There is no doubt in my mind that reviewing the past year is a valuable exercise.
But what about previewing the year to come?
I think that’s an exercise that is just as valuable. Why? Because it offers you a map for the months ahead. You may not hit every place on the map as you navigate the year, but at least with a map you’ll have a better chance of getting to where you want to go.
Monthly Themes are the pillars of My Year in Preview. If you’re going to preview your year as well, I’d suggest you start with theming your months as a jumping off point.
Let me explain how Monthly Themes work.
- They represent an overarching focus for the month. That doesn’t mean that other projects don’t get attention during those months, but there is one particular project or aspect of my life that does receive more attention than all others. That one particular thing is identified in the Monthly Theme.
- I only theme 10 months of the year at the most. That way some of the “fundamental” work can be taken care of during off-months and I don’t overwhelm myself with lofty projects or goals every month of the year. I usually have one of those “unthemed” months in the summer (July or August) as my kids are out school then. In essence, they could be my Monthly Theme when that happens, but they are a constant focus of mine so they don’t get a Monthly Theme allocation. I suggest you leave at least two months unthemed as well.
- Monthly Themes can be project-based, category-based, or even based on a particular quality you want to bring to the forefront. You’ll see with my Monthly Themes that 38% are project-based, 25% are category-based, 24% are based on a quality of life/work I want to focus on, and 13% aren’t themed at all. In years past I focused my Monthly Themes primarily on projects, but that has evolved over time. If you can get a blend like I have going on, then you tend to have a more harmonious year.
One of the reasons I worked with NeuYear was to build a calendar I could use for this process. You can click here to check it out for yourself.
(Want a less expensive version you can print at home? Click here.)
This year I decided to start a new monthly newsletter where I would dive deep into the details of my plans for every month. I call it the My Monthly Theme Series (MMT for short). If you’d like to receive it, simply click here to ensure you get the next edition in your inbox. I’ve placed the links to past newsletters in the appropriate months below.
(In addition, I’m going to be publishing a My Monthly Theme Report on the blog at the end of every month. It’s the perfect companion for the MMT series. Watch for those posts to go up on the last Tuesday or Thursday of every month.)
Below are the brief thoughts around my Monthly Themes from September 2016-August 2017. I will be offering more depth to these in the MMT series emails, so if you want to get the finer points of each month’s themes then sign up to receive the monthly email here.
My Monthly Themes for my year are as follows:
September: The Productivityist Playbook
The plan was to launch The Productivityist Playbook in early September, but I didn’t do it with much fanfare. The product was not quite ready and I’m still ironing out some of the kinks. The lesson learned here is to make sure that everything runs well before launching – and not to launch while on the road.
I traveled quite a bit during this month, so I made preparation for the talks and workshops I was doing for my Monthly Theme. It worked out well, as I filmed my Skillshare class during this time frame, wound up delivering the class that had the most first-day enrollments of 2016, and amassed over 10,000 students in the first two weeks of the class being launched.
November: No Theme
My original theme was NOWvember, but after the amount of travel I did the previous month, I decided to kill the theme for November. I’m glad I did. This gave me the time to reassess the months ahead and “re-theme” accordingly based on My Three Words (which I’d not been living up to nearly as much as I should have at that point in time).
I wrote about this in My Year in Review.
“I finally took a step back in December and got clarity. I took the time to solidify the reasoning behind My Three Words for the year and mapped out my Monthly Themes through August 2017.”
The way this month went shifted how I look at December from now on. (You’ll see that in how I themed next December.)
My focus for January is to better align my coaching. That means reconfiguring what I do with clients as well as prepare my current trained Productivityist Coaching Practitioners for an increase in clients. I also planned to launch the first group coaching intensive in January…and I did! (The next Productivityist Group Coaching intake is planned for May 2017. Interested? Contact me and I can discuss it with you more directly.)
