The Problem With Plans
I guess the calendar year is the accepted time frame for taking stock of achievements and planning for the new year. That process never worked very well for me. Although client interaction slowed down between Thanksgiving and New Years Day as they were distracted by their own year-end issues and the season, we had the same distractions. Planning takes a lot of time. Nevertheless, the planning effort is always worthwhile. You learn about your opportunities and your obstacles. Good stuff. The problem is trying to implement the plan. Stuff happens. The written plan is too time-consuming to access regularly, and it is disappointing to see the year slipping by with not-so-much being accomplished.
The Planning Solution
I find that it works much better to set goals than to write out a plan. I learned this from The Strategic Coach, who’s program is built around the various ways goal-setting can help you achieve big things.
So here’s how it works. Say you set the goal of getting a new repeat client. On a daily basis you pick one thing you could do to make that happen. Maybe day one is determining the characteristics of the repeat client. Day two is making a list of candidates. Day three and four might be calls to your network of business acquaintances to see what you can find out about the orgs/people on your list. Who knows who? Day five is more research on LinkedIn. Day six is research on the client organization. By day seven you might be calling your target for a meeting, or planning to “bump” into him/her at the next Chamber of Commerce function. And so on. You have a goal but you are making up the plan as you go by asking the question, “What can I do today to move closer to getting a new repeat client?”
The beauty of this approach is that in less than a half hour or so a day you will start seeing measurable progress. Keep it simple, involve others, stay focused on the goal and do something daily. It really helps to take stock weekly by making a list of accomplishments and where you stand. Every month, look back on where you were for feedback on your progress. This process provides encouragement to keep going.
When I have had a plan, I tended to lose sight of the goal as I worked on the next step. Often I found that all I had accomplished was the realization that the plan wasn't working as planned. That’s like being lost in the woods. Do you retrace your steps? Do you head for high ground to scout out your position? Consult a compass? Check your phone map? Whatever you decide, the goal is temporarily set aside.
You can hit dead ends by using the goal methodology, too. But the lost time is usually less, and the knowledge gained so far is usually still useful.
Overall, I find the goal methodology a more effective strategy. And I suspect that the planning process is a holdover from the granddaddy of organizational prototypes, the military.
Good luck with achieving your goals for the coming year!