Last week we talked about project definition. Once you feel confident that you’ve got the right goals and projects in place, it’s time to create a high-level plan for the year.

To do this, review your projects. First, you’ll need to determine if there are any dependencies between your projects, meaning that one project can’t get started until another is completed. Once you’ve noted any dependencies, you’ll want to plot some milestones in a logical sequence. Don’t plot all the tasks and activities that will happen onto your plan, just the big indications of progress, such as project start and completion dates, big events or dates you hope to have certain goals accomplished (e.g., 200 new email subscribers). Here’s an example of what the milestones would look like for our jewelry maker in last week’s post:

Milestone Plan

This is your blueprint to work with when doing more detailed planning throughout the year. You can reference this plan each month to create a mid-level plan, which you can then reference each week to do more detailed planning. Not only does this collection of milestones serve as a blueprint, it also works as a map, helping you to continue moving in the right direction.

The benefit of waiting to plan only at the start of each month and week as it arises, rather than all at once, is that your plans will stay relevant and realistic. It’s a (annoying!) fact of life that things change. We may have to add, drop or alter projects as new realities emerge. Emergencies and opportunities that we didn’t plan for will arise, and plans will have to be altered. Incremental planning helps avoid having to go back and rework every minute detail.

The techniques outlined here are tool agnostic. You can use whatever suits you — pen and paper, a whiteboard over your desk, Basecamp, iCal or the app of your choice, whatever works. The most important point is making that “milestones view” easily accessible.

Good luck and happy planning! You can use these free project management templates to take you through the process. For more detailed and advanced planning and time management for your small/indie/creative business consider using the full Steal This Process project management kit.

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