Quarterly Planning is something I’ve been doing for over a year now and it has changed my life. I originally got the idea of quarterly planning from Brian P. Moran’s book The 12 Week Year.
Most people plan their entire year all at once, in January. By doing it this way, you aren’t taking the time to review how your goals are progressing over the year. Instead, many get discouraged or fall off the wagon by February or March and just say “oh, I’ll just wait until next year to try again”, even though that’s literally 9 or 10 months away.
By dividing your year into quarters, you are more likely to achieve your goals and stick to your plans. You can also experience that “New Year, New Me” feel every 3 months which really gets me motivated to keep going every quarter.
Now how do we plan for just 3 months? Let me show you.
What is Quarterly Planning?
First of all, let’s define quarters. Each year can be divided into 4 quarters. Making it easier to see the entire year on a smaller scale.
These quarter breaks are laid out like this:
- Q1 – January 1st to March 31st
- Q2 – April 1st to June 30th
- Q3 – July 1st to September 30th
- Q4 – October 1st to December 31st
Now that you know when each quarter starts and ends, we can discuss quarterly planning.
Basically, once every three months, you will set goals, document your progress, reflect on your lessons learned, and celebrate your accomplishments.
Each quarterly planning session should include time to reflect on the past 90 days and time to plan for the next 90 days.
Why Quarterly Planning is Important
By following a 90-day plan, you are more likely to stay motivated and on track because the goals are more manageable. With a quarterly plan, you can break down your big goals into smaller, short-term goals that will drive you towards your long-term goals. This keeps you motivated because you are seeing progress on your goals every quarter. This makes you less likely to procrastinate because the tasks are more manageable.
Quarterly Planning vs. Annual Planning
There are benefits to both quarterly and annual planning. And these strategies can be used to complement one another. Essentially, quarterly planning breaks down your big annual goals into easier and more manageable tasks.
Benefits of Quarterly Planning
- Sense of urgency for tasks to be completed because they aren’t that far out
- Focused time to hone in on specific tasks for each 90-day plan
- An opportunity to reflect on your growth and make necessary adjustments throughout the year
Benefits of Annual Planning
- Provides the foundation and direction for the goals that are set each quarter
- Helps you decide what your overall mission is for the year
How to Effectively Plan Each Quarter
When you sit down to do your quarterly plan, there are 6 key things you should do:
1. Revisit Your Annual Plan Goals
This is where annual planning and quarterly planning go hand-in-hand. Review what goals you set at the beginning of the year and see if they are still relevant in your life.
2. Reflect on Your Annual Goals
For the goals that are still relevant to your life, review how close you are to achieving them. If the goals still seem very daunting, break them down into smaller, mini-goals that are more manageable.
3. Decide on your goals for the upcoming quarter
Once you have decided which goals you are continuing to work on this year and broken them down into mini-goals, decide which ones you will focus your attention on for the next 90-days.
4. Create action steps and benchmarks
Now that you have decided which mini-goals you are going to focus on for the next 90 days, you need to break them down into smaller actionable steps.
5. Set expectations and timelines
Set specific timelines for when you want (or need) to have the smaller steps completed during the quarter. This keeps you from procrastinating until the end of the quarter to start working on a task.
6. Plan out your rewards
My favorite part of quarterly planning is making up small treats to reward myself for when I complete a goal or task. This is just another way to keep you motivated.
Example of a Quarterly Planning Session
To help you understand each step, here’s an example:
Let’s say that one of my annual goals for this year was to become an early riser who can get up at 5 am most mornings. During Q2 I decide that is still something I want to work towards so I am going to break it down into smaller mini-goals that will contribute to my goal.
Three mini-goals could be to make a morning routine that I look forward to, go to bed earlier, and work on getting up earlier every day.
Then I’m going to decide that this quarter I am going to just work on making a morning routine and going to bed earlier.
I will break this down even further into action steps.
- Morning routine: research the benefits of getting up early, pick 3 things I want to do in the morning, decide what time I will get up every morning, set an alarm for that time, do morning routine for 5 days in a row, do morning routine for 15 days in a row, do morning routine for 30 days in a row
- Going to bed earlier: decide what time I should go to bed every night, research evening/bedtime routines, pick 2 things to do before bed that will wind me down, go to bed 30 minutes earlier than usual for 10 days in a row, for 20 days in a row, for 30 days in a row, pair this will my morning routine
These may seem like a lot of steps and tasks but notice how they are all small, easy actionable steps.
After that, I would plan some timelines and due dates for each small task to be completed during the quarter and put that into my calendar or my running task list.
And now I would decide on some rewards for when I complete my two mini-goals.
For example, maybe once I have completed all my smaller tasks for creating my morning routine, I would reward myself with buying a new personal development book that I would love to read.
Final Thoughts on Quarterly Planning
Quarterly planning is something that I definitely wish I would have implemented into my routine sooner. I have gotten so much done in this first quarter of 2022 because I planned smaller actionable steps that got me closer to my goals. And while my big 2022 goals aren’t even close to being completed, I know that I am just one step closer every quarter.
I hope this helped you understand what a quarterly planning session should look like and why they are so beneficial to your overall success and productivity.
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