I want you to be so successful in planning your year that I created a printable to make sure you don't miss anything! Here's your FREE YEAR-IN-ADVANCE PRINTABLE to make sure you have everything you need to plan your year.
PLANNING AHEAD REALLY WORKS
The years when Bubba and I really put effort into planning our year in advance and actually following our calendar have been more successful in just about every way! Yes, it's THAT GOOD. I promise, if you do the same, you'll be prepared, too!
Give planning ahead a try and let me know if you have any questions on how to plan your year in the comments!
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Good luck this year!