"I'm completely overwhelmed!" This phrase is, hands down, the one I hear the most often in my coaching and training practice and from my friends, associates, fans on Facebook, pretty much everyone in my life or business.

Let's face it… we're all busy. Me included. Between being newly married and the mom to two teenage boys, creating products and programs for my business while managing my existing programs and my social media presence, traveling and training at least once a month, volunteering in my community, and keeping up with everything it takes on a daily basis to simply run my business, most of the hours in my day are spoken for. There's not much time left over.

That's why, four years ago when a member of a mastermind group I'm part of encouraged me to take two full days to do annual planning and at least one full day every three months to do quarterly planning, I easily convinced myself I didn't have the time.

I couldn't give up almost a full week every year just to plan for my business. I was doing okay flying by the seat of my pants. Sort of. Except when I got scattered and overwhelmed (which was often). Then I was constantly looking for the plan I hadn't made, grasping at straws that weren't there.

At the end of 2009, however, my business plan was turned upside down. The recession hit the speaking industry hard and my live speaking opportunities all but dried up. As I began finding new and unique ways to get my information out to my audience from venues other than the stage, it became clear that I would need to create a clear plan for the following year.

I was essentially forced to take the time to create a map of how the year would go and then review and tweak that plan quarterly. The investment of time was (and, if I'm totally honest, still is) challenging. I'm forced to clear my schedule, clear the distractions, clear my head, and get creative.

While I often feel pulled during these planning sessions to do something "more productive" and pressing, when I stick with the process and complete my plan, it always pays huge dividends for me down the road.

The system I learned back in 2009 and still follow today makes planning not only fairly easy but (I almost hesitate to admit this) fun.

I use a simple, 4-step system for planning:

Step #1: Choose a Theme for Your Year

This might seem sort of "woo woo" but it probably had the greatest impact on me. Get quiet, check in with your higher power, and "ask" for your theme. When I use this process, mine always comes through loud and clear. This year, it was "Inspired Focused Flow."

Step #2: Choose Your Major Areas of Focus

Outline at least three to five major areas of focus for the coming year, making sure not to neglect anything in your life or business. This supports the harmony in your life and keeps your "eye on the prize" in all areas. My areas for this year were:

Notice that there's a balance between business and personal. Strive for that.

Step #3: Identify the Projects in Each of Your Focus Areas

If you, like me, are all about the action, this will be your favorite step. Decide on three to five projects in each of your areas of focus that will move you toward fulfillment. These will truly become the vehicle for achieving your goals. Be as specific as you can and take some time to really let this flow.

Step #4: Make an Action Plan

Now break down your major projects into smaller chunks. Which project will you work on each quarter (maybe all of them, maybe not)? Then decide what you'll do in each area. That way, you're working intentionally throughout the quarters of each year, the months of each quarter, and the weeks of each month. You'll be surprised at what you'll actually come up with when you take the time to sit down and plan your action areas and steps.

Then make sure you're doing short monthly planning at the beginning of each month and weekly planning every Sunday. The more specific you can be with where you plan to spend your time, the better. I use a brilliant free tool called Workflowy for this. Can't beat it.

As a direct seller, you have the same choice. You can run your business "on the fly" and you'll probably always have a small, hobbyist business. Or you can take a little time now and map out exactly where you want to go and how you're going to get there in 2012. From there, all you need to do is commit to the plan and watch what happens!