A framework for quarterly planning

Next month it will be one year since Ece and I ran our first monthly accountability group for freelancers. Over the year we’ve made a few tweaks to how we run things. As this anniversary comes around we’ve made possibly the biggest change — switching from a monthly to a quarterly intake. There are some practical reasons for this change (which I won’t bore you with), but also it adds greater accountability for setting and working towards longer-term goals.

With that longer-term planning in mind, we needed something more than my plan with me sessions which have served as a space to pause, reflect and plan ahead for previous groups. So we added an extra quarterly planning session before the official start.

As the structure for the session I returned to a method that has worked for me in the past, Matt Ragland’s QMWD framework. There are a few things I love about this method. Firstly, it provides a simple structure for breaking down a chunky goal into manageable pieces. We start with our quarterly goal (Q) and identify three monthly milestones (M) to work towards. Next we pick one things to work on each week (W) and within that the daily tasks (D) that need to be done. I’ve never found a method before that takes it down to that level of detail. And if you’re anything like me a lack of detail/specifics opens the door to major procrastination.

This leads me to the second reason I find the method works so well — when sitting down to work out my weekly intentions and daily to do lists it’s really easy to see which tasks connect directly to my longer-term goals. That helps me prioritise what to work on and sometimes even drop things that I can now identify as busy work because they’re not moving me forwards.

In the planning session I ran for the members of our autumn accountability group, we discussed some of the challenges to making plans like this and sticking to them. I think the most important conclusion we came to was that this provides a structure but we need to build in a regular review stage at least at the end of each month (if not more frequently). This gives us the ability to stay flexible, reassess our progress, and realise what if anything needs to change in the rest of our plan.

If you’re interested in giving the QMWD framework a try, here are some templates I created that you can use too:

about emma

I am a coach and facilitator helping people to pause, reflect and make conscious choices about what comes next. In my writing I explore themes of personal development, reflective practice and what it means to live well.