The old adage “out of sight, out of mind” plays a significant role in whether your goals will be achieved. If your goals are not front and center, they will undoubtedly be forgotten in favor of following routine. Goals require plans and plans must become relevant on a monthly basis. Learn how to keep your goals in your sights and achieve your goals through a systematic process of monthly planning. The most important thing to keep in mind while planning is that you must remember your goals on a consistent basis, and they must have action steps that flow, systematically, into monthly plans. In addition, the target dates for the action steps must stand out as a time-scheduled event on the appropriate monthly calendar. The only real way to accomplish this is through a systematic process of monthly planning. There are some basic components that you need to incorporate into your systematic planning to make it effective. First, you need to remind yourself of “Who you are” with a Mission/Purpose statement that describes your very heart and soul. Next, learn to identify your top priorities for the month, and lastly, organize your time-scheduled events on a monthly calendar so that you can see them at a glance. Creating Your Mission/Purpose Statement Everyone should have a written mission/purpose statement. The reason is that we all need to know, with complete clarity, WHO we are! Begin by writing a one sentence statement declaring who you are. The best way to do this is to begin the sentence with the words “I am” and simply complete the sentence. For example, “I am an inspiring, caring, and compassionate person” is a mission/purpose statement from one of my clients. The objective here is to keep it simple, a clear declaration of who you are. Don’t make the mistake of just reciting what you do for a living. Your mission/purpose statement is for you and should declare who you are rather than what you do. Even though it is only one sentence, this is some of the hardest work you will do. Just get started, and it will evolve into the real you as you remind yourself of your mission/purpose at the beginning of every month. Identifying Your Monthly Priorities If you have already identified your goals for the year, they should have specific action plans with target dates, and those target dates are transferred to the appropriate monthly calendar. Your monthly priorities, then, are determined by the action plans and target dates that you establish. Make sure that your target dates for goal completion make it onto your monthly calendar as well as your daily activities. In monthly planning, it is important for you to consider both personal and business priorities for the month. Too many people limit their planning to business only. This practice leads to imbalance in your life. Attention to both personal and business planning leads to a fulfilling and abundant life. Once you have identified your personal and business objectives for the month, prioritize both lists. Then, from your priorities, select your top one or two personal and business objectives. These top objectives are your priorities for the month. Spend the majority of your time focusing on achieving these high payoff objectives. Prioritization is important; don’t make the mistake of trying to make everything a #1 priority. Something has to be number #1 something has to be #2, and so on. Prioritization brings clarity, and clarity creates focus. By identifying priorities, it does not mean that you forget all the other monthly objectives. In fact, I suggest that you review your list weekly. But, prioritization does help you focus on those high payoff activities that propel you forward. Organizing Your Monthly Calendar Your monthly calendar is the place where you enter all time-scheduled events. It is important to build the habit of going directly to your monthly calendar anytime you need to schedule an event that has a date and time. The reason I suggest this habit is to eliminate the possibility of double entry of a scheduled event and missing an important date. If you enter time-scheduled events in more than one place, such as a legal pad, journal, sticky notes, phone, computer, and a calendar, you will miss a scheduled date from the double entry. Build the habit of entering your time-scheduled dates in one place — your calendar. At the beginning of each month, make sure you fill in your entire schedule, including work, personal, and family time. Review your calendar with others who need to know your schedule before the month begins. This avoids conflicts of scheduling that come from lack of prior planning. The #1 rule for monthly planning: always plan next month before next month begins! Planning next month should be a time-scheduled event at the end of each month. Professionals who develop this habit avoid the “end-of-the-month syndrome,” or doing 70 of your most effective work after the 15th of the month. The reason for this habit is that you have designed a comfort zone of retreat at the beginning of each month where you tell yourself, “I have plenty of time.” In your first-of-the-month comfort zone, you are ineffective due to your lack of focus, and that comes from lack of planning. You probably have great plans for achievement, so as the 15th of the month approaches, you step up your activity. In a frantic flurry of activity, you desperately attempt to get a full month’s work done in only 10 – 15 days. Clients complain to me all the time, “I don’t know why I do this to myself!” The answer is this: they have developed an end-of-the-month syndrome from a first-of-the month comfort zone. If that applies to you, it is time to change that. Monthly planning is one of the cornerstones in the Next-Level Achievement System®. Planning next month before next month begins can change your life and your results. Start effective monthly planning now and start seeing your goals being achieved!