I’m a pretty visual person, so as much as I like scrawling a list onto a yellow legal pad there’s something about seeing things actually drawn out that can make them much clearer in my mind.

Now, let me get something straight… I’m not a good drawer. I am an enthusiastic drawer… but not a good one. But luckily that’s not a prerequisite for either of these exercises.

The goal is to get pen to paper and think through the next 12-month period of your life.

Exercise 1: Design your Year (or your next 5)

This exercise I stole from the wonderful book “Designing Your Life” by Bill Burnett and Dave Evans. They run a course at Stanford, which applies design principles to your life.

Their exercise encourages you to draw a version of the next 5 years. In fact, it encourages you to draw 3 VERSIONS of the next 5 years. One on your current track, one on a completely different track, and one on a track that might seem completely ridiculous to you right now (but you would secretly entertain if I promised no one would laugh at you).

I loved this exercise, and I’ve adapted it with my financial lens.

For those of you that want a better sense of the upcoming year and what it will throw at you financially, you can draw out the next 12 months using their method, sketching in major events, things you hope to do and even adding a few notes about potential costs, slow periods of work, and/or things you need to save for.

For those of you looking for ideas and more specific direction, you can sketch a few different versions of your year (or even do a 5 year sketch). Draw out a version on your current trajectory, and then sketch something wild that interests you… it’s only drawing after all… the stakes are pretty low.

Exercise 2: Colour Blocking out Your Work/Life Balance

This exercise is lovingly stolen from a mentor of mine that I work with at Spring Financial Plans. She recommends that instead of starting off the year by filling your calendar with work commitments and goals, to instead start out by blocking off your ‘vacation’ time (whatever that means to you).

This simple image really helped me see the shape of my year: when I planned to take some time off, when I needed to take time off to get over my jet lag, and when there were long periods with no time off (which I know from experience probably isn’t a good idea).

It also gives me the permission that I so dearly need to take time away from work because it’s baked into the plan right from the beginning.

There’s something about seeing it laid out in in one block with different colours that really helps me connect to it in a different way.

This is done using Google Sheets, but there’s no reason you can’t grab a few markers and do something similar on your calendar or favourite planner. Whatever is most comfortable for you.

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