Planning is not the same as action, but good planning can make your actions more effective.
Here are five ways to do more accurate and powerful planning.
1. Remember that a Plan Is a Starting Point
No matter how great the plan, it can only give you an idea of exactly how you will reach your goal. Things will change. You will flex. You can’t plan all the details in advance.
Well, you can, but the details will change along the way.
What a plan can provide is a crystal-clear starting point. That is what a plan is good for, and if you keep that in mind, you won’t waste time trying to make your plan give you more than that.
2. Look Backwards First
One of the reasons that we plan poorly is that we plan with our ideals in mind rather than our reality. We think of ideal circumstances, ideal levels of productivity, ideal reactions to what we do.
Sometimes we get those ideals, but we’re always going to get a dose of reality as well.
That’s why your plan will be better if you look backwards to what you have already accomplished and the realities you have faced, as well as forward to your goals and ideals. Your business can grow and get better, and it should, but asking for perfection is not healthy or effective.
To set good goals, deadlines, quotas, and to make good plans, look backwards at what goals, deadlines, quotas, and plans have been effective in the past. Then plan from those; push yourself a little bit, perhaps; ask for more, ask for some growth. But pursue an ideal rooted in your reality, and you’re much more likely to reach it.
3. Use the Power of Multiple Minds
A plan is best when it’s developed in the open, not in isolation. Your brain will see certain obstacles and challenges, as well as certain aspects of your capabilities, resources, and potential.
Another person will see a different angle.
No, you don’t need to develop a plan with a boardroom full of people. But it’s important to have a few key people who know the situation and the goals well to give their input. If you’re running a solo business, call in a mentor, a previous business partner you trust, a coach, or a business-savvy friend to look things over with you.
4. Plan Only as Much Detail as Required
The amount of details really required for a good plan are quite few, especially if you remember what the purpose of a plan is.
Do you remember?
It’s to give you a starting point. A crystal-clear place to put your feet and take action. One point, and it leads in the right direction.
A plan will not tell you exactly how everything else will unfold. It doesn’t need to. You are capable of figuring out the details along the way. Don’t waste time planning out imaginary details that will change by the time you reach them. Get the big decisions in place, look at the main contingencies, and then start moving on the plan.
5. Take a Whole Life Approach.
You are only one individual, no matter how business minded you are, no matter how focused on your aim, no matter how committed to your goal. And you can’t stop one part of your life from affecting other parts of your life.
Don’t ask yourself to do that.
Before you finalize the plan and start moving forward, back up enough to take a big-picture view of this plan in the context of the rest of your life. Are you asking yourself to make a big push forward and put in extra hours on your business goals at the same time that you’re dealing with a life change, coordinating a big family event, or handling some other major personal or family endeavour?
Don’t do that to yourself. Before you get started and committed, look at the plan with a very holistic perspective. Your energy and productivity will be affected by your entire life, so it works better if you take that into account while you make your plan, instead of being surprised by it later.