I have to admit, the weekly planning process is really what keeps my productivity levels high, but my monthly planning routine is how I truly make progress with my goals throughout the year. This is a time I sit down and really reflect on how my previous month went and how I can make the next month even better. However, monthly planning is incredibly unique to each individual! So, today I am going to take you through my detailed monthly planning process. Not for you to copy step-by-step, but for you to take inspiration in creating your very own. Once you have a planning routine that is unique to your life the magic begins! Ready to dive in? I sure am!
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What is a Monthly Planning Routine?
Let’s all get on the same page here and start simple. A monthly planning routine is a checklist you complete once a month. I prefer to do this around the last day of the month (whenever it fits into my schedule). It comprises of tasks that help you evaluate how your previous month went (such as answering reflection questions and evaluating your goal progress) and set up a new successful month ahead (such as creating a new master monthly to do list, creating new projects, writing out your new monthly goals…).
Why is having a Monthly Planning Routine so Important?
As I’ve touched on, having a monthly planning routine can be incredibly beneficial. In addition to helping you review your previous month and set up a successful next 30-days, a monthly planning routine can help you:
- Maintain your goals through check-ins, goal break downs, and re-evaluation
- Increase your productivity by prioritization and planning for the month ahead
- Prepare for major upcoming events
- Maintain progress on large projects and set up new ones by following the ever-important project planning process
- Make sure nothing slips through the cracks
- Keep up with your financial goals through budget check-ins
- And so much more!
Top Planning Supplies
Everyone plans in their own unique way. Personally, I have found the most success combining both paper planning (physically using pen and paper) and digital planning (using apps and computer programs). Below, I have listed my go-to planning supplies and products. All of these I completely SWEAR by and wish I had used about them sooner!
- The Olden Chapters Ultimate Student Printable Planner: I was never able to find a paper planner that perfectly fit my needs, so I created my own! This planner includes over 50 great planning layouts, student worksheets, financial planners, project trackers, and so. much. more. Plus, because it is a printable, you can print off any page as many times as you want! Check it out!
- The Olden Chapters Goal Printable Planner: This is the ultimate goal printable planner! With over 25 different workbooks, calendars, trackers, goal worksheets, and more, this planner includes everything you might need to reach each and every goal this year.
- The Olden Chapters Project Planning Freebie: Another great resource (and completely free, I might add!) is my Project Planning Freebie! This includes a project planner dashboard and a complete project planning checklist to help ensure each of your projects are planned to perfection.
- A5 Filofax Binder: Hands down, my favorite binder to put my planner pages into is the Filofax A5. I prefer the Malden style, but they also offer a great Original binder and a Finsbury binder (plus more options seasonally…). Kikki K offers some great A5 options too!
- Bullet Journal: Along side a planner, many people turn to a bullet journal to jot down their everyday thoughts and ideas. Many have also created a great planning system with it as well! This system is outlined in Ryder Carroll’s bestselling book.
- Coleto Pen and Refills: Every planner needs a great pen. The Coleto Pen is my current favorite! It is a multi-pen that offers four different colors to use, all at your finger tips.
- Zebra Mildliner Highlighters: Another planning must-have is a highlighter set of course! These help ease your color coding process and allow you to highlight important events or tasks. Zebra Mildliners are, hands down, my favorite go-to highlighter, as they are much more mild than regular highlighters and offer two different sized tips!
- Colorful Page Flags: Page flags help you index important pages and easily navigate through your planner. A cheap must-have planning essential!
- Washi Tape: Finally, washi tape is my planning supply obsession. It is colorful tape that you can easily write on, allowing you to decorate your planning pages, flag multiple dates on a calendar, and more.
Check out my Ultimate Student Printable Planner Bundle, it has everything you need to skyrocket your GPA, plan your life, manage your finances, score some killer scholarships, and so much more!
Project Planning Freebie
Are you ready to get serious about your productivity? Well, me too… This great project planning freebie will help kickstart your productivity and turn your major projects into small, bite-sized actionable tasks you can easily schedule into your future. Download this freebie now and get started mastering your projects today!
