Hello and welcome to Part 2 of “Create Your Year!” In the last post, we created a one-year vision for self-care, relationships, and tangible outcomes. Today we’re talking about how we connect back to our big vision each month in a way that feels peaceful, calm, and happy.
If you have not yet received access to our bonus templates, there’s a link at the bottom, or you can sign up by clicking here!
We’re going to get a bit more granular over the next couple of weeks as we create each week and day. But for creating each month, I like to keep the big-picture approach.
The goal for today is to create an optimal Current Projects List with somewhere between 3 and 8 projects–assigned to the categories “Me, My Family/Relationships, and Beyond”–and then we’ll start a basic monthly routines list. Ready to go?
An Optimal Current Projects List
In our free training, How to Finally Stop Drowning in Piles (I’ll add a link at the bottom!), we discuss the human tendency to work on dozens of projects simultaneously. That often feels “productive,” but the projects rarely get finished, and we usually end up feeling overwhelmed.
An optimal Current Projects List (the way we teach it) is divided into the Me/My Family/Beyond categories and contains a maximum of 8 projects. That doesn’t mean you have to have 8 projects. In fact, I prefer to have 4-5 total. The idea is that we need to require ourselves to focus on the projects that are the most important.
Me = Projects that will facilitate your self care. Remember that establishing a routine is a project. More on this in a minute!
My Family/Relationships = Projects that are either related directly to a person in your family (“Help Spencer finish is Eagle Project” is currently on my list) or that will directly impact your family or other close relationships (like “Organize the Kitchen” or “Set Up a Book Club”).
Beyond = Projects for work or volunteer activities.
While going through our Steps to Everyday Productivity program, a lot of people discover that their project lists are regularly off-balance. They’ll have something like 14 family projects, 25 work projects, and 0 for themselves. Adjusting this list might seem frustrating or near-impossible, but I promise it’s going to give you a lift when you realize that you personally deserve resource allocation, too!
This monthly process of updating our Current Projects List doesn’t need to feel cumbersome. I’m going to walk through how I do it–considering what we put together in Create Your Year–and then hopefully you’ll feel incredibly excited to do this yourself.
Step 1: Review the Create Your Year template you filled out and do a quick brainstorm of 2-3 projects that could positively enhance your life this month.
As you’re doing so, you’ll want to think about any projects already on your plate, any big calendar-specific events coming up, your current bandwidth, etc. Mine might look something like this:
- Establish a solid 10:30pm bedtime
- Finish one painting from my acrylics course
- Schedule 4 getaways with Eric for the year
- Help Spencer find an after-school job
- Update the calendar with “We Love to Be a Family Day” and all birthdays for extended family members
- Set up a check-in and training for the church Emotional Resilience program
- Prepare Four Weeks to Finished!
- Prepare ARISE survey
Step 2: I know this step is going to sound weird. But once you’ve created your list, trim it down to 8 MAXIMUM, and then look at your list and assess how you feel.
If you feel excited when you look at it and think, “Wow! Totally doable. I’m looking forward to this!” then that is a great sign. I would say you should move ahead.
However, if you look at it and feel sick to your stomach, pay attention to that.
The sick/overwhelmed feeling usually means one of the following:
- You subconsciously know you don’t have time to do all these projects–even in an entire month. Maybe you have a lot of routines. Maybe you’ve been sick. Maybe you need to be more gentle on yourself because you’re carrying some emotional burdens right now.
- One or more of these projects is unclear to you. You might not know where to start, you may have made the project too big, you might not be the right person to even do this project, etc.
- You skipped over an intermediate project. For example, I have a sample project on there to help Spencer find a part-time job. But what if FIRST, I need to meet with his school counselor to figure out his exact schedule–so we know what time frame he’ll be available to work. Then I need that to be the project.
