#097: How To Plan Your Year In Just 1 Hour [Podcast]

Have you broken your New Year's resolutions yet? Most people have-my estimate is that over 90% have. So what do you do now? I'd say it's time to get serious about planning your year.

Ray-PiestewaAnd on today's episode I'm going to show you how to do it in less than one hour. Also coming up…

  • My top three productivity apps for 2014.
  • Why what you say has spiritual power.
  • Your invitation to a one-day mastermind with me.
  • Now let's get on with it…



  • Thanks to all who have left a review of the podcast in iTunes.  I'm going to start publicly acknowledging those who have done so, if I can identify you (sometimes the usernames in iTunes make that difficult.) This week I would like to thank:  Kingsley, Hope Dispenser… Cindy Bidar… Missouri Broker… Corbin 111… Jim Munchbach… Phil Drysdale… Robert Plank… Ernie Lansford… Carmen Manrique… Nick Douglas… Jeff Brown… Jeff Sanders… Rick Butts… Ryan Eidson… John Tiller… Liz Dugger… Todd Brown… Chad Meisinger… Bob Shoe… Rob Metras…  and Eric Graham.
  • Every person who submits an audio question for the podcast will receive a free gift (if, and only if, we use your question on the podcast). Click here to submit your audio question.
  • Meanwhile, if you would be interested in the possible one-day mastermind with me and 11 other people, where we make radical progress in your business… And if you're not just “interested” but you already know you want to do it,  fill in this form. If it looks like you would be a good fit, I will call you myself.  (If you just want the “details”, listen to the podcast. I explain all the “details”.)

Conferences where I will be attending and/or speaking:

Tip Of The Week 

My top three productivity apps probably will not come as much of a surprise. But I have made a shift, so here they are:

  1. Evernote. I think of Evernote as my “magical filing cabinet/notebook/backup brain”. I really couldn't function the way I do without it.
  2. Nozbe. It took a strong recommendation from Michael Hyatt to finally get me to try a different task management system. I had been using OmniFocus for years.  Now, after just a couple of weeks, I can't imagine going back.
  3. Dragon Dictate.  I have finally taken the time to learn the nuances (pun intended) of using the software. I don't know of anyone who can type faster than they can talk. Other than dictating and having your words recorded by transcriptionist, this is the fastest way I know to write.

Copywriting Corner

If you ever get stuck writing copy, and find yourself staring at a blank page, here's a quick tip that will get the copy flowing again. Just start writing up the offer. Describe the “stuff” you'll be selling. If even that requires too much creativity, try just writing up the guarantee. In other words, write what I call “the stupid parts”. I don't mean that these parts the copy are unimportant, or that you should be careless about the final draft of these sections. What I do mean is that you can write this kind of copy even if you are in a “stupid state”. I usually find that fairly soon the creativity starts to flow again, and I can start writing “the smart parts”. And yes, I also go back and rewrite the parts I started with, because all of your copy needs to be “smart parts”.

Spiritual Foundations

I believe that as followers of Christ, we have the very Spirit of God living inside of us. I believe because of this, the words we speak have power. Thus, saying negative things (“I can't do this”… “Why does this always happen to me”… “It always turns out like this”… and so on) can have a powerful adverse impact on our lives. By the same token, saying positive things brings about good things in our life. This is not “positive thinking”. It is absolutely not “The Secret”, which is a new age religion not compatible with following Christ.

Some people wonder if my belief in “positive declarations” is Biblical. It certainly is. And here are 3 biblical reasons why you should only declare good things about yourself, your loved ones, and your life.

  1. When we speak or hear life-giving declarations, grace is imparted. “Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers” (Ephesians 4:29)
  2. The words we speak can either bless or curse our lives. “For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned” (Matthew 12:37)
  3. Perhaps the most powerful Scripture on this topic is also the simplest: “Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruit” (Proverbs 18:21).

