How I'm organizing my year to be passionate & productive

Want to make 2017 your best year yet? Here's how I'm organizing my year for passionate (and pragmatic!) productivity.

Want to make 2017 your best year yet? Here's how I'm organizing my year for passionate (and pragmatic!) productivity.

I love a new year. I love the fresh start and the clean slate and how everything feels like it has so much possibility. Despite how crap last year was for so many people, and how potentially crap this year could be, I'm happy, at least, for the fresh start it represents.

It's so easy to get bogged down with the weight of your responsibilities, desires, and obligations. That way lies overwhelm, and madness, of course. I like to avoid both.

So as we jump into a brand new year, I'd like to share how I'm organizing 2017 to be both pragmatically productive and full of passion project productivity, too!

Pragmatic

I'm a Project Manager during the day (and a Capricorn full-time) so it's impossible for me to not have a pragmatic way to manage all my various and sundry projects. Here are a couple of the methods I use to keep the entire year organized and productive.

Quarters + Sprints

As I do at work, I'm planning out my year in quarters, broken down further into 1-2 week sprints. This is an agile project management tool (SCRUM) that's gaining popularity more and more. I use, and have used, sprints during my day job for several years and bringing them into my passion work has been one of my best decisions.

I first break the year into four quarters and decide on priorities for each of the quarters. This quarter, some of my priorities are to put out my first get-shit-done-the-Alchemy-way Ebook, start a live video/YouTube project, and start offering two new services for Create Alchemy readers.

Once I know my priority goals, all I have to do is break those down into single tasks that can be completed in 1-2 weeks each. E.g.: 

Write Ebook becomes:

  1. Outline Ebook chapters
  2. Draft Ebook text
  3. First Ebook Edit
  4. Second Ebook Edit
  5. Design and finalize Ebook
  6. Publish Ebook to Amazon

So there are the 6 sprints I'd need to get my Ebook out into the world. I could follow that up with marketing the Ebook, but that's a different project, so it doesn't go there.

As an aside, did you know that I wrote my Master's thesis on the value of Ebook book covers in buying decisions? I originally wanted to go into the publishing industry, but realized later on that while I love reading, I never wanted to be forced to read something I wasn't 100% into, so being an Editor was not, after all, my One True Passion. Writing is.

Once you know your priorities and your sprints, you can fill them into a calendar for the first quarter of the year. The key is to never multitask.

No one is good at multitasking. Not even you.

You focus on just that one thing for the entire sprint. Then you finish and move onto the next thing. I promise you'll get way more done (and done better) this way.

You could plan our your entire year, but I prefer to leave the following quarters vague until I approach them. During the rest of 2017, I also want to launch a new course, start a YouTube channel, and do some free challenges, but which order I do those in will depend on where I stand with everything else as a new quarter approaches. Priorities change. Don't lock yourself into something you hate.

(And don't force yourself to finish books you're not into. Life's way too short!)

One Planner

As you may know, I am a vocal proponent of having JUST ONE planner. I know there are lots of people out there who like to have several, but that's not how my brain works. I need to know that every task I have to do is inputted into the planner I have with me, or else I don't trust that planner to be accurate.

When you separate out your ideas among a dozen different planners, notebooks, and calendars, it's really easy to forget or lose something.

So every single task I have — EVERY. SINGLE. TASK. — is entered into my Asana. Asana's cloud-based, so I know that it's always with me wherever I go. 

Now, that doesn't mean that I don't like to write things out. I also have ONE notebook for long-form ideas. Sometimes, you just need to write it out. But, and here's the catch: I always enter those long-form ideas into Asana afterwards. They go under the topic's comment section or description.

Here's an example for a fun post/email/checklist I'm thinking up:

The main Asana short-form topic is in bold at the top. Underneath, I've jotted down ideas as they came to me. I can keep adding to this indefinitely, and when it's complete, all of my ideas are in one place and ready to go. Awesome!

The main Asana short-form topic is in bold at the top. Underneath, I've jotted down ideas as they came to me. I can keep adding to this indefinitely, and when it's complete, all of my ideas are in one place and ready to go. Awesome!

I really, really 112% believe in having ALL of your tasks in just one planner. If you're thinking about it, give it a shot this year. Once you have your planner set-up, you'll never go back to having more than one again.

Further reading:

If you're finding this helpful, shares are appreciated!

Passionate

Despite my Capricorn-ness, or possibly because of it, I also love a bit of woo in my life. I believe that everything you do should be done with passion and intention, or else, there's no reason do it at all.

I work with passion, love with passion, create with passion, and even fail with passion. I believe this is the key to working like an Alchemist—to being able to take a heavy, leaden life and transmute it into a brilliant golden one.

A Magnum Opus

The first way I incorporate working like an Alchemist into my life is to have a single, clear, defined Magnum Opus that I am always striving for. A Magnum Opus is a "Great Work"—it is the apex of your life. A masterpiece. A legacy. The one thing that all of your efforts leads towards. 

It takes every little thing you accomplish and fail at throughout your life to get to the Magnum Opus. It's a labor of love, sweat, tears, and passion.

Leonardo da Vinci's stated Magnum Opus is the Mona Lisa. His other Opuses—regular "works" or passion projects—included The Last Supper, The Vitruvian Man, inventions, studies of science, music, math, engineering, and so on. One could also claim that da Vinci's Magnum Opus was to become a great polymath—both of these are legacies he left for us.

Basically, the original Dumbledore.

Every passionate, creative person who wants to make something amazing of their life needs to have a Magnum Opus. Period. 

You can't reach a goal if you aren't actually reaching for it. And you have to know what it is to get there.

Related: What is a Magnum Opus and Why Do You Need One?

Rituals

I use Rituals to create habits. Habits are hard. Even ones you truly want to form, and getting them to stick can be frustrating and overwhelming.

By using Rituals, I take away the frustration and the overwhelm, add in a good time, and still end up with a habit that helps me progress.

Rituals are routines you create that incorporate 3+ of the 6 Areas of Life as part of the habit you want to form. This makes the habit 'part of your life' instead of just something you're trying to start doing. It takes the stress out (and often incorporates anti-stress activities as part of the Ritual) while getting your brain used to doing this new thing you want to make a habit of.

The 6 Areas of Life are:

  1. Mind
  2. Body
  3. Soul/Spirit
  4. Nature
  5. Relationships
  6. Passions

So, one of my Rituals this year is designed to help me finish my second novel by this summer. Fiction writing is one of my Passions, so that includes Area #6, but to really make getting into a daily writing habit a Ritual, I need to include other areas, too. 

I've chosen to add in elements of Mind (putting on the same calming sounds whenever I write) and Body (stretching before and after each daily writing session). 

Like all habits, Rituals also need the 3 R's:

  1. Reminder – something to trigger you to remember to do the habit
  2. Routine – doing it at the same time or in the same order every time
  3. Reward – something that motivates you to actually do it

So my Reminder is to do it first thing in the morning, before I check email or any other items; my Routine is 5,000 words every Saturday and Sunday; and my Reward is the relaxation I'll get from my stretching sessions. 

Your Reminders, Routines, and Rewards can all be different—and when you're just starting out with Rituals (or any habits), you should do it every day instead of just weekends. But I'm old hat at this and can do weekends by now. ;) You may also find that you need different rewards than I do, which is fine. But try not to make it food rewards. You'll end up regretting that. 

I'd love to know how YOU are organizing YOUR 2017. Got any tips or tricks? Share them with us in the comments below!