Annual planning template

Every business needs a clear direction. Create an annual planning template to set clear goals and streamline your yearly planning process—so every level of your organization is aligned on what’s important.

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Annual planning is essential to develop a clear strategy and ensure your company, departments, and individual teams are on the same page. But even though it happens every year, annual planning can feel chaotic—with many different stakeholders, deadlines, and decisions that need to be made. 

An annual planning template streamlines the yearly planning process, so you can focus on developing great strategy—not on juggling different planning tasks. 

[Product UI] Company goals and milestones project example (Lists)

What is annual planning?

Annual planning is when leaders chart their team’s strategy for next year, including the big objectives their team should aim for. During annual planning, leaders set a North Star for what they want to achieve by the end of the year, and develop a roadmap for how they’ll get there. This is also when they align team and department initiatives to align with overarching company strategy, so everyone in the organization is moving in the same direction.

What is an annual planning template? 

An annual planning template is a reusable guide that lays out each step in the annual planning process. It helps clarify planning by outlining exactly what you should do—and when you should do it—to craft a successful business plan. For example, your template could include a timeline for strategy sessions, submitting budget and headcount requests, finalizing department objectives, and more.

A great annual planning template also includes space to document company, department, and team goals—so your organization’s North Star is top of mind throughout the annual planning process. With a standardized action plan and visibility into high-level objectives, you can ensure your organization is aligned from the bottom up. 

The benefits of a digital annual planning template

Annual planning often happens at the top of an organization and isn’t effectively communicated to everyone. According to our research, only 16% of knowledge workers say their company is effective at setting and communicating company goals, and only 26% of workers have a clear understanding of how their individual work contributes toward those company goals. 

A digital annual planning template closes this communication gap by setting and tracking yearly goals where work happens. Instead of gathering dust in a spreadsheet, your team and company goals live right next to the work that needs to be done to achieve them. That way, annual planning isn’t just something that happens at the executive level. Instead, it’s an exercise that helps everyone—from the CEO to the summer intern—set measurable goals for their work that align with other teams and your company objectives. 

By consolidating your annual planning process in a work management platform, you can: 

  • Standardize your strategic planning process across departments and teams.

  • Create a single system of record for the annual planning process, so everyone is on the same page. 

  • Ensure company priorities are top of mind when departments and teams set their own annual goals for the new year.

  • Map out a concrete timeline for your annual planning process.

  • Assign tasks with specific due dates, so it’s clear who’s responsible for what, by when.

  • Toggle between project views to visualize your annual business plan in different ways—as a standard list, Gantt chart, calendar, or Kanban board.

How to create an annual planning template

Annual planning looks different at every company. To create your own custom-built template, first ask yourself the following questions: 

  • Who will be involved in the annual planning process? 

  • What are the major decisions you need to make, and steps you need to take? 

  • Who will be making those decisions? 

  • What is the order in which those decisions need to be made? 

Then, use those questions to fill in a rough timeline. As you map out the annual planning process, use these best practices to build out your template: 

  • Organize tasks with sections. Keep annual planning steps organized by bucketing them into different sections—like company planning, department planning, and headcount requests. 

  • Create custom tags to visualize key stages. Annual planning often happens in stages—like pre-planning and strategizing, goal-setting, then allocating resources to achieve those goals. Color-coded custom tags help visualize where each task falls within each annual planning stage.

  • Indicate which team is responsible for each task. During annual planning, it’s important to know who’s responsible for each step in the process. Label each task with its respective team—like company planning, finance, and HR. 

  • Include your team and company-wide goals. For annual planning to work, you need constant visibility into high-level company objectives. Include space in your template to set and track business, department, and team goals so you can make sure each level of the organization is aligned. 

Tracking goals in your annual planning template is a great way for individual teams to stay organized, but you can level up your goal-setting process with Asana’s Goals feature. Goals is an organization-wide tool that helps your entire business set, track, and communicate about goals.

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Integrated features

  • Timeline View. Timeline View is a Gantt-style project view that displays all of your tasks in a horizontal bar chart. Not only can you see each task’s start and end date, but you can also see dependencies between tasks. With Timeline View, you can easily track how the pieces of your plan fit together. Plus, when you can see all of your work in one place, it’s easy to identify and address dependency conflicts before they start, so you can hit all of your goals on schedule. 

  • Custom fields. Custom fields are the best way to tag, sort, and filter work. Create unique custom fields for any information you need to track—from priority and status to email or phone number. Use custom fields to sort and schedule your to-dos so you know what to work on first. Plus, share custom fields across tasks and projects to ensure consistency across your organization. 

  • Milestones. Milestones represent important project checkpoints. By setting milestones throughout your project, you can let your team members and project stakeholders know how you’re pacing towards your goal. Use milestones as a chance to celebrate the little wins on the path towards the big project goal. 

  • Start dates. Sometimes you don’t just need to track when a to-do is due—you also need to know when you should start working on it. Start times and dates give your team members a clear sense of how long each task should take to complete. Use start dates to set, track, and manage work to align your team's objectives and prevent dependencies from falling through the cracks. 

Recommended apps

  • Zoom. Asana and Zoom are partnering up to help teams have more purposeful and focused meetings. The Zoom + Asana integration makes it easy to prepare for meetings, hold actionable conversations, and access information once the call is over. Meetings begin in Asana, where shared meeting agendas provide visibility and context about what will be discussed. During the meeting, team members can quickly create tasks within Zoom, so details and action items don’t get lost. And once the meeting is over, the Zoom + Asana integration pulls meeting transcripts and recordings into Asana, so all collaborators and stakeholders can review the meeting as needed.

  • Vimeo. Text may get the point across, but written words lack tone, emotion, and expression. With video messaging in Asana, powered by Vimeo, you can give your team all the context they need, without having to schedule another meeting. Record short video messages of yourself, your screen—or both—then embed the videos in tasks, projects, messages, and comments to provide additional clarity and context. A transcript of the recording is automatically created by Asana, making it readable and searchable. Give feedback, ask questions, and assign tasks—all without leaving Asana.

  • Microsoft Teams. With the Microsoft Teams + Asana integration, you can search for and share the information you need without leaving Teams. Easily connect your Teams conversations to actionable items in Asana. Plus, create, assign, and view tasks during a Teams Meeting without needing to switch to your browser.

  • Google Workplace. Attach files directly to tasks in Asana with the Google Workplace file chooser, which is built into the Asana task pane. Easily attach any My Drive file with just a few clicks.

FAQs

How should I set goals during the annual planning process?

There are a variety of goal-setting methodologies you can use, including objectives and key results (OKRs) and SMART goals—objectives that are specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-bound. Regardless of the method you choose, make sure you identify key success metrics to track and measure results. That way, you can determine if your business strategy is working—or if you need to do something different. 

It’s also a good idea to evaluate your performance from the previous year when setting business goals. How you did last year is a great benchmark to determine what’s realistic for you to achieve with your new yearly plan.

What types of teams can benefit from this annual planning template?

If you participate in annual planning, this template can help—regardless of whether you work at a small business, startup, or enterprise-sized company. Every department and team should participate in annual planning, and using a template helps standardize the process across your whole company.

When should I use my annual planning template?

The earlier, the better. Start using your annual planning template as soon as your company kicks off the yearly planning process. This often happens in the third quarter, about four months before the start of the new fiscal year. 

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