Yearly Planner

Yearly Planner with objectives, quarterly goals and progress tracking! Bonus: past year review exercise.
Yearly Planner
When you have a goal, when you have a vision, everything becomes easy!

Since 2019, I've dedicated myself to planning my next year and setting clear goals and objectives. While it felt challenging at first, I've grown to truly enjoy the process.

I will explain below the reasons I am doing it and how I fell in love with the process.

Arnold makes it sound way too easy 🤯 Having such a mindset is a real challenge for many, including myself! I firmly believe that yearly planning, or any goal setting, gets easier with practice. Ultimately, it can make your life easier.

Maybe what Arnold wants to say is that "discipline equals freedom". I've experienced this myself. The more I plan, the more I'm in control of my agenda, the easier it is to say no. It might sound counterintuitive, but the freedom I feel after looking after my goals and objectives is a feeling no one can deny.

This process gives me clarity, peace of mind, and inspiration - whether I'm working independently or with others. It helps me achieve, it helps me grow, and it literally makes me excited about waking up.

Should you do it?

Yes, 100%.

If you find a reason you shouldn't do it, please let me know!

In case you're at the beginning of this journey, you don't have to go in-depth from the start. It shouldn't even be as detailed as the plan I am going to show you.

Make it easy, make it fun! 🎉

It doesn't have to be perfect. Feel free to include 1-2 objectives, document them properly with action points for a specific timeframe and you're good to go!

Perhaps your goal is to get those 10,000 steps a day, every day 🐾 🐾

Perfect! Write it down, start the work and track it every day, or as many times as you see relevant.

The aim of this template is to provide guidance as you start your yearly planning process, using all the lessons I've learned throughout the years.

🔄 Past Year Review

Before I start planning the period ahead, I am first trying to understand what happened in the past.

I am trying to think about:

  • activities which made me energised 🔋
  • activities which drained my batteries 🪫

And that's why I start with a Past Year Review exercise, which I was introduced to by my buddy, Tim Ferriss.

Not only I understand what gives me energy and what drains my batteries, this exercise also allows me to reflect, to understand why certain things happened in my life.

For instance, on the 30th of December of last year, after finishing my coffee at Coffe Roastery in Amsterdam and filling out the template I will show you in a bit, I went for a short walk. My heart was still racing after the caffeine intake. My mouth still had a caffeinated taste - I loved it. My brain was very active as well. This time though, it was not going in different directions like it usually does, it was just focusing one thought that came after doing this exercise.

And I had an epiphany...

I deeply understood why I was reacting certain ways in specific interactions. This was a great breakthrough for me. I would be very happy to expand on it some other time.

This kind of realisation wouldn't have happened without taking the time to sit down and have an honest conversation with myself. Unfortunately, we do not really allow ourselves the time for that - we're just too busy, right?

Reflecting on past actions deserves attention. It's a powerful way to learn and unlock personal growth.

Practically, what I do is pretty straight forward:

1️⃣ I use the table below where I label 3 main columns:

  • month
  • positive
  • negative

2️⃣ I take a journey through Google Photos and my work calendar, month by month to remember events, people, activities or commitments that happened in certain months. I mark down two types:

  • the ones that brought me extreme joy 🥳
  • the ones that really felt like a burden 😩

Since there are going to be quite a few, I personally skip the average day or event.

I am basically trying to keep stability by not changing the events that were considered average. If the curved line below represents emotional swings, I would try to keep the events associated with the emotional swings in the green rectangle.

I am trying to maximise the events, people, activities that gave me a spike in energy and minimise the orange ones in the picture below, the ones that drained my energy.

I would focus on the feeling rather than the activity. For instance, hiking brought me so much joy last year. Remembering this helped me plan more hiking trips, even though I'd never think of adding such an insignificant activity. The reward is just imense though, being in touch with nature, the sourness you get after a proper hike and the great night sleep after.

An example of an activity that was draining my energy was keeping my mind active at home with stuff from work. What action did I take for next year? You will see below, but I tried to plan out my evenings after work with some other unrelated activities, either boxing, Portuguese classes or playing board games.

3️⃣ After I go through all 12 months (I did this in two separate mornings by the way, so I spent ±3 hours on this task), I try to mark down the good things and the things to improve, as a summary.