- You actually have “hidden projects” you’re working on that you forgot to write down. Maybe someone in your family has a medical issue, and you’ve been going to all sorts of doctor appointments to try to figure it out. That’s a project. Or maybe something broke at work, and you have to figure out how to get it fixed. That’s also a project.
Important Note: Not every single multi-step task needs to go on your Current Projects List. I’ve been asked this question a lot, and it’s actually super important, so I want to explain it here.
A member of our Four Weeks to Finished group said she wanted to find some new recipes for her family, and she wondered if she should put it on her Current Projects List. It felt frustrating to her because she didn’t want it to take up one of her 8 spaces, but she also didn’t want to put it off until the next month.
For something like finding recipes, if it’s “optional,” meaning there is no specific deadline, but you’d like to do it, I would simply add the “Next Action” to my Next Actions List. (If I end up changing my mind about it, that’s fine, but if I really want it to happen, I’ll make some progress over the course of the week.)
A Next Action could be, “Search Online Recipes for 15 Minutes.” Then as soon as I cross that off my list (and store my selected recipes in Evernote/a Notes app), I immediately add the NEXT Next Action into my system. That could be something like, “Buy ingredients for two recipes.” And that could either go on the “Errands” section of the Next Actions List or, if I can add the items to my grocery app so it’s ready to go when I place my weekly order, I can do that in 2 minutes or less.
Step 3: Once you have a solid Current Projects List, post it in a prominent place.
If you use a digital system, that’s great–just make sure this list can be easily found/reviewed as needed throughout the month.
I personally keep all my Current Projects in Asana, but I also post my list on a chalkboard in my office AND I write it on the weekly bookmark in my planner. It’s like my “stake in the ground” for the month, and it usually takes me about 15 minutes to create at the beginning of the month. 🙂
Your Monthly Routines List
Inside the Steps to Everyday Productivity program, we have several different resources to help you create your full Routines List.
For today, let’s talk about how we would populate the monthly section of this list–based on what we identified in our vision for the year.
Step 1: Review your yearly vision and brainstorm routines that will support your self-care, relationships, and tangible outcomes.
Here’s an example of my key monthly routines:
- Two-way journal twice a month
- Library trip/check out a big basket
- Coaching call
- Cook a favorite dinner or new recipe together once a month/do a fun activity with all the children
- Get-togethers with extended family
- 2 activities with family and friends (a play, hike, date night, etc.)
- Review, clean up, back up, and share meaningful photos from the month with those I love
- ARISE Monthly Planning Meeting
- Monthly LearnDoBecome Team Meeting
- Email/connect with church Emotional Resilience facilitators
Step 2: Decide how and when you want to be reminded of these routines.
The Routines List is on our “Review Weekly” section of the STEP Command Central. If you’d like, you can simply review it during your Weekly Review and assess how things are going. (Anything need to be removed? Added? Calendared?)
I don’t think of this list as “have-to” items. I did that for a long time, and it caused way too much stress because I was trying to do everything…all the time.
Instead, I think of this list as a bunch of great ideas–like the “Multiple-Choice Perfect Month” (see the related podcast linked at the bottom!).
Inside Asana, I add calendar triggers to the ones I want to make sure to review (for example “Plan an Activity with Friends” can be set to pop up twice a month on my Asana tasks), and I schedule any activities that are date/time specific (like our monthly Team LearnDoBecome meeting).
When an optional task pops up, I can either check it off–knowing it will come around again soon because I set it up as a recurring task–or I can do something about it. This way, I have a few select monthly routines (that connect back to my annual vision) that are a regular part of my life, but they feel light, happy, and optional.
It is SO GOOD. No pressure, lots of upside, and you can turn off all calendar triggers and stop thinking about them if life gets busy!
Okay, that’s all for this week!
I explained quite a bit in this post, but the assignment is really simple. Using the two templates we’ve provided (or your own system), simply create a Current Projects List for the coming month and a streamlined list of monthly routines. We’ll dive into the weekly and daily planning in the next 2 posts!
Sending lots of love!!