It can be a daunting process when beginning to plan for the year ahead, especially when surrounded by all kinds of taxes, laws, outgoings, incomings, employee satisfaction, and everything else that goes into running a successful business.

As with any problem or situation in life, it helps to break down your year ahead into chunks, each treated as its own separate entity that works towards the larger goal. Below we explore how to plan in quarters.

Why should you plan in quarters?

The objective of planning in quarters helps to break down your year ahead and make it much more achievable. How many of us have set New Year’s resolutions only to give up when we think of how daunting a process it seems for the year ahead?

The aim is to plan quarterly objectives which will all work towards your annual goal. This, in turn, can then be used to plan ahead and work towards your three, five, ten (or another number) year goal based around your Big Hairy Audacious Goal (BHAG).

To start planning your quarterly goals, you must first start with the big picture. Decide what it is that you ultimately want to achieve with your business, and then you can begin to break this down into five years, yearly and quarterly plans. It’s important that whatever you decide to include in a quarterly goal works towards your larger aims.

How should you plan quarterly?

To help with deciding on your quarterly plans, below we have listed out five tips to get you creating a robust structure for the year ahead:

1. Give yourself enough time for business planning

It’s important that you don’t leave your quarterly planning until the last minute and just quickly whip together some things that you’d like to achieve for the year. The amount of time that you need to leave to planning will depend on the size of your business, but be sure to leave yourself enough time to put a solid quarterly plan in place.

2. Review your results from the previous quarter

Businesses work on figures, facts, and insights, and how better to plan your next quarter than by looking at how things went the previous quarter? Perhaps you set goals that were unrealistic or maybe you exceeded expectations? Adapt your upcoming quarter based on results previously achieved.

3. Refine your quarterly plan

Building on your previous quarter’s results, use this to adapt your plan moving forward. Think about what parts of the business are working well, where you can look to improve productivity, and how you can achieve the most successful quarter possible.

4. Identify both your personal and business goals

Don’t forget to factor in your own personal goals when planning your next business quarter. This is vital in maintaining a good work-life balance and ensuring that you can give your quarterly business goals the focus and attention that they need.

5. Make your goals accountable and measurable

It’s no good setting large goals that are open for interpretation. Your goals need to be realistic and measurable based in a certain time frame. For this, we recommend setting SMART goals for your business quarter:

Specific – goals that are clear and defined
Measurable – goals that can be easily measured through a certain result
Achievable – are your goals realistically achievable?
Relevant – are you quarterly goals relevant to your business and annual aims?
Time-measured – ensure that your goals have set time stamps to them to allow them to be more measurable

Planning your business’ quarters

Each and every business is different, and it’s important that you take the time to properly think about and plan quarters that will have the most beneficial impact on your business. Setting unachievable aims for goals that aren’t specific enough will lead to poor quarters, poor years, and then, ultimately, a poor business.

However, keeping your year structured into four separate, robust quarters will help to break down what can seem like daunting business aims, helping you to achieve the business results that you are after.

Written by Anna Lemos