Planning for 2020 – it’s time – but you don’t need to do it

Starting in 1996 (and inspired then and now by the philosophy of Dan Sullivan at Strategic Coach in Toronto), I decided that in August every year I would buy myself a Sasco Wall Planner and spend a day allocating my time for the following year:

  • Free Days – days of rest, vacation and adventure;
  • Buffer Days – breathing space – days of preparation, thought, personal organisation, leadership, strategy;
  • Focus Days – days of profit-making through delivery of my Unique Abilities

As with all things, it has been an annual ritual that has kept me 80% incredibly well organised – result – and 20% in some degree of anxiety as the systems, controls and balances slipped away – human nature.

Last year, for the first time, I found myself under pressure to start planning earlier as the business bookings were coming in – and so the wall planner was completed before the end of July.

This year, it became obvious as early as April that some degree of planning would have to take place even sooner if 2020 was going to work. Firstly, because the business bookings were coming in even earlier and secondly because I wanted to make changes to the balance between those Free, Buffer and Focus Days.

In May I found myself under increasing pressure to find even half a day of uninterrupted time to complete the exercise and, as my Croatian holiday approached, my stress levels were building.

Cue my business coach, Rachel Turner who, after listening to my BMW (bitching, moaning and whining) about how I couldn’t find the time to plan, simply offered one of those epiphany moments that Colin Campbell talks about in the coaching process – the lightbulb moment that makes us feel stupid for not having thought of it ourselves:

Why don’t you ask Phillippa to construct your 2020 calendar whilst you are sailing?

After a moment of incredulity – “I’ve always done it, so I’m the only person who can do it” – I realised that firstly, I had no choice and secondly, there was no reason why not, provided I gave a good brief.

So – before we set sail along the Dalmatian coast, I shared with Phillippa a detailed Google Sheet, explaining exactly how I wanted my calendar to look next year, both personally and professionally.

Tuesday morning at 09:00 (yesterday) – the big reveal – a Zoom call with Phillippa to take my first look at the 2020 calendar – and she’s done it!

The only change we had to make was an extension of one of my vacations from 1 week to 2 weeks – the rest was complete.

A full year of 1:1 client coaching, workshops in the UK, South Africa and Australia, all of the time required to create content for The Extreme Business Club, webinars, interviews, trade shows – it’s all there.

Equally important – a total of 8 weeks of vacation and 2 weeks of adventure.

My emotion was one of delight and relief. I’m excited and can now begin preparing my Q4 marketing campaign to recruit my 2020 client base and also plan my preparation for the personal escapades.

Lessons from this experience for all of us:

  1. Confidence comes from advance planning;
  2. You control your calendar – or your calendar controls you;
  3. By controlling your calendar you can introduce predictability into your business results and your personal life;
  4. The further ahead you plan the better;
  5. You can delegate this, provided you give a clear brief.

My challenge to you this morning is to have your 2020 calendar planned before the end of July – are you up for that?

Let me know if you need help.


Published by

Chris Barrow

Chris Barrow has been active as a consultant, trainer and coach to the UK dental profession for over 20 years. As a writer, his blog enjoys a strong following and he is a regular contributor to the dental press. Naturally direct, assertive and determined, he has the ability to reach conclusions quickly, as well as the sharp reflexes and lightness of touch to innovate, change tack and push boundaries. In 2014 he appeared as a “castaway” in the first season of the popular reality TV show “The Island with Bear Grylls”. His main professional focus is as Coach Barrow, providing coaching and mentorship to independent dentistry.