My Ultimate Monthly Planning Routine
After many many years of completing the monthly planning process, I think I have finally got my routine nailed down! Below, I have listed each and every step I complete during my monthly planning review. I would like to quickly note that I also complete a full monthly goal review during this time as well, my entire goal review process is listed in THIS blog post.
1. Complete Daily Planning Checklist
First thing’s first… completing a daily planning checklist will help you stay up to date with your current task lists and make sure you check in with your daily habit trackers. This process doesn’t take very long and can make a big difference.
2. Complete Weekly Planning Checklist
Similarly, it is incredibly important to finish up a weekly planning checklist before you move on to the monthly scale. This takes a bit more time than a daily planning list but will make sure you are up to date with all of your projects, weekly goal check-ins, and so much more. This is essential in making sure nothing slips through the cracks!
Tip: If you find that your weekly planning process takes a bit of time, then consider completing your weekly planning and and monthly planning checklists on different days to help space it out.
3. Complete a Monthly Braindump
Next, it is time to pull out a blank sheet of paper and complete a thorough braindump. If this is your first one ever, I suggest taking as much time as you can in doing this process. After that, a quick monthly braindump will be just fine!
A braindump, also known as a brainsweep, is a brainstorming session to help empty your mind of all the projects, goals, thoughts, events, etc. and turn them into actionable tasks. This process was originally presented by David Allen in his book Getting Things Done. In it, he fully walks you through how to do this process and has templates to follow to make sure you don’t miss anything. I highly recommend checking it out!
Once this is done, transfer each of your braindumped items onto your master task list or calendar of events.
Tip: If non-fiction books are difficult for you to read, I recommend trying to read David Allen’s book via Audiobooks. This form makes it MUCH easier to take!
Check out David Allen’s book HERE.
4. Fill in Monthly Calendar
This next step is pretty straight forward, just fill in your monthly calendar with any events you know you have coming up such as birthdays, important meetings, deadlines, concerts, parties, etc.
This is also a good time to transfer these events to any other calendars you might have. For example, we keep a house calendar in our kitchen so everyone knows what is happening and when. You can also transfer any events you have on your monthly calendar to your weekly and daily pages as well.
5. Create Event Tasks
Next, look at your upcoming events and add any relevant tasks to your master task list. For example, perhaps you have a birthday coming up; so you might add “purchase, fill out, and send Joe’s birthday card” to your master task list.
Tip: I’ve created a break down on how to create a master task list in my Weekly Planning Guide! A master task list is your comprehensive to do list that contains every single task you need to complete, but it is organized and utilizes time management basics.
6. Complete A Monthly Goal Review
- Reflection on your previous month
- Evaluating which goals are completed
- Checking off all completed goals from your yearly goal list
- Celebrating your accomplishments
Related: The Ultimate Guide to Successful Monthly Goal Reviews (with weekly tasks to keep up with your goals throughout the year!)
7. Create Upcoming Month Goal List
Once you have reviewed your goal progress, it is time to create you monthly goal list. This process is also outlined in my monthly goal review post. It is important that you create both a monthly goal review process and a monthly planning routine that works for you. Personally, these two things are separate for me; but you could easily combine them.
I will usually complete my goal review first. Then, when it comes time to complete my monthly planning routine, during this step, I will make sure that I have each of my monthly goals clearly placed somewhere. Sometimes, I’ll add them to my monthly calendar. Other times, I’ll print them off and frame them on my desk so I can check each one off as they get completed.
8. Create a New Monthly Habit Tracker
Next, it is time to create a new monthly habit tracker. This is a table that has the days of the month listed along the top and your habits along the side. I have a great habit tracker bundle offered in my shop if you’re in need of one!
How do you know what habits to track? I recommend starting with your monthly goals and see which can be turned into habits. For example, perhaps you have a goal of working out every other day. A habit tracker is the perfect spot to keep track of this!
