Planning for excellence: my experiments

Soulful-Branding-Live-with-Lulu-9-Planning-Excellence

I thoroughly enjoyed creating the first 8 episodes of Soulful Branding Live with Lulu for you, and I was so pleased with how well they were received! Thank you for watching, for commenting, for messaging me and for sharing them.

One thing I realised is, weekly wasn’t sustainable for me. I took some time at the end of last year to really think about my goals and priorities, for 2020 and beyond, and how my different activities fit in with that (or not!). 

This planning time was PRICELESS. I am such a planner. I looooove it – I get high off it. 

One of my best friends recently talked about loving my “dirty, [control freak], draws!” This is after I sent her a spreadsheet with an itinerary and costs for her upcoming visit. 

Yep, love this stuff.

If you’re a planner too, I know you feel me!

If the thought of planning gets you into a cold sweat or has you running for cover, I am determined to make a convert of you, today.

I want to hear you one day say: “planning is fun!” 😉

So what does this planning stuff have to do with the idea of Soulful Branding? 

Well, it’s about us showing up as OUR best. In order to do that consistently, and in a way that effectively supports our goals, we can’t wing it. That might work for a time but, it will only get us so far. 

If we’re not prepared, we can easily fall back into the trap of feeling like we need to be doing things the way that so-and-so does them. If we don’t create sacred time for thinking, it will be tough for us to innovate and instead, we’ll constantly be reacting. And if we don’t make time for ourselves – well, it will be difficult to connect with soul and to infuse it in everything we do. 

In the spirit of living a life and working in a way that is conducive to Soulful Branding, I wanted to share a few of my current systems, as well as the tools I use for planning, with the hope that these can be useful and inspiring for you too.

Here are 3 systems that have been working well for me…

Targets tracker

Last year, I experimented with a spreadsheet that my team and I ended up not using much because, it was too convoluted. 

I made things much simpler this year!

Breaking things down

I broke my business down into its respective income streams: products, graphic recording, client commissions, Afri-love Fest and the Afri-love Connection Club.

Then, for each of these sections, there is a revenue target, as well as progress targets to get us there. E.g. contact X number of prospects in January; participate in X number of events etc.

I also added a section for marketing because this drives everything. Here is where we set targets for the size of our list, social media following; website views etc.

Setting a baseline

All of this is in the left-most column. Next to the target, in brackets, is what we achieved in the previous month. That way we have a sort of baseline and can compare how we’re doing.

Tracking progress along the way

Then, there is a column for each week of the month so we can note how we’re doing as we go. For example, if the monthly target is to talk to 15 people about graphic recording, I can note how many I’ve had that conversation with this week. If I’ve only spoken to 1, I know that in the next 2 weeks I have to speak to 14!

This way, when we have our weekly team check-in, we can see the progress we’ve made towards the monthly target. Depending on what that progress looks like, we can celebrate wins and/or work out what we need to do better or differently, in order to hit or exceed the mark.

Content plan

Content creation is a priority for my business. I developed my current content planning system at the start of last year and it’s still going pretty strong. It helps me to look at and plan the entire year. Below are the steps I use to put it together.

Mapping the year

First I draw out on paper, a week-by-week calendar grid (you can also do this digitally, using Google Sheets or something similar). 

Events

With my goals in mind, I first note down relevant events. Now, these can be external events (e.g. national days, holidays, fairs, conferences etc.) or internal events (e.g. product or service launch dates, events you’re hosting, business anniversaries etc.). 

Themes

Your themes are informed by your purpose, by what you want to be known for and what your audience wants/needs from you. Themes are the cornerstone of my content strategy and make everything else flow so easily!

They can directly feed into your content creation categories. Mine relate to my interests and the interests of my ideal clients and customers. They include: creativity, business, wellness and Buy African.

This year, being the 10th anniversary of Afri-love, I started the year with another layer of themes – giving each month a different thematic focus. I tried to have the themes correspond somehow, to the events I’d identified for that month. For example, the theme for January was excellence: what we’ll all achieve with all this planning :). The theme for February was self-love etc. 

May 2020 update:

With COVID-19, I quickly started to rethink my strategy for the year and ended up scrapping the monthly themes. In my reassessment of everything, new priorities emerged. If you follow me on Instagram, you’ll see the refinement of my themes in play!

Publishing commitments

Next, I think about my content channels, publishing commitments and content categories. For example, emails to my list have proven most effective for my business. My publishing commitment for this channel is once a week.

