Planning for a Better 2021 – The “Launch”

The “Launch” is the seventh step in our planning process. It’s also one of the most frequently skipped steps. It is amazing to me how many times I’ve seen a person or a company invest time and in the case of companies, huge amounts of money, to develop a great plan and then do nothing with it. 

Years ago I was working for a company and we were contacted by one of the largest banks in the world. While they were already huge, their growth was stagnant and they wanted a plan to begin growing again. 

We advised them that the first step of developing a plan would be determining where they were at right now…we needed a crystal clear idea of their “As Is.” As I said this was a large bank and the most effective way to determine their current situation was to conduct a needs assessment throughout all levels of the organization. This would a seven figure investment and they would receive an actionable plan that would lead to a return to growth for the organization. 

We delivered the plan to the bank on time, which was four months after the process began. They were a little overwhelmed at the amount of detail we provided but they agreed wholeheartedly with our findings. They were excited to be moving forward. 

We scheduled our first follow up meeting (The Follow Up will be the 8th and final step in our process) for 90 days after they put the plan into action. 90 days later when we called to confirm the follow up meeting they asked to reschedule. They were still preparing to launch the plan “in the very near future.” Remember they paid over a million dollars for the needs assessment and the plan that came out of it. 

The bank NEVER did actually launch the plan. They had the best of intentions. They invested heavily to make certain their plan was actionable and that their desired outcomes would be achieved. But they failed to launch!

The “Launch” is where having a coach or a mentor can make a huge difference. Without someone to hold you accountable you may never begin. Or, you may have a few “false starts” and then never get going again. 

Think of all the time you’ve invested to this point. You likely know more about yourself then you ever have before. You’ve dreamed your dream and made a plan to make it become real. You’ve done the hardest part. 

All that’s left is to implement the plan. 

You need to take that first step. Some of us, okay, most of us will still need a little push. That’s what your coach or mentor is for. If you think coaches or mentors are only for big shots then don’t get one.  But find yourself an accountability partner and ask them to hold you accountable. The only requirement for an accountability partner is that they care enough about you to actually hold you accountable. 

I can’t say that strongly enough…whoever you ask to hold you accountable MUST truly CARE for you. That is a must must must! They need to be willing to keep encouraging you, pushing you, even scolding you in that’s what’s needed. Your accountability partner needs to stay along side of you when you tell them you’re done. They must care enough to not allow you to be done. 

Some people seem to misread the title of this step. After completing their plan instead of going to “launch” they simply go to lunch…and apparently never come back. Lunch can wait, your future will not! Implement your plan ASAP…as in today because in you’re always waiting for tomorrow, tomorrow never comes. 

Planning for a Better 2021 – The “Time Table”

Some people use time as an excuse. Highly successful people use time as a tool. 

Now that you know what you’ll stop doing in order to succeed and you know what you’ll start doing to achieve your goals you need to commit to a time table. This is such a critical step in the planning process yet many people skip it completely. 

Years ago when I would present Goal Setting Workshops for Dale Carnegie people would present truly outstanding goals. They presented them with such passion that it was obvious they wanted to achieve them. 

But when I asked when they would begin the pursuit of those goals they were completely flummoxed. They had not considered a starting date and time, they were simply going to do it. Except I knew they likely wouldn’t. Because they would most probably use time as an excuse for never actually beginning. I’ve seen it happen again and again. 

So for everything you committed to stop doing you need to add each one of those individually to a time table. EACH ONE, INDIVIDUALLY! If you think you can lump them all together and stop them all at once you need to be more realistic. 

Keep in mind you’re using a TIME table, not a date table. When adding a “stop action” to your time table list the date you will implement the stop action AND the time of day. Specifically. Exactly. Then put that in your calendar. In ink. In all caps. 

Tell the world about your commitment. Ask them, ask everyone, to hold you accountable. 

