At the start of each year, we know we have goals to accomplish, tasks to complete, and time to reflect and re-charge. As a project manager, are you planning these out like you do your projects? When you have so many project related tasks and issues on your plate, you need some organization level in your life to reduce the stress of last-minute planning or decision making that can be an added burden. You also need some flexibility so that your life does not get too rigid, but if you are a planner, you will find that the better you plan a lot of your tasks and goals, the more free time you will have to do some fun things. To get a few things off your future plate, take a look at the items you can and should schedule in an annual yearly planning session.
Nearly Guaranteed Events
There is typically a list of items that you deal with annually and are often known before the year even gets started; these include:
- Vacation Time/PTO
- Spring Break
- Summer break
- Work Training
- PDU requirements
I do not have young kids, so the spring and summer break does not really affect me. But all the other events or tasks do and how I schedule around them can determine how enjoyable and rewarding my year turns out.
Use it or Lose it
The first item on the list is vacation time and is something throughout the year that often comes up as far as how much time is left and are you going to have some leftover that you will roll into next year or if your company does not allow it, do you have it scheduled out? I have heard so many times; “it is too early in the year to plan out my vacation time, I do not know how this year will go; how can I plan time off?” Well, just like with projects, I can tell you a few certainties and guarantee a few events that will be happening this year, and next year as well, and to be honest every year after that – they include:
- Your Birthday
- Your Wife’s Birthday
- Your Kid’s Birthday
- Your Anniversary
With non-adult kids, you can add spring and summer breaks to the list unless you home school and do something different. Are any of the above items important enough that you may want to take a day or maybe even a week off? Most folks I know plan to take two or three extra days off at Thanksgiving or Christmas and with kids, definitely a week or two off for Spring or summer breaks.
Is it Really Too Soon?
Many folks will say that this is not possible because you don’t know what your project schedule will be at the time of year that these events occur. But, if your personal time is already scheduled, you can adjust your project schedule accordingly – think of it like standing meetings, something that I have become a stickler about. Do NOT plan meetings over or too close to standing meetings and let your team and vendors know how you operate. Will you have to make an occasional exception for a critical meeting or client request? Yes, but it should not be your standard working methodology – if it is, you are training other not to value your time or priorities.
The above are items that happen every year and will continue as long as you are married and/or have kids. Many other items may happen annually that you can also plan for, like your annual trainings, fulfilling your annual PDU/CEU requirements for your certification or professional registration. Even those who do not consider themselves procrastinators, putting off non-critical tasks like completing training or meeting PDU/CEU requirements, will get postponed until it becomes a schedule sensitive issue.
Get it Scheduled
Let’s say you completed your PMP certification, and you need to get 60 PDUs over the next three years to maintain it, or you will need to retest. I do not know about you, but most folks have no interest in going through the studying and the costs associated with re-sitting for a PMP exam. That being said, you can schedule 20 PDUs a year out for the next three years to meet the minimum requirement or maybe even get ahead of your next renewal by doing even more. So, twenty PDUs would be roughly two a month, and each PDU can be attributed to an hour of education or giving back, which means a couple of hours of reading, listening to podcasts, or watching some webinars. Get it scheduled!
Checkout the “Earning and Tracking PDUs” post for some information around meeting your PDU requirements.
If your company requires annual training for safety, security or HR-related areas, plan the time out. Some will pop up with very short timelines, and for those, you can adjust accordingly. If your year-end tends to be super busy like mine, it makes sense to knock them out earlier in the year to free up your end of year time for spending with family or planning your next year’s goals.
What about all the other items not listed that are very important, like self-care? As a man, I can tell you that setting up appointments for my annual eye exam, bi-annual dental cleanings and my annual physical are typically on my To-Do or Goals list for the year, but not typically on my calendar. It often takes my wife getting on me about it – after all, I am paying for these things. In 2021 I will be better – they will be scheduled earlier in the year – as far as this year, I still have a couple to complete.
I am not the Master
I am not the master at annual scheduling of the above items, but I have become more aware of my time and how valuable it is to use it wisely with each passing year. A big part of this realization is getting important items scheduled early on. For the last four years, I have attended an annual goal planning retreat with a bunch of guys from a local success-focused Master Mind group. The retreat is a two-day and two-night event where we sit around a fire at night while enjoying our favorite spirit and a cigar and talk about how our previous year went. We then spend the days developing our goals for the coming year and sharing them with the group before leaving the retreat on Sunday – a powerful event that I look forward to each year.
What are you planning for?
What is your plan for getting prepared for 2021 and beyond? Have you started on your goals for next year for both personal and career? Are you stuck and not sure how or where to start? Drop me a quick email and let me know what your plans are for 2021.
“Remember, continuous learning is not just a choice; it’s a mindset”.
“As we enter 2024, project managers must be ready to embrace goal planning with the right tools, methodologies, and skills.”