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It's time to turn your PLANS for 2021 into reality

Updated: Jun 9, 2021

Happy June everyone!

In more normal times, June is a great month to revisit our plans. It's the halfway point in the year, so there's an opportunity to capture and apply lessons learned. But this year, there's an even greater reason to hit pause and make (or adjust) your 2021 plans.

We are entering a new normal.

We are, once again, traversing unchartered territory. There's a noticeable sense of both excitement and anxiety from leaders and professionals alike. The air is filled with question marks as we ponder decisions like, how do we bring remote workers back to the office? Should we do this year's staff retreat in-person, hybrid or virtual? What about our family vacation?

Journaling continues to be my go-to when navigating such questions. Slowing down to collect, articulate and process my thoughts enables me to move beyond fear or knee-jerk reactions so I'm being conscientious and intentional. Additionally, journaling helps me marry my long-term aspirations with my actions on a day-to-day basis.

Since my 2021 plan already resides in my journal, I experience less resistance to routinely revisiting and revising. My daily planning practices help me to keep an eye on the big picture. At the same time, stream of consciousness writing enables me to stay connected to my deeper purpose when navigating difficult decisions (which happens with a regularity as predictable as the waxing and waning moon).

As a result of these practices, I experience a deep sense of peace, calm and ease even when faced with uncertainty.

Are you filled with question marks, anticipation, and wondering how?

Whether you're modifying existing plans or starting from scratch, journaling helps you make better PLANS. Here are a few prompts to help you get started:


In my own life and work, I have noticed that my sense of purpose evolves and changes based on my experiences. It is quite possible that your why has been impacted by experiences of the last year. Wrestling with this question on a broader level enables us to find meaning in our lives. Having a sense of purpose provides the motivation to get out of bed in the morning and keep showing up despite the challenges inevitable in living a good life.

Furthermore, it helps to identify your purpose for discrete events, like a training, or family vacation. Connecting with your why will inform the rest of your PLANS. While this is a foundational step to planning, it can also be difficult. You might want to revisit this prompt as you complete the other sections of your PLANS.

I also find it helpful to connect with my body when articulating my why. When I have landed on an inspiring purpose I feel tingly and energized. In contrast, when I express the purpose I should have I feel dread and heaviness. By its very nature, a well-crafted purpose is a source of fuel that sustains forward momentum.

Here are some journaling prompts to help you name your Purpose for your PLANS:

  • What's your purpose (aka why)?

  • Why is it important to you to make these PLANS?

  • What motivates you to get out of bed in the morning.

List everything out

Whenever I lead the Annual Planning Workshop, the Brain Dump is a favorite activity among participants. As a society, we tend to hold important things in our minds as though they're safer there. Unfortunately, this habit leads to feelings of overwhelm and limits our bandwidth for more complicated mental tasks.

Even for seasoned list makers, there's often a filtering that occurs. I've had clients hold onto ideas until they're "ready to do something about it." Then when they want to capture and work on it, they struggle to find the right words. I tell them (and myself) that if something is important enough to do, it's worth writing down multiple times.

When planning it is important to leave self-ridicule and judgment aside. No good comes of speaking harshly to yourself. There are some items that have been on my Brain Dumps for years, and you know what, that's ok. There are many reasons why this can happen. The important thing is to be discerning enough to give time and attention to your priorities.

That is why, after I make a List, I will go through and prioritize the items on it. If they are an immediate priority, I will move them into my Weekly Planning pages. If they are part of a larger project, I will move them into a Project Planning page. This is a critical step, and one many list-makers will benefit from habituating.

I have worked with clients that were continually behind because the important stuff was not getting done. It turned out that they were tackling their tasks in the order they were written instead of based on priorities and importance.

Here are some journaling prompts to help you create your List (aka Brain Dump):

  • Write everything on your mind down in a list - whether it's big or small.

  • After you write everything down, review and prioritize. What are the most important things on your list?

Aspirational thinking

Dreaming is a very important part of planning, which is why Aspirational thinking is included here. This is the place for you to look ahead without limiting yourself.

When COVID hit last year, I let myself dream. My Aspirational thinking led to the creation of Journal Jams as we now know them. It may seem counterintuitive to aspire for something when it feels like there's nothing but roadblocks or limitations. But oftentimes, the obstacle is an opportunity. And the best way around that barrier is to aspire for something bigger and bolder than what came out in your brain dump.

It also helps to reconnect with your purpose when practicing Aspirational thinking. That's what inspired me to offer the Journal Jams last March in the first place. After reflecting on my why and taking stock of the current situation, I realized I had a responsibility to offer this program in service of others like me. Articulating my Purpose and Aspirations enables me to connect my efforts to something bigger, which takes the pressure off of me to know it all. Instead, I just need to know my very next step and trust the rest will reveal itself in due time.

Here are some journaling prompts to inspire Aspirational thinking:

  • How will this year be different from last year?

  • What changes would you like to see in your life or work in the coming months?

  • If there were no limits, what would you want to do right now?

Next Steps

At the end of the day, a plan that's not actionable is a work of fiction. Many of the things we want to get done are bigger projects that require multiple steps to complete. Planning a vacation, organizing a staff retreat or creating a COVID policy for working in-person are all projects that will take time and attention over multiple days (possibly even weeks to months) to complete.

A crucial step in crafting better PLANS is breaking down the tasks by identifying specific next steps. If you're planning a family vacation, perhaps your next steps might include making a budget, brainstorming a list of destinations and identifying possible dates to travel. Breaking things down makes your efforts more bite-sized. As a result, you're more likely to see your PLANS materialize.

Here are some journaling prompts to help you identify Next Steps:

  • What is the smallest action you can take as a Next Step?

  • What Next Steps you will take today (or in the next week)?

These are the four components I have been practicing (and teaching) to make better PLANS in your journal for years. This approach has helped me to make the most of the disruptions COVID has caused. And it continues to be a valuable tool for navigating the new normal moving forward.

How has journaling helped you make better PLANS?

Do you have some big ideas that you keep putting off? Would you like 2021 everything 2020 was not? Kick your efforts into high gear at the next Journal Jam, June 24th for a mid-year review. More information and registration is available online here.

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