The Monthly Check-in page in the Ponderlily Planner is perfect for reflecting.
Having a business can be like watching a tree grow - when you look at the tree every day, you can easily believe it’s not growing, but if you were to take a picture of it each year you’d see that over time it has grown from a tiny sapling into a huge, well-established tree.
When we forget to check-in with ourselves or our business at regular intervals, it can be easy to assume our progress is slow. Taking some time to record a few numbers and how business is going at the end of each month quickly builds up a picture that shows your progress over time.
Making this monthly check-in a regular habit also gives you a chance to acknowledge your achievements, as well as take on board what you’ve learned, and can help you to make conscious decisions about what you want to change up in your small business moving forward.
In the Ponderlily Planner there is a double page at the end of each month called the Monthly Check-in, and that’s exactly what I use this section for. It is so helpful to have the Monthly Check-in prompt in my diary every month, and there’s just enough space to record a few reflections before I go onto planning for the month ahead.
My Reflection Process
1. A Quick Reflection.
I start my monthly reflection by writing a postcard to myself, which is a general, quick reflection on how I’m feeling and how the past month went. The pale box on the top left of the Monthly Check-in spread in my Ponderlily Planner helps me to keep this succinct.
2. Collect Data
Next, I go into collecting some numbers - nothing too detailed, but enough to see how my business is growing each month. These numbers usually reveal where the business is flourishing, and also which areas need some attention.
The numbers I collect on my Monthly Check-in page are; income, expenses, profit; and then marketing numbers - things like the number of visits to my website, Instagram followers, YouTube subscribers and mailing list subscribers. You can of course collect a totally different set of numbers to suit you and your line of work.
This is where you will start to see progress within your work - once you’ve been collecting the same set of numbers for a few months - and how the small steps really do add up over time.
Making notes to look back on helps you see your progress.
3. Celebrate the Wins
I then list three reasons to celebrate. Focussing on positives is so important, because we’re always battling against the negativity bias in our brains. We tend to notice the things that didn’t go well, the things that challenged us or didn’t go to plan. So, it’s important to consciously seek out the positive wins and record the things that went well.
When you write down reasons to celebrate often, you start to train your brain to look for the positive outcomes - which can teach us just as much as our challenges do, and can go a long way to keeping you motivated.
Perhaps, for example, the things that went well and felt easy are the things you want to intentionally make more time for over the following month.
4. Note Down Challenges
I also take note of what challenged me over the past month - maybe there was a difficult conversation, I learnt how to use a new piece of technology, or there were struggles with the general ups and downs of growing a small business.
We can learn so much from our challenges. Perhaps your struggles this month revealed a strength you weren’t aware of, or perhaps it taught you that you never want to do that thing again - and that’s a good lesson to learn, because often we learn from a process of elimination. We figure out what we want to do, and how we want to live by experiencing how we don’t want to live and work.
5. Review Long Term Goals
Before I wrap up my reflection, I review my progress against the goals in my 12-week plan (I always plan in 12-week chunks - it’s long enough to make some big things happen, but not so far into the future that it feels overwhelming).
I’ll give each goal a ‘red’, ‘amber’ or ‘green,’ depending on how I’m getting on with my goals, and note anything that I need to change up for next month to get back on track with any goals.
6. Learning and Changing
Finally, I write down in my Ponderlily Planner what I learned over the month, and what I want to change moving forwards. This will just be one or two things to make it manageable.
This final part of my check-in process ties the whole thing up into a neat bow, and sets me up for the month ahead.
In all, it probably takes me about ten to fifteen minutes at the end of each month to do my check-in and review, and it is time well invested to ensure that I’m moving into the next month with intention.
As I write this, we’re approaching the end of the year, and I love nothing more than a fresh chapter, a blank journal and a new plan. I’ll be using my monthly check-ins to help me reflect on the year as a whole, and help me make a plan for the year ahead.
Photo Credit: Elle Narbrook
Josephine Brooks is a Make It Happen mentor. Her mission is to help creative business owners build a business that enables them to live the slower, more meaningful lifestyle they ache for, by helping them find clarity around how they want to live and work and then make a plan, and make it happen.
Her philosophy is all about doing less and focussing on the most impactful projects and tasks, rather than getting stuck in the endless hustle.
Aside from her work, Josephine is a self-confessed country bumpkin living a slow and seasonal life in the Hampshire countryside. She can often be found in her wellies walking her two dogs or drinking many cups of tea from the garden in summer, or sitting by the fire with her knitting in winter.