Format

I’ve decided on a certain format to my emails. Each one has a main piece at the top, often related to my most recent blog post; then 2 shorter items – a tool, a treat, or something else to do with the communities I run or belong to; then a bottom section dedicated to the new prompt for my #plantsomethingweekly challenge. So, 4 spaces to come up with content ideas for.

Filling it all in

When I look at each week in my content plan, I consider any events and my themes, to determine how I need to fill those 4 spaces. 

For instance, if I’m about to launch something, the main piece may be a story of how the product came about (with work-in-progress photos and drawings). The tool may be an interesting article I read that relates to a challenge I know my audience struggles with. The treat may be a new freebie I’ve created or an upcoming event I’m hosting. And so on.

Social media

When it comes to social media, I break the calendar down into a day-by-day schedule as I’m working towards posting 6 times a week on Instagram. 

Once more, along with events, my themes guide the ideas I come up with for each day. 

In addition to this, I often repurpose content from my emails. Remember those 4 sections of my emails? That instantly translates into at least 4 social media posts!

Self-care plan

When it comes to planning, self-care has perhaps been the most challenging area for me. I recognise that’s ultimately because I didn’t use to prioritise it as I did other things.

What do you need?

Step 1 was figuring out what I need, on a regular basis, to be at my best. That discovery coalesced over several years. I now know that my ideal DAILY activities are meditation; journaling; yoga; and reading: 

  • The meditation slows down the pace of my mind and creates space.

  • The journalling allows me to process my thoughts and feelings and is often the birthplace of ideas and solutions.

  • The yoga makes me feel alive. I’ve come to appreciate that there are few things more satisfying to me than moving my body in intentional ways.

  • The reading is … fun! I love to learn and for the past 10 years, most of my reading has consisted of business or some area of self-development.


When it comes to planning for these things to happen, it came down to 3 things:

Finding making the time

I started by figuring out the schedule of my ideal day. How much time do I need to allow for my self-care activities? What hours are already accounted for (e.g. by being in the office or having to work)? And thus, what time do I need to wake up and sleep, in order to fit these daily self-care essentials in? 

Getting real

Self-knowledge is a beautiful thing. I identify as a night person, yes this is true. But, I realised that, after putting my toddler to bed in the evenings, I’m often totally knackered! All my good intentions go out the window. So I figured I’d try things the other way – get my self-care done in the morning, before it gets thwarted by the events and energy depreciation of the day.

These days I’m up at 5am. The order of the events that follow is determined by what can still be done with my son present, should he wake up earlier than usual. I do however save reading paper books for before bed, as this feels like an indulgent pleasure.

The power of positive reinforcement!

Tracking my habits makes me feel good about my consistency and also, shames me from missing a day. I have a simple table I’ve drawn in my diary. Days in the leftmost column and the different habits I’m tracking across the top. I include these self-care activities, as well as other things I want to track, such as relationships. I note when I meet up with friends or have long calls with my long-distance besties. That way I can see who I haven’t checked in with in a long time.

Last but not least, on to:

Tools

All of the above planning activities are made possible by some handy tools that include:

  • Law of Attraction planner (I also loved using the Best Self journal) – great for chunking down big goals into monthly, weekly and daily tasks. With prompts and space for reflection, celebration and all that “touchy-feely” stuff that’s often overlooked but so important!

    May 2020 update: I’m in the middle of using a Full Focus Planner and I’m in love! I’m such a planner junkie, lol!

  • A big piece of paper (often I use an A3 layout pad) and pencils/pens.

  • Google Sheets – once I’ve figured out my plans on paper, I digitise them for easy sharing and also so they can be easily edited and never be lost.

  • Asana for project management – where these plans are recorded as actionable tasks, given deadliness and delegated accordingly.

  • TeuxDeux for my daily tasks – I like that the planner and journal mentioned above, force you to think about top goals/priorities for each day. But there are often other things I need to try and get done too, as well as unexpected or forgotten tasks and errands that come up. If I don’t write things down, I WILL forget them so, they go straight to my TeuxDeux, on my phone or on my computer. I also use TeuxDeux to note any appointments, events, birthdays etc. – it’s effectively my diary too.

  • Plann – for planning my Instagram grid.

Want more frameworks, templates and support in implementing better organisation in your creative business?

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Questions?

Please share your questions – or experiences – in the comments. I’d love to read them!

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Soulful Branding Live Lulu Episode 9 Planning Excellence

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