In the end, I'm focusing on what energises me and minimising what drains me to build a more fulfilling year

🗂 Yearly Plan Template

With a clear understanding of my past, it's time to craft my yearly plan.

I always found a multitude of areas extremely important to me. So I would naturally want to set objectives for all of these aspects of my life. Perhaps, if I am talking to an athlete or a doctor, they might have more focused, specific goals or objectives, centred around one or two areas.

This template doesn't necessarily have to apply to everyone, but it's definitely applicable for the vast majority, I would be inclined to say at least 90%.


Usually, I cover the following areas when setting yearly goals and objectives.

  • work
  • health
  • hobbies
  • finances
  • relationships

For instance, since for the past 5 years I managed to form habits and achieve my goals around finances, I decided next year I won't have any finance category. After experimenting and improving my goal setting behaviours, I managed to personally find out the following:

  • if I practice something very specific for 2+ years, such as saving money and investing, a habit is formed and it just becomes natural. For me, it's the same with doing sports. After struggling to hit the gym for a couple of years, consistency isn't an issue anymore. I may no always have the best workout, but I know I will be there, I will definitely show up.
  • sometimes it's okay to take the pressure off and stop piling on goals. I personally really enjoy fun and not only working. So why not set goals in this direction? After all, what's the point of achievement if we can't enjoy the journey?

As a result, my goals for 2024 are revolving around the following 5 categories:

And I will explain below what all of these mean:

  • Soul - anything that has to do with therapy, finding new techniques that help me embrace who I am, improve the relationship I have with myself and the relationship I have with others.
  • Mind - anything that's challenging for my mind and it's helping it grow.
  • Body - anything that's challenging for my body and it's helping it be leaner, more muscular, and having a better endurance.
  • Fun & New - this one is pretty straight forward, it can be anything from playing a board game to starting a new activity or going to a festival.
  • Travel - this one could be considered a part of Fun & New, but I kept it separately for this upcoming year as I would like to make sure I plan my trips accordingly.

Yearly Overview

I keep my yearly objectives in a central location for easy access. Since I use Notion daily, I'm just two clicks away from seeing my overview. I check it at least weekly, if not every day.

For even faster access, consider bookmarking the page or using a Chrome extension that automatically opens it. There are lots of options to make sure your goals are always top-of-mind!

Now, let's define some of the key terms I'll be using throughout this guide.

Goal - a broad, desired outcome of future state, it's usually aspirational and provides direction.
Objective - specific, measurable actions-oriented step that contributes to achieving a goal.

I generally refer to the bigger, long-term ones as goals and the smaller, short-term actions as objectives, but I find myself sometimes using the terms interchangeably.

Here's a sneak peek at some of my goals for 2024:

The beauty of this template is that I can find more details once clicking on a specific goal. For instance, when looking at the first one, Study Portuguese, I can zoom into it to find out what it consists of.

Saying that I just want to study Portuguese could seem extremely vague. I need to make it as specific as I can, by setting measurable and achievable objectives.

I stay flexible with the specific objectives that support my broader goals.

For example, I originally planned to learn 350 Portuguese words by February. However, with consistent daily practice, I realised that target wasn't realistic. So, I adjusted the objective to 350 words by March, giving myself an extra month to comfortably reach that milestone.

Another thing that I am introducing when it comes to achieving more ambitious goals are habits. According to my buddy, James Clear, a habit is:

Habit - small, repetitive action that require (little) effort or motivation to carry out, which support the overall goal.

How do I build the discipline to reach my goals? The key is consistent daily actions that become second nature. Here's my simple but effective approach for starting with Portuguese in the first few months:

  • Duolingo Practice 🦉: a daily dose of Duolingo keeps my skills sharp.
  • Vocabulary Notebook 📒: jotting down new words reinforces my learning.

And, as James Clear says, I make it as easy as possible. I am spending maximum 20 minutes a day.

And why do we need habits for complex goals?

Just because we forget.

Ebbinghaus' forgetting curve and review cycle. 

Simply put, the graph shows that a daily habit or a review, as depicted above, helps us forget less, especially in the case of learning something new and relatively complex.

