I am not one of those super organized people. But the one thing I have done religiously since 2008 is plan my year in advance. I get the question all the time about how I manage these crazy races, travel, have a career, and spend time with my kids. This is how I do it.
Prior to doing this, I would just go with the flow. what ever screamed loudest, I followed. I just went through the motions with regards to work, family, and kids.
Since I have started planning out my year in advance, I've noticed an interesting side effect, I get a lot done, but i'm not really that busy.
Caution: this whole process takes a lot of time but it helps not waste a whole year.
1. What did you do the previous year?
I start with a simple brain dump of what I have accomplished the year before. You might be surprised by what you have accomplished or *not* accomplished. What trends do you notice? I usually do this exercise with my wife and kids. We try to find trends or interesting patterns that can shape the coming year.
- Where did we travel
- What did my kids accomplish
- How much money did I save/state of my investments
- Major accomplishments at work/business
- Books I read, things I've learned
I personally use Google sheets for this. Finally, we finish with the question, "what is this the year of"? When you look back 20 years from now, what will you remember 2017 for? "2017 is the year of having a new baby and moving to a new country"
2. Ideas for the following year
Do a "brain dump" of things you want to accomplish next year. Just sit down and write anything that comes to mind. Just let the ideas flow.
I do the same exercise with my wife and kids. My wife usually doesn't want to do this and rolls her eyes, but eventually she will start telling me what she wants the children to achieve and eventually what she wants to achieve. The kids rattle off their own lists too.
I spend a couple of days on these lists, adding, and removing.
Major themes will start to emerge. They will form the major "rocks" for the year. For example
- Run an 'X' mile ultramarathon
- Increase the revenue for my company by X%
- Travel to 'X' new cities
- Publish my first book
- Children become proficient mandarin speakers
- Children become better swimmers
- Actively help out a charity
I take the goals and make them scary/exciting. I am not sure why this works for me, but it does. It triggers something within me that makes me more likely to achieve the goal. Sometimes it will take more than a year to accomplish them. E.g.
- Rather than run 50 miles-> run 100 miles.
- Rather than learn Hindi-> give an entire lecture in Hindi
- Rather than my son learn to swim -> do his first triathlon
3. Look for triple "wins"
My goals used to be all about me. What I have been doing recently is trying to find goals that overlap with my wife and kids. That increase the chances of my actually achieving the goals and it brings the family together.
Once my family and I have the lists and they are sufficiently scary and exciting, I start looking for synergies.
For example, the kids need to practice their Arabic next year and she wants to visit her sister in Jordan and I want to do a multi-stage running race. So I started "googling" and found a one week desert Ultra in Jordan in March. A triple win.
We arrive at these but talking, talking and more talking.
This is the secret sauce of the whole process. If my wife is part of the planning and I take her wants into consideration she will be my support system. This is one of the main reasons my wife supports what I do.
4. Categorize things into months
I start putting things onto the yearly calender like that. I put major events like major holidays, work commitments, travel commitments. I find out what gaps in my calendar I can play with. My wife wants to visit Japan, I want to do an Ironman and my son wants to do his first Iron Kids. So Ironman Japan in August goes up on the calendar.
5. Put "it" up or shut up
Once I'm done with my goals, I put them up on the wall where I can see them everyday. I also have a yearly calendar where I can see the major events I have planned. It's the first thing I see when I turn on my phone.
Visualization is the second secret ingredient.
6. Get started
I will make things real by booking races or holidays. I start right away. I don't wait or put it off.
Race resources that I use
- Marathons around the world: http://www.marathonguide.com/
- Ultramarathons around the world: http://www.ultramarathonrunning.com/
- Triathlons around the world: http://trimapper.com/
- Ironman.com, Challenge.com, Rev3tri.com