I’m speaking at two different events within a six-week span right after Groundhog Day (which is the midway point of my year) so the focus for February needs to be on honing and preparing for those talks. The other elements I’ll explore is working on my speaking page, cleaning up my media kit, and fine-tuning the talk abstracts I’m able and willing to deliver when booked to speak. In addition, I’ll lay the groundwork for future live workshops that I’d like to present when traveling from now on.
I’ll be traveling for most of this month, spending time with my wife, and hanging out with fellow entrepreneurs at Chris Ducker’s Tropical Think Tank. It made the most sense for me to work on relationships during this month. The kind of tasks I’ll work on include emailing people I’ve not connected with in a while, spending intentional time on social media, and I may even study up on CRM software. I’ve never made Relationships a monthly theme before so it’ll be interesting to see how this plays out.
April and May: The Flagship Course
The Skillshare class I put together in late 2016 was pretty successful. According to data from Skillshare, it was the best productivity class that they released last year. I’m taking that as motivation to build something bigger in the months ahead. That means I’m going to be creating a larger course and I’m making its development my overarching focus in April and May.
Haven’t taken my Skillshare class yet? Click here to give it a go.
I want to avoid recording episodes of The Productivityist Podcast while the kids are out of school, so the last month I have available to make that happen is June. Bonus episodes for Patreon supporters will be recorded semi-regularly over the summer, but the majority of the podcast episodes will be ready to go before the school year comes to a close.
I’m also going to focus on video content during this month as it’s an area I want to spend more time in. I’d say that most of my focus will be on video for this month if I can keep ahead with podcast episodes between now and the end of May. (I’m not recording many episodes during the month of March because of travel – but I may arrange interviews since that would align nicely with March’s monthly theme.)
July: No Theme
I could argue that the summer months are the time when my kids become my overarching focus. But that would be shortchanging them as they are an underlying focus every day of my life. Still, by going “themeless” in the month of July I can give my kids even more attention and not have any one thing occupy my attention beyond them.
If you’ve been following me for a while, you know that I start my year in September. So August is themed accordingly: Planning.
I will map out the year ahead and even spend time eliminating what’s no longer working for me. Content strategy is part of this process, as is growth planning and more. It’s actually a quiet month for me (productivity and the summer don’t go hand in hand for many people), so it’s the ideal month to plan what I’m going to do so I can hit the ground running when the kids get back to school.
The months following August are a bit more flexible since I don’t really start my year until September. The final four months at the end of the 2017 calendar year will actually be the first four months of my year.
For the benefit of those who do start their year in January, I’m going to touch on my themes for these months as well, but they aren’t set in stone since (as I mentioned earlier) I tend to map them out in August.
September and October: The Book
I had an idea last month about this and almost decided to pursue this theme in January. However, after talking to some trusted colleagues I stepped back from that idea.
But it’s an idea I want to make happen. So I’m giving it my overarching focus during the first two months of my year.
November: NOWvember Promotion
Last year, I wanted to make November a month of big promotion at Productivityist. I even own the domain NOWvember.net. I know that getting off to a great start when the calendar year begins requires finishing the current year strong. NOWvember’s aim is to help you do that.
In 2017 I’ll be bringing that vision to life. It’s getting my overarching focus so that it can be brought to life well.
The holidays are a great time of year to connect with people. I decided to make outreach my focus in December so that I can foster existing relationships and forge new ones. I don’t quite know what that looks like yet, but having it locked down makes it real…and gives it importance.
As I mentioned earlier, this is my map for the months ahead. I may not hit every spot exactly as envisioned, but that’s okay. I’m going to get closer to them because I’ve put a plan in place to make it so.
Before I finish up here, I’m challenging you to preview your year.
Start by giving 9-10 of your months a theme and sketch out a rough plan within those months. You’ll be further ahead than you are now; and will wind up moving forward in the direction you want to go with more intention and attention.
And that has all the makings of a happy new year.