Quarterly Overview

In addition to setting yearly objectives, I review them quarterly. This helps me maintain momentum throughout the year, which can be difficult after the initial few months. Staying fully committed to goals set at the beginning of the year is challenging; things change, problems arise, and motivation can fluctuate. This template helps me adapt to those changes.

Going back to setting times for reflection, this strategy allows me to have Past Quarter Reviews throughout the year. It also means I can have a new start every single quarter. Things can happen, shit can come your way. And if I had a bad Q1, or even a bad Q2, I can still have a new start for the second part of the year.

And everyone like new beginnings... 😁 It somehow gives us hope.

I find it easier to get excited about and tackle my objectives when I break them down into quarters and visualise them around a central theme. For example, I might split the year into 2-4 major projects.

I know if I am doing those 4 things in 2024, I could say the year is successful. The rest is just a bonus:

  • for Q1 the main focus is around going to Brazil and learning Portuguese. 🇧🇷
  • for Q2 the main thing I am looking forward to is going to Germany for Euro 2024, spending time with friends and enjoying summer 🇩🇪⚽
  • in Q3 I would like to "launch", or publicly launch the project I am currently working on 🌐
  • In Q4, I would like to have a clear definition of my next career steps 🐾

When zooming into Q1, I can find all the goals I would like to tackle, with additional measurable actions or objectives.

Now, when going a layer deeper, my most important goals for Q1 are:

  • Study Portuguese 🇧🇷
  • Go to Brazil 🇧🇷
  • Play Game of Thrones: the Board Game 👑
  • Purchase 5 extra holidays 🏝️

I apply the same ranking of importance when looking at things from a quarterly perspective or I am trying to answer the following question:

What are 20% of goals that would bring me 80% of joy and accomplishments?

Some goals, like the last two listed above, are simple yet very important to me.

Making it easy, achievable and fun is why I stick with this process for the past 5 years.

And you might have missed one of my most importat Q1 goals. That's because Purchase 5 extra holidays is already in the pocket ✅

I do track all the goals and objectives I manage to complete, as shown below:

This was my story when it comes to Yearly Planning, how I tackle this process, and how it helps me. I hope my personal examples will give you some inspiration and it will make it easier for you to craft your plan.

I also included some other examples in the templates I created for you. You can download them in two formats:

  1. Preferred format - Notion. This platform offers you much more flexibility when it comes to adjusting your goals. It's also more visually appealing. This visual appeal makes me feel more in touch with my goals and helps me check on them more regularly. If you don't have Notion, feel free to use this link so you can create an account.
  2. Standard format - Spreadsheets or Excel. For those of you who don't use Notion, this format should be more than enough to get you started.

9️⃣ Final Guiding Principles

Here are a few guidelines that can help you to maximise the outcomes and the fun you have in this journey:

  1. Focus on one major goal or objective at once. Or in other words, think of which major activity is going to bring you the most joy and fulfilment?
  2. Include as many fun activities as possible. Don't make it a military schedule. Craft it like a schedule you can fall in love with and you're happy to wake up and start those things.
  3. Have the Yearly Planner readily available either digitally (via a Chrome extension as I previously mentioned) or printed out so you can see it regularly.
  4. Take as much time as possible to reflect. I touched upon yearly reflection, try to do a version of it at the end of every quarter.
  5. Include all the aspects that are relevant to you when it comes to planning. The category examples I came up with are pretty general, but if you find others important include them. Some that I think of now could be: nutrition, relationships, community service, etc.
  6. Make use of new habits. Goals & objectives give you the direction. Habits are the ones that will get you there. Want to speak Portuguese? Practice every day. Want to run a marathon? Run every week at least a few times.
  7. When starting the process, having fewer goals might give you more peace of mind and more motivation. Don't make it too stressful, add more goals as you go through the process a few times.
  8. One goal doesn't give you energy anymore? Just get rid of it. There is no point to fill your headspace with exhausting tasks.
  9. Make it visual so you have clarity and excitement.

Hope my experience can help you craft your year ahead, plan ambitious goals and have a lot of fun in the process! 🎯 🎯

About the author
Vlad Laichici

Vlad Laichici

Website creator. Passionate about planning, documenting and growing while staying relaxed. Come on this journey to work smarter, save time with actionable frameworks, while having a joyful journey.

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