Feature Segment: How To Plan Your Year In Just 1 Hour

By now it's likely your  New Year's resolutions are broken. Most people's are. I believe the reason behind this is the same force that was behind my experience while hiking recently.  I got so focused on the length and height of the mountain we were trying to climb, I wanted to give up.  It was only when I learned to focus on short-term and intermediate points on the path that I found the strength to continue the hike. (For the full hiking story,  you need to listen to the show!)

This is the problem with New Year's resolutions. I have a different plan in mind for you. Here's how to plan your entire year in an hour or less, and it matches up a lot more closely with what you already do naturally anyway.

First, plan your days off. 52 weeks means 52 Saturdays and Sundays… Which really should be 104 days free from work. Add in 10 days for actual vacation, and 10 more days for holidays, and you have a minimum of 124 free days. Put those in your calendar, and protect them like the treasure they are.

Next, plan the important personal events that you simply must attend. Weddings, birthdays, anniversaries, and family reunions come to mind. I would also include here any important church or mission functions.

Now, plan any seminars, conferences, or other learning events you are going to attend. Don't fool yourself; you have a limited number of these events you can attend. You probably know the most important ones already so plug them into the calendar. Any weekends or other free days that get eaten up by these events must be replaced somewhere else in your calendar.

At this point, in my own planning I realized I had only about 165 days left before I even started the year. That means out of the entire year, I only had 23 weeks to “work”… less than half the weeks in the year. This is a powerful realization, because the things that I have listed above are going to happen to you… whether you put them on the calendar or not. The only exception might be that, because of a lack of planning, you sacrifice your “free days”… meaning you are sacrificing time with family, time recharging and resting, time to re-create. Big mistake.

So what do you do when youre remaining 23 weeks (or whatever number you came up with)? First of all, I don't recommend working 12-15 hours a day to try and make up the difference. In fact, I recommend you limit your work day to about six hours. That's all the productive time you're going to get out of the day anyhow, whether you admit it or not. This leads us to a very important realization… we can now calculate the value of an hour of our work. Here's how to do that…

  • Decide how much money you want to make this year. Let's say, just for the sake of example, your target income is $200,000.
  • You have 165 days to work,  And I think it's pretty fair to say that a third of those days will be spent doing administrative and preparatory work (in other words, not the actual stuff your paid for).
  • This leaves you with about 110 full “workdays”-days when you perform the actual work that gets you paid.
  • Let's suppose you're going to work seven hours per day (and if you can actually squeeze seven productive hours out of a day, you are performing at a higher level than 95% of everyone else on earth… congratulations.)
  • Seven hours per day times 110 days yields 770 hours. Which means you're being paid $259.74 per hour in order to make your $200,000 this year.

So what's the point? I haven't describe anything unrealistic. In fact, I may have just given you the first realistic picture of what your year actually looks like you've ever seen. Perhaps right now you're having a revelation of why you never made the money you want to make, or achieved the things you want to achieve. It's because you have less time available to work than you think you do. This is not bad news. It simply means your primary question should be: “Is what I'm doing right now worth $259.74 per hour?” If the answer is no… stop it.

You're probably already ahead of me. You're probably thinking about all the other things I haven't plugged into your schedule… doctor appointments, unexpected illnesses, pleasant surprises… even the possibility that you want to make more money than what I mentioned.

My point isn't even that you need to have a perfect plan. It's that you need to put the big pieces of the puzzle in your calendar first, the ones you know that are beyond choosing, the ones you know that are important (like those free days), and the ones you know you have little control over. It means you need to get a realistic view of how many hours you actually have available to you this year to accomplish your goals, to be intentional about how you use them, and most importantly… to not be surprised at the end of the year, when you could've planned a different outcome.

I suppose if I had a summary message it would be this: I believe you can do almost anything you want this year, but you almost certainly cannot do everything you want.

What To Do Now

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Question: how do you plan your year? Click here to leave your comments.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • Marshall Bone

    Really outstanding podcast Ray! It allowed me to have a blinding flash of the obvious…my time is even more valuable than I thought. 2014 is already off to an awesome start.

