How to Effectively Plan Your Quarter in 3 Simple StepsAug 24, 2023
This week on the blog I am sharing the part of the Collaboration series that I personally created as a business strategist for female entrepreneurs, and that is how to increase profit and visibility through quarterly planning. If you haven't read last week's post about my Collaborations Project, read that first.
If you are not a planner and this stresses you out, don't worry. I keep it really simple and share it in a way that is easy to implement starting right now.
I take you behind the scenes of my quarterly planning process, which is something I have only taught my private clients so far. I will share why quarterly planning is so important, how much time it takes, and the questions I ask myself when doing a mini-business audit every quarter.
Why Quarterly Planning is So Important
Running a business, like taking a road trip, is really exciting when you are gearing up to go and hit the road. Your GPS is set and you are ready to go. Then a few days in, some bumps along the road happen. Quarterly planning is a way to make sure that you are on the right track. And even if you aren't, it gives you a chance to pivot. This planning process gives you an opportunity to pivot if you would like to.
When it comes to quarterly planning, so many people (including myself) overcomplicate it at the beginning. We think it will be hard and take all day. In reality, you can sit down and do this in an hour. This process is repeatable so it becomes easy and second nature. I like to teach you how to keep things SIMPLE so you will be CONSISTENT and see RESULTS. Here are the three steps in my quarterly planning process.
Step one: Set aside the time.
I like to do this first thing in the morning, when my brain works the best, or get out of the house. Go to your favorite coffee shop or grab a friend and set up a quarterly planning date! I typically set aside two hours and walk through the framework that I am going to share with you. Right now I want you to pause reading, go to your calendar, and schedule a time to do this. Even if you don't get all the way through it, the fact that you set aside the time and start to talk about it is when you are actually going to see the results.
Step 2: Mindset
Take a deep breath. Before beginning a big planning session, I like to do something that releases energy, like a workout, to get my mind relaxed and focused rather than anxious. Then I ask five questions. So for the upcoming quarter (the next three months):
- What went well last quarter? Think about all categories of your life, not just business. Are you sleeping better? Did your kids do great in school? Did you take an epic vacation? Think about what things went well, but also what led you to those things happening. When you go deep, you can think about how you can repeat that.
- What do I need to improve on? Was your calendar too full? Did you let go of some of your personal goals because you were too busy with your business goals? What do you really want to get better at?
- What are you calling in this quarter? What do you need to be successful? Go deep. Really think about it.
- What are you taking with you? What went so well this quarter that you must keep doing it?
- What are you leaving behind? What are you going to stop doing? What are those self-sabotaging habits that you really don't want to carry forward with you?
I'll share mine with you for my current quarterly planning.
- I'm calling in more support to grow into future opportunities. I think for us, means hiring
- I am taking with me this summer feeling. The more joy in everyday activities, like my dahlia garden.
- I am leaving behind the fact that sometimes that I get invested in others that it's at my own expense. I really need to think about where I am spending my time and setting my own boundaries because in the end that helps everyone.
You can see that just with that activity, you get a really good idea of where you are at and where you want to go.
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At this point, I pause and think about how I want to feel at the end of next quarter. Then I start to write down goals that pull all of this together. I say this all the time in our mastermind, it is not fancy. So far this is a google doc or big notebook full of goals. This is part one of the planning.
The Practical Part of Planning
The second half of the planning is much more practical. Now that you know where you want to go (insert part one above), we're going to talk about how to make it happen. The second half of the quarterly planning piece starts with a financial analysis. To be honest, when I first started, this was the part I hated and wanted to skip. BUT, the more you do this, the easier it gets.
We use numbers to better support our goals. This is data, and data tells a story. My husband and I sit down and look at what is coming in, what is going on, what do we want to invest in, and what do we need to invest in.
The key to this is to set the darn meeting. Just like I told you at the beginning to put this time on your calendar, set the time on your calendar that says this is when we are going to talk about finances and eliminate all the distractions. We usually get through this in an hour and have a very specific agenda that we cover. Things like:
- How is the business doing?
- What are our family goals?
- What do we want to invest in financially
- What actions do we need to take to make those happen?
Aside from the reflecting part, this is the most important part and most people skip it. Do not skip this part. Go to your calendar right now and schedule it. I promise it gets easier the more you do it.
After the financial review, it's time to make it visible. I write down all of our goals on a big whiteboard which we keep in our family office. Put it in a place where the whole family can see it. It is broken down by month and includes all of our business goals and all of our family goals. And when you get frustrated, because you will eventually, you can look up at the board and be reminded of what the focus is. This helps with shiny object syndrome because the whole goal of this step is to make it visible.
Plan Actual Dates
The next step is to plan the actual dates. When do we want to launch the things? When do we want to take a vacation? When do the girls start school? This is everything, not just business-related. I start with the personal blocks first and then plan the business blocks around the personal goals and activities. Your system for how you want to do this (big wall calendar, ClickUp, Google, etc.) doesn't matter. What matters is that you have your goals and you have your plan and you have your dates.
Where do you need help?
The third step is asking myself, "Holly, where do you need help?" This is also a step that most of us skip, but it might be that I just need to share what my goals are out loud. It also might be taking another day to plan, hiring someone, or taking an afternoon date once the kids are back in school (yes, that's on our calendar).
This is where the pivoting happens.
I have been known to go to our calendar and cancel a bunch of things. I will literally write "NO NEW MEETINGS" because I can see things starting to fill up. This is where you are creating the space to make the real priorities happen. How do you do this? You set aside the time. Set aside the time to do the quarterly planning and have the financial meeting. Out of this comes the right focus, the motivation (slowing down to speed up), and the space to work on the tasks to move the needle, both your personal and business needle.
Running a business and raising a family can be very demanding, with little time to focus on yourself and personal growth. So how do you prioritize all of that with a busy schedule? This is it. We do this every single quarter, and a mini version every month, and a micro version every Sunday.
If you hear that and think "omg that is so much planning," here is what I'm going to say. If you don't have a process to see where you are going, how do you know you are on the right path? One of my favorite mentors James Clear said "Goals are for people who care about winning once, systems are for people who care about winning repeatedly. I am telling you, this system works. It doesn't take a ton of time and being ridiculously consistent along with hiring mentors who can see the bigger picture for me are what have helped me the most in our personal and business growth.