Being a Type-A business woman I am an obsessive planner and list maker. I have carried over some good habits, and incorporated them into my business, from the decade-plus I worked in corporate America.
One thing I learned very early on in my career is the importance of annual and quarterly plans – especially now as an entrepreneur. Strategic annual and quarterly business plans will help you focus, increase your productivity, and achieve your written goals.
To make it incredibly simple for you, I’ve created a free annual + quarterly plan template to guide you. The guide is completely fillable, or you can print it off, and follow along with the tips from this post. Bonus: I include some resources in the free guide to give you an extra boost in attaining your business goals.
What is an Annual + Quarterly Plan?
To start off, there are different types of annual + quarterly plans: marketing plans, business plans, and financial plans to name a few. To clarify, I am going to focus on strategic annual + quarterly planning. In it’s simplest form:
Your hopes, dreams, and goals for your business translated into actionable tasks.
Why do I Need a Plan?
Because if you aimlessly do tasks with no plan in place I can almost assure you that you are not being as efficient or productive as you possibly can be. Let’s face it ladies and gents, as an entrepreneur, we are doing a lot of tasks and who doesn’t want to maximize the efficiency of those tasks? I certainly do.
Secondly, I LOVE crossing tasks off my list. In fact, I like it so much I still use old-fashioned pen and paper when I write my daily list of tasks. There are some great task management resources like Trello but for me, just writing it out and striking through when completed makes me happy.
Most importantly though, you need a way to translate the big picture into small, achievable, tasks because this is how you will grow your business and make money. Let’s say your goal is to make $100,000 a year from your business, you wouldn’t wake up each day and just pin some random pins, write posts with no rhyme or reason, or run a rogue ad on Facebook.
I mean maybe you would but the point is you shouldn’t. Your content should be insightful, your Pinterest strategy on point.
Yearly vs. Quarterly vs. Weekly
A yearly plan is awesome, as a matter of fact, that’s where I start in my business planning template. We need to set some high-level goals for your business first. But, that doesn’t really translate to a day-to-day task list. On the other hand, writing down a weekly task list is perfect to keep you focused on short-term tasks but limits your ability to plan the big picture items.
A quarterly plan is a perfect balance. A quarterly plan allows you to take your big picture goals (think your top five goals for the year) and break those down into quarterly action items. From your quarterly plan, you can work back into your weekly task list.
Q1 – Q4 Breakdown
You can follow any version of this breakdown but I like to do it with calendar quarters starting in January.
- Q1: January – March
- Q2: April – June
- Q3: July – September
- Q4: October – December
I like to plan each quarter one at a time. Meaning, I don’t sit down and plan out four quarters for the entire year. The reason is simple, things change.
It’s December and I’ve already begun my Q1 planning. A good range is 4-6 weeks out from the next quarter. This gives you the opportunity to assess what was accomplished this quarter, make any shift in priorities, and queue up goals and tasks for the next 3 months.
How to Create an Annual + Quarterly Plan
My plan keeps it simple. I break out my strategy into five foundational pillars: Monetary, Education, Growth, Improvement, and Personal.
- Monetary: A specific monetary goal.
- Education: A new skill you will learn to improve your business success.
- Growth: A set amount of growth for your business.
- Improvement: An area of your business that needs the most improvement.
- Personal: A commitment to your business for your own accountability.
I want to first address the 10,000-foot view (your annual goals) and we will create your quarterly plan from there.
Annual Business Goals
To be clear, this is only done once a year, but it’s completely fine to re-visit these goals at any point throughout the year. For example, you totally crush one of your annual business goals by Q2 you better be raising the bar for yourself. Your goals should be:
- Achievable: Your goal should be realistic and something you can achieve with your current resources. That’s not to say you shouldn’t push yourself but scalable growth and progress is way better than setting a goal you simply can’t attain at this stage of your business.
- Quantifiable: Saying, “grow my followers” is not as good as saying, “grow my Instagram followers by 25%.”
- Focused: Set 3-5 major annual goals. Taking on too much can spread you too thin, rendering you unable to achieve any of the goals. That wouldn’t be good.
Here’s what an example of your annual goals might look like:
- Monetary: A specific monetary goal. Ex: My business will earn $100,000 annually.
- Education: A new skill you will learn to improve your business success. Ex: I will learn to use Pinterest to increase traffic to my website.
- Growth: A measurable amount of growth for your business. Ex: I will take on 10 new clients.
- Improvement: An area of your business that needs the most refinement. Ex: I will re-brand my business.
- Personal: A commitment to your business for your own accountability. Ex: I will write 52 blog posts per year (1 per week).
Quarterly Business Goals
Now that we have considered the big picture you can break this down a little more into a quarterly plan using the same goal framework of achievable, quantifiable, and limited. Each goal should be more specific.
Get a free copy of the Annual + Quarterly Plan template for a complete step-by-step template to set your annual and quarterly business goals. My fillable plan template gives you both annual and quarterly examples to follow.