How to Plan for Success in 2020

As we approach the beginning of not just a new year but a new DECADE (can we just stop for a minute and shake our heads in bewilderment at where the time has gone?!?!), it’s the perfect time to step back. Where are we at? Where do we want to be? And, most importantly, HOW are we going to get there?

Below, I share 10 essential planning tips for making 2020 your most successful year yet. (Don’t forget that “success” is a relative term…it’s defined by whatever is most important to YOU. See this post for more details.) These strategies will help you plan your year for success so you have more time for who and what matters.

TIP#1: SET INTENTIONAL YEARLY & MONTHLY GOALS.

While we definitely don’t need to wait for a big moment like a new year to make changes, we can’t deny the inner pull to conduct a thorough evaluation of our lives at a time like this. If we don’t set clear goals (that I actually prefer to call commitments and treat like a mini-legal contract with myself…anyone else do this?), we’ll never achieve them. We have to be so, so intentional and challenge ourselves beyond our comfort zone—not because it’s in any way linked to our value and self-worth (that’s innate and immutable!), but because life is precious and we should want to make it the best it can be. (See this video where I delve into my reasoning for this.)

In addition the big-picture yearly goal(s) we set, it’s helpful to break those down into smaller milestones that we aspire to cross each month. This is crucial for two reasons: It not only helps make our overarching goals more attainable, but it then forces us to outline a clear roadmap for how we’re going to get to the finish line.

TIP#2: DIFFERENTIATE BETWEEN PERSONAL AND PROFESSIONAL GOALS.

Our lives are made up of multiple different areas, so it only makes sense that we clarify what we hope to accomplish in each one. For instance, personal goals might relate to better self-care, sticking with a fitness regimen, spending more time with family, etc. And then obviously “professional” goals depend on your line of work, but even if you don’t work outside the home you surely have hobbies and passions that you can strive to do more on.

(Sidenote: I absolutely adore the Tools4Wisdom Planner—this post is NOT sponsored, I’ve seriously been using these planners for over five years and am obsessed with the structure they contain for goal-setting and tracking!)

(Sidenote: I absolutely adore the Tools4Wisdom Planner—this post is NOT sponsored, I’ve seriously been using these planners for over five years and am obsessed with the structure they contain for goal-setting and tracking!)

If you're looking for an amazing, reasonably-priced planner to set your big goals, keep you on track, and plan out your months & weeks, definitely check out the Tools4Wisdom planner. It's my favorite by far!!!

TIP #3: START BY BLOCKING OUT PREEXISTING EVENTS AND COMMITMENTS. When you go to plan your year, start by identifying when you are—and are not—going to be available to work on your goals. In other words, it’s essential to first cross off days where you know you have other big things going on, like holidays, birthdays, anniversaries, trips, etc. (If you’re a busy mom like me, this of course includes school closures and other activities that rotate with the seasons.)

TIP #4: IMMEDIATELY PLAN IN TIME FOR SELF-CARE. We all know we should be prioritizing our selves, but constantly claim we “don’t have time.” As Laura Vanderkam reminds us,

  • When you’re going to go to bed and wake up. (See here for why having a set sleep schedule is soooooo critical.)
  • When you’re going to pray or meditate
  • When you’re going to exercise
  • When you’re going to do something fun for yourself each week
  • When you’re going to set aside time to plan each week
  • When you’re going to meal prep, run errands, etc.
  • And so forth….

The point is, go ahead and write these things into your planner so that they are actual appointments you have (and thus must keep) and you’ll be more likely to follow through because you already know what to do and when—​as well as have a clearer picture of the time windows you have left over for other things.

TIP #5: SET ASIDE SPECIFIC “MENTAL HEALTH DAYS” EACH WEEK/MONTH. When I was a teenager, my mom enforced a “Constitution Night” each week where I was not allowed to go out, nor have friends over. Instead, it was specifically dedicated to being home and allowing myself downtime to replenish my “constitution” (still not 100% sure what that is, but I absolutely 1,000,000% believe in what my mom meant).

We all know life gets crazy. And, if we’re not careful and protective of our emotional wellbeing, we end up overwhelmed, exhausted, and on the verge (if not in the midst) of a complete breakdown. I’ve been there!!! So the solution is to start each year by designating a specific time each week (even if it’s just a few hours, because heaven knows as a busy mom I’m lucky to get even that) where we don’t do ANYTHING but relax. These schedule-free days are soooooo imperative for refreshing our bodies and minds.

Remember: We’re never going to FIND time; we have to MAKE time!!!

TIP #6: COLOR CODE YOUR PLANNER. As I’m filling out my planner (both at the beginning of the year and every day thereafter), I find it incredibly helpful to use different colors of pens to note different kinds of tasks and activities. For instance, I use set colors to indicate:

  • Important events (holidays, birthdays, etc.)
  • Deadlines
  • Appointments & activities
  • Tasks
  • Notes to myself

I use additional colors to further differentiate between stuff that’s for me versus my kids—so give that a try if it applies to you.

The overarching rationale is then that when you open up your planner, you can tell exactly what has to happen simply by looking at the color profile of each day/week/month/etc. In its own way, this then helps me save time and be more productive because I can visually discern what has to happen and the time windows I have open around all those other things. Plus, when I’m looking for something I previously jotted down, it narrows down the time I have to spend looking for it because I know I only need to scan through items of a particular color. Nice, right?

