Recently, I’ve started a new habit. As each month ends, I set aside a couple of hours to reflect on what I got done, what went well, what didn’t go so well, who and what I’m grateful for, and what is coming up in the next month.
If you’ve followed me for any length of time, you know I’m a planner. However, in the past, I’ve mostly done this planning on a weekly or quarterly basis. Shifting my perspective to each month has been a game changer.
Here are some of my main takeaways:
- Monthly planning shows me that months can be very different from each other. I’ve been writing and podcasting a lot lately about seasonal changes and now that I’m reflecting on each month these changes are even more apparent. The shift from August to September was a big one in terms of the kinds of tasks on my list and the amount of time I had to work on projects in the midst of other responsibilities and obligations.
- Monthly planning brings clarity to my goals and actions. By asking myself at the start of each month what I want to accomplish by the end of it, I end up needing to create action plans for each of my projects. And since four weeks isn’t that long of a length of time, those plans need to be reasonable for what I can actually get done.
- Monthly planning allows me to check in on your larger goals more frequently than quarterly planning. This seems like it would be common sense, but now I can see how focusing on each month as a unit of time can really help me to identify the key milestones happening each week in the larger projects that I’m hoping to accomplish over time. I can also see if there are clear obstacles that are standing in the way of moving something forward.
- Monthly planning offers me the opportunity to set shorter-term intentions. I’ve never been a word-of-the-year kind of person because I found nothing could be motivating over that length of time. There were just too many changes that would happen in my life and I always ended up forgetting the word that I chose in the midst of everything else going on. On a monthly basis, however, I’ve really enjoyed choosing words and phrases that can help to encourage or inspire me for the next several weeks. Then, each month, I change up the words as my intentions change.
- Monthly planning helps me get real with habits and priorities. As part of my monthly planning, I’m noting things that I want to do each week or each day of the month. For the weekly tasks, these include things like reading novels, starting each week with all my laundry put away, and engaging in meal planning. For the daily tasks, these include things like hitting 10k steps a day, getting to bed by 9pm, and drinking 64 oz of water a day. Looking at these patterns each month helps to keep me accountable about what I’m doing and what I’m not doing.
- Monthly planning lets me focus on the here and now. Ever since I starting planning one month at a time, I’ve been able to relax a little about what’s coming up beyond the current month. I know that I’ll have time set aside to plan when the month arrives, so I’m better able to focus and tackle what’s right in front of me without worrying too much about the future.
- Monthly planning is like a date with myself. Setting aside a couple hours each month to focus on my larger goals and the specific steps I can take to achieve them has been a really fun and relaxing experience. Even though I have a lot on my plate, I appreciate this time to check in with myself, adjust my expectations of what I can get done and the deadlines I need to meet, and also to celebrate the progress I’m making on habits and projects.
In short, I’m hooked. I’ve found monthly reflection and planning to be an incredibly rewarding practice. I’d love for you to try it out and let me know how it goes.