Dec 2, 20190 comments



It is the end of November as I write this and I recently asked a question about annual planning in the Actually Facebook group. I asked people how ready they were for 2020 on a scale of 1 to 10. With a few notable exceptions, everyone was below 5 and there were a lot of screaming emjoi faces! Now some of this may be false modesty but it got me to thinking, what is it about planning that makes even the most well-organised of us go weak with dread and how can I help? This blog arose from those musings.

I’ve been doing annual planning for about 25 years. For the past 10, I’ve worked on annual plans for the communications agency that I co-founded – Pagefield – which is now a business employing about 50 people with a multi-million pound revenue stream and great profit margins. So I guess we must be doing something right. Here are some of the things I’ve learnt.



Planning is not something you can fit in around other jobs. It requires clear headspace and dedicated time. I allow at least a day for the actual planning but there’s also some prep time too. As a bare minimum, you need to go into your planning session with clarity about what worked and what didn’t in the previous year and what your revenue and costs were.



Sometimes planning can feel like an uphill struggle. What makes going uphill easier? Knowing how beautiful the view from the top will be. So, start with the end in mind. Start by imagining where you want to be in 12 months time. Really feel into it: what does it look and sound and feel like? How will you feel at the end of the year having achieved everything you’ve set out to achieve. Go big. Dare to dream. What kind of clients will you be working with? What will people be saying about your organisation? Write this out – or draw it if that’s your thing – and keep it to hand. It will inspire you as you work your way through your plan and it provides you with an endpoint so that your plan has a clear direction.




Once you know where you’re going, you need to figure out how to get there. At this point, apply brainstorm rules: no idea is a bad idea. Don’t analyse every idea; don’t discuss whether it’s deliverable or not. Do that later. Look at your vision for the year and allow yourself to dream some more. Allow your ideas to bubble up to the surface. This is a great stage to involve other people – people from within your organisation and / or people from outside. All perspectives are welcome. Keep going. Hit a blank spot. Keep going. Hit another blank spot. Keep going. When all your ideas are out on the page (or white board or flip chart or post it notes), go and make a large cup of tea. And rest your brain. Later on you need to do the analysis, the whittling down of ideas to those that are most likely to work, to do what you need them to do. But for now, let your brain cool down.



I am constantly astonished by how many people forget about the money – particularly solo entrepreneurs, or the founders of purpose-led businesses. One of the first things we do in my training course – Actually: How to Change the World – is we focus on overall purpose and business / organisational priorities. And I can count on one hand the number of people who include making money in their priorities. Really? There is NO category of business, organisation, charity or campaign that doesn’t need to think about money. Work out your numbers.



It doesn’t matter how good your plan is if you don’t execute it. To have any chance of being realised, your plan needs to have clear actions, milestones and next steps. This is the part that so many people miss. They develop a great plan, a vision for the year, a set of goals and some creative ideas – but then when it comes to working out the HOW, the WHO and the WHEN they give up. You need clear next steps, a timetable and deadlines for action.


There is so much more I could say about planning and seeing so many people struggle with it in my community, I decided to develop an Actually Planning 2020 workshop. In this one day workshop we will:

– explore what worked in 2019 and what didn’t

– brainstorm your big opportunities and big ideas for 2020

– get clear about your revenue goals and how you are going to achieve them

– pull it all together in a clear plan

– clarify what your communications needs to achieve to help you deliver that plan

You’d be very welcome to join me just click this link and email me to let me know which date you prefer: 21st December, 4th January or 11th January.

Let’s ACTUALLY change the world!


Sara Price

Founder, Actually

December 2019


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