Quarterly planning for life

Most People Overestimate What They Can Do in One Year - Bill Gates

By now, as we enter the fourth month of the year, many of us will have abandoned our New Years' resolutions or lost sight of our goals. I did this for many, many years.

I would start January, hopeful that this year was going to be different. I was confident that I could get a 6 pack, run a marathon and wake up at 5am. Quelle surprise, I only ended up with a 6 pack... of beer.

What happened to all that time?

Like most, I'd bitten off more than I could chew. And I found my motivation waned after a month or two. I would constantly reason that I had X many months left so I had plenty of time to get that 6 pack or run that marathon.

What helped me was breaking down the year in Quarters.

Commonly, businesses break down their financial year into 3-month blocks named "Q1", "Q2" etcetera. How their key metrics change between these quarters affects their share price.

But you can use this same system in your life.

Why use quarters?

  1. Benefits can be seen quickly.
  2. Helps to prune the scope of your goals.
  3. Able to continuously re-evaluate your objectives as circumstances change.

How to do a quarterly plan

  1. Using a notebook, or your project planning tool of choice, write down what your future self would be proud of accomplishing.
  2. Next, reduce that down to a maximum of four goals. Ideally, these should centre around different areas of your life (financial, health, relationships, work, spiritual).
  3. Now, for the key part, divide the outcome of that goal into 4 segments. For example, if your goal is to read 40 books. Then each segment would be to read 10 books.
  4. Now spread those segments for each goal across the four quarters. The result will be that every 3 months, you are completing a quarter for each of your goals.

If after looking at the quarters it seems like that's too much to tackle, reduce the scope. It's as simple as that. A goal that you overachieve is much better than the one you underachieve. The latter will lead to disappointment, whilst the former will lead to joy.

What if I can't separate my goal down?

Sometimes this can be a challenge. It appears that the goal is just to "do the thing". But, in nearly all cases there is some kind of planning or preparation that goes into things. For example, if your goal is to do one month of no alcohol. A segment of that goal might be to stock up on alcoholic replacements. Or, it could be to make an effort to turn down social settings where you may drink alcohol for that month.

Even though we are partway through the year, we still have three quarters of the year left! Use it!