TIP #7: SET SOFT DEADLINES AHEAD OF HARD ONES. I have learned the hard way how crucial it is to set soft deadlines for myself 1-2 weeks ahead of when something is actually due. #Momlife is a real thing, and even if you’re not a mom, “life” happens! Things ALWAYS seem to come up, and if I don’t specifically plan in a cushion around when big things are due, I end up either really suffering to get them done on time or—even worse—I miss the deadline altogether. Trust me: It’s not pretty when that happens! 

The best thing you can do for your sanity is build in extra protection and convince yourself you need to have things done long before they actually are​. That way, you’ll not only reduce your chance of being late; you’ll also trick your brain by getting an incredible dopamine “high” from knowing that you accomplished something early, which motivates you to keep working hard! And even if you somehow miss the soft deadline, you know you’re not in the doghouse because the real deadline hasn’t passed.

TIP #8: BATCH SIMILAR TYPES OF TASKS. I’ve talked elsewhere about how important it is to minimize the “switching costs” associate with shifting our mental energy back and forth between different types of activities. Multitasking and switching back-and-forth completely wreck our productivity!

So the solution is to categorize our tasks and then try and group similar ones together and bang them all out in one fell swoop. I find it helpful to set specific time blocks for when I do household chores, when I run errands, when I have appointments, when I do the various different things I need to do for my job, etc. That way I’m not only more efficient at doing what I’m doing in each time bloc, but when new to-do’s come up, I’m less likely to drop everything and do them because I instead schedule them into the specific time slot for when I normally do those kinds of things.

As a busy mom, this is one of the most essential things that has helped me stay on target while still getting done all the things that have to happen!

TIP#9: START EACH DAY WITH A REVIEW OF WHAT HAS TO GET DONE.

If you follow none of my other tips, my TOP recommendation is to spend 5-10 minutes at the beginning of each day reviewing (or making!) your daily schedule, reaffirming your overarching goals (ahem, commitments!), and really thinking about how you want the day to go. Most vitally of all, it’s imperative to identify your “most important task” that day—the one thing that absolutely HAS to happen. (I often list 3-5 things, but I get very clear about which one of those is truly MOST important.)

The reason this is so chief to success is because by doing so, you:

  1. Clarify your daily priority(ies)
  2. Know exactly what to start with when going about your to-do’s
  3. Don’t wander around aimlessly all day wondering what you were supposed to be doing and then get to the end of the day having done nothing
  4. Are less tempted to deviate from your plan
  5. End the day knowing that you got AT LEAST that one thing done
  6. Don’t get bummed because you hit your mark for the day and (due to the chemical reward that sets off in your brain) feel empowered to do a great job again tomorrow

In the past, I was always way too ambitious about how much I wanted to get done. Sitting down each day to consciously plan out what I’m going to do and forcing myself to choose just ONE THING has helped so much.

(Sidenote: I have found Brendon Burchard’s High Performance Planner absolutely invaluable for this. Again, this post is NOT sponsored! I started using this daily planner about 9 months ago and it has been a complete game-changer! It is undated and has gobs of resources in it for setting your priorities and intentions each day, as well as reviewing your progress each night and at the end of each week.​ You can get a single book (60-days) or the full-year pack.

The High Performance Planner comes in 6 different colors: black, blue, red, orange, yellow, and green.
The full-year High Performance Planner pack comes with one of each color.

TIP#10: KEEP ON TOP OF YOUR TO-DO LIST.

I think most of us start the year with a plan (even if it’s just in our heads), but then new things always come up and after a while we end up not knowing where to even begin.

To avoid this, I love keeping a running to-do list in the notes section of my planner so that everything’s in one place. Of course you can opt to do your scheduling and task management on your phone or with an online application; I personally prefer pen & paper so I have the satisfaction of physically crossing things off. 😉

Now here’s the kicker: every time you write something on your to-do list, try to then schedule it into a specific time slot in your planner! That way, you don’t end up with things that never get done and, if you find your schedule is all booked out, you know that you either need to A) give something up in order to make room for that new task or opportunity, or B) say no for now.

There’s little more than biting off more than we can chew, so be brutal with yourself. Conduct regular check-ins to see how many things are your to-do list still need to be done and then be sure and implement my “Five D’s” formula to eliminate as many unnecessary things as possible. Check out these videos as well:

For even more on how to make 2020 your most successful year yet, be sure and snag my Ultimate Guide to Planning So That Everything Goes ‘According to Plan’! In honor of the new year, it’s on sale for a limited-time only!

It comes with FOUR FREE BONUSES:

  1. A Daily Organizer template (so you can solidify your most important tasks and schedule out your day)
  2. A Peak Performance Tracker (so you can identify the times at which your body is at its prime mental state and you should thus plan to do your most important things)
  3. A Task Organizer to help you categorize all your to-do’s and evaluate importance versus urgency to know which ones should get done FIRST
  4. A 90-Day Habit Tracker to set your commitments and mark of your progress
For a super detailed yet easy-to-follow guide to ensuring it all gets done (without you losing your mind in the process), be sure and check out this invaluable 50+ page ebook!

Alright, now you know how to plan for success in 2020!

Comment down below with YOUR top planning tips and don’t forget to follow me on Instagram and subscribe to my YouTube channel for even more of tips on prioritization, productivity, time management, and that elusive thing we call work-life “balance”!

This video reviews my top tips for making the new year your most successful one yet! Don’t forget to subscribe to my YouTube channel! 😉

NOTE: I am also a participant in the Amazon Associates affiliate program. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. This page contains affiliate links to products that I personally love and have benefited from. If you make a purchase from one of these links, I may make a small commission at absolutely no cost to you

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