  • Ray, the part about planning your days off FIRST was so helpful. I was on the verge of burnout, and really needed to hear that as I planned the rest of this year.

    I’ve deconstructed my year before, but not like this. This was on another level! Thanks for sharing this.

    Great photo, by the way. Those amateur skills are becoming quite…professional!

  • Hi Ray! I’ve been listening to a lot of Steve Backlund’s messages (he’s one of Bethel’s pastors, talks a lot about declarations and speaking out truth over our lives). It’s very powerful. Transformation comes with renewing our minds, and speaking truth on a daily basis is one of the best ways I know to do that. I have two quick questions: when you’re in Orlando, will you be doing any kind of meet-up? I live in Orlando, but went to SCORRE last year so I won’t be doing it again this year (I loved it!). And second, where was that picture taken at the top of the page?

  • Paolo_Sini

    Ray, thanks for sharing this great way of planning a year.

    I have used a similar approach for planning a budget for one of my customers but, I don’t know why, I never thought to apply it to my own business. It’s also a great way to figure out how much you value an hour of work so you can decide where you want to invest your time.

    I love your podcast and blog and next time you go hiking remember to bring more water 🙂

  • Kathleen Thompson

    This is so timely. I have been scheduling myself too tightly, including the weekends. After two weeks of travel, I had just told myself to clear the calendar for a bit of recreation, and there was your podcast! I am re-looking at my calendar, and will evaluate every activity with the activity’s value in mind. Thanks, Ray! – Kathleen

  • Absolutely LOVED this podcast episode, Ray! Started listening to you this year after hearing you introduce a podcast by Cliff Ravenscraft aka The Podcast Answer Man. My very first episode of your podcast was the one where you interviewed Michael Hyatt about achieving goals.

    I decided to plan my very own “Ideal Week” based on his template and have found this and another great post by Michael about using a technique to manage my time by “batching” tasks called the Pomodoro Technique to be invaluable to my work flow!

    Now I hear this podcast (for the third time in a row) and realize I’m not alone when it feels like I only get 5 or 6 hours of productivity time in a day! It helps to be flexible in your schedule I’ve found, and this podcast proves no less. Thanks for your formula for planning my year. I’ll be sure to plan a time in my schedule to begin working on it myself. Love the show and thanks again so much!

  • Ray, I’ve been playing around with Nozbe for over a year. I think I’m gonna have to get a handle on David Allen’s GTD e method for it to really make sense to me. I’ve always been a Franklin-Covey guy, but lately, I’m having a hard time getting things done … imagine! Would reading the book or watching some videos on this help?

  • Thanks for this Ray – I found it to be inspirational and extremely sobering… Don’t think I’d ever really thought through how few days I have In the year to get things done, even more sobering when you figure it out in hours!

    I loved working out my hourly value… This was something I hammered into myself when I was a consultant back in the day and I would always ask myself “how much is this costing me”. It saved me from doing a lot of stupid stuff (although looking back I still managed to do a lot of stupid stuff! 😉 )

    I have to second what Eric said, Michael Hyatt’s “ideal week” plan has been one of the biggest things to impact my productivity long term.

    Appreciate you my friend – great photo by the way!

  • Kirk Bowman

    Ray, thanks for the podcast episode. I got a lot out of it. I love the idea of planning the entire year by starting with your free days. Having a visual of the limited amount of work time makes it easier it say no to other things and focus on the most important ones.

    Also, it was good to be reminded of speaking positive truth to myself. Saying “no” to the voice of the enemy in my mind is so necessary. Thank you for the verses you quoted.

    Last, I want to comment on the idea of determining the value of an hour of your work time. It is powerful to help underscore what is most important and the financial impact. However, I would caution using this as a way of setting a price. The value of what someone does is so much more than an hourly rate can ever capture. There are better ways to price.