Habit Ideas to Get You Started:
If you’re a bit lost, here are some habits you might consider starting or tracking:
- Water intake
- Miles ran
- Healthy eating
- Not spending money on items you don’t need
- Car miles driven (if you have to track this for work)
- Sick and vacation days for work
- Study hours
9. Create a Fun Month Bucket List
Next, bring more fun to your weekends by challenging yourself to complete a fun monthly seasonal bucket list. These help push yourself outside of your comfort zone, explore new locations around your community, and help you do more than just watch TV all weekend.
Here are my current seasonal bucket lists!
- The Ultimate Winter Bucket List (50 Great Ideas to Try this Cold Season!)
- The Ultimate Spring Bucket List to Fill your Weekends with Fun!
10. Monthly Finance Check-In
It’s now time to complete a comprehensive finance check-in. These are SO. IMPORTANT. They help you maintain progress towards your financial goals (such as large purchases or debt repayment), ensure you don’t miss any upcoming bill deadlines, help you organize your expenses (which is a life-saver come tax season!), and so much more.
My Ultimate Guide to Budgeting and Personal Finances covers a TON of information (plus a great monthly budget freebie). But, in short, you should be doing the following each month to keep up with your finances:
- File away any important receipts (for taxes, warrantees, etc.)
- Evaluate how you did on your budget last month
- Create next month’s budget
- Add any financial tasks to your master task list
- Take note of any important bill or payment deadlines coming up
- Ensure you have enough in your accounts for any auto-payments coming up
- Transfer any left over money into your savings account
- Monitor and track any investments, retirement funds, etc.
11. Compete any other Monthly Planning Tasks
Lastly, I would like to make sure you add any other important monthly planning tasks to your routine. These are tasks that are unique to you and should be completed each month (and are planning related… of course). For example, you could be a teacher that needs to create a new lesson plan, or perhaps you plan your workouts by the month. Whatever it is, don’t forget to add it to your monthly planning routine!
Top Books on Planning:
Books that cover productivity and planning are my favorite kind of non-fiction books. Is it just me? Am I weird? Oh well! If you’re in that same fun productivity-loving boat as me, you will adore these great planning books!
This is the O.G. of planning books (in my opinion…). This book is the reason I started reading other great productivity books. I can not recommend it enough! In fact, I have read it multiple times (I listen to it on Audible while I am driving to and from work). What is it about? Well, David Allen creates this unbeatable productivity technique that can be incorporated into anyone’s planning system. It is a must read. Check it out HERE!
If you loved Getting Things Done (um hello, how could you not?!), you will love this great workbook! It is pretty much a kickstarting workbook that forces you to get more productive. Check it out HERE!
Okay, The Bullet Journal Method is another must-read planning book. It is a complete guide to bullet journalling by the creator himself! What is bullet journaling, you might ask? It is a completely flexible planning system that you make up as you go! It is based in a blank dotted journal and works on a cataloging system. Want to learn more? Or, perhaps you already use a bullet journal and want to learn the top secrets of success? Don’t miss THIS book.
This best selling book has been a hot topic item for quite some time now. It tells the amazing tale of how Ferriss went from working 80 hours per week, to 4 hours per week (with the same income!). This book is filled with productivity tips, goal setting hacks, and so much more to ensure your energies are spent in the right areas of your life. A must read!
My last favorite productivity and planning book is The Power of Habit. This book covers the importance of habit creation in our daily lives. Duhigg covers how one habit can truly change our lives and how we can control our future with small, everyday changes.
This post is a part of my awesome planning series! Be sure to check out the other posts to get a full, comprehensive understanding of planning, planning routines, productivity, and more! Here are each of the posts, in the order I recommend reading them in:
- An Ultimate Guide to Daily Planning: How to Get as Much Done Each Day As You Can!
- The Perfect Weekly Planning Routine to Skyrocket Your Productivity
- This Monthly Planning Checklist will Help You Reach Each Goal This Year
And… that’s a wrap! Whoo hoo! I sure hope you were able to gain some great, insightful tips in today’s post. Even more, I hope you created the perfect monthly planning routine to help boost your productivity and chase your goals. I know you can do it! Good luck, have fun, and happy planning!