Use exactly the same process for everything you committed to start doing in order to achieve your goals and bring your plan to life. Specificity is key. You need to determine the exact date and time you will begin….or you’re unlikely to begin…ever.

Setting an exact date and time to begin your journey to goal achievement is an example of using time as a tool. Having an exact date and time in your plan and on your calendar gives you the tool of accountability. It helps you hold yourself accountable. Sharing that exact date and time with others might even give you more accountability than you want. 😀

One a word of caution about adding action items to your time table. The farther into the future you plan to stop or start an action the less likely it is that you’ll do it. The best time to begin is today. The second best time is tomorrow and the third best time is the next day. You can imagine how effective it WON’T be to start something 6 months from now…that’s almost as bad as having no start date at all. 

Today is the best day to take control of your life. If you begin today then all of your tomorrow’s will have a much better chance of going according to YOUR plan. If you don’t have a plan then you’ll have to settle for whatever happens to come your way. 

Don’t settle…plan!

Planning for a Better 2021 – The “Will Do”

The next step of the planning process is all about you! While some of the other steps could have involved other people this one does not. You are on your own here. You will ultimately determine whether or not your plan succeeds. I’ll suggest you have a coach or mentor in this step but they can help, they cannot succeed for you. 

There are no excuses in this step. I could have very well described this step as the Yoda step because this step is not the step where you “try” to accomplish the goals and objectives laid out in your plan, this is the step where you accomplish them…or not. As Yoda said, “No! Do or do not, there is no try.”

In the “will do” step YOU must make a commitment to yourself regarding what you are willing to do to achieve your goals. If you were serious about the last step then you will have cleared some time in your day to add some new activities to help you implement your plan and achieve your goals. In this step you lay out exactly what those activities will be and PRECISELY when you will do them. 

This is not a someday plan, this is a here and now plan. If you’ve gotten this far into the planning process you are closer to achieving your goals then perhaps you’ve ever been. All you need to do now is determine the investment you’re willing to make for it all to come true. 

Investments required to achieve goals come in two areas, financial and time. People typically make a commitment in one of those areas while forgetting about the other. Take me for instance, I have made substantial investments in fitness. I’ve joined one fitness club after another, giving them direct access into my bank account so my membership was always current. Over the years I’ve spent a small fortune on fitness club memberships because I take investing money in being healthy very seriously. 

Too bad for me I don’t take investing time in being healthy seriously too. Most of the fitness clubs I joined I never set foot in again after I had set up the automatic payments. I never even got to the new member tour. Because I never committed to making time to do it. I thought I was serious about it and I thought the money I spent proved I was serious but I was kidding myself. I got lucky when the last private club I joined burned down and I escaped the never ending payments. 

I proved the point that lack of initiative kills far more goals than lack of money ever will. 

I made two mistakes; I never actually stopped doing something so I could start doing something new. My calendar was already full every time I thought about going to the club. I wasn’t willing to sacrifice anything to get in shape so I didn’t get in shape. That’s a prefect example of a lack of priorities. 

My second mistake was not having someone to hold me accountable to get in shape. No coach. No mentor. I thought I could go it alone. No one achieves everything they want to achieve without help along to way. 

So in this step you need to do three things. 

First decide what investments you will make to achieve your goals. Consider both sides of the investment angle, time and money. Don’t promise yourself you’ll do it, commit to do it. Promises are pretty easy to blow off, commitments are stronger. 

Second, determine what you are willing to sacrifice. If you need a bit of extra money to achieve your goal then what will you give up. If you MUST stop at Starbucks every morning and that prevents you from taking a training course to improve yourself then I have but one word for you. Priorities!

Third, you need to find a mentor or coach. Even if it’s not a formal mentoring relationship you must have someone in your life who will challenge your commitment to the things you claim are important to you. Someone to ask you what the heck you’re doing. 

YOU must make the commitments to your future success. YOU must ultimately honor those commitments in order to succeed. Remember earlier in this series when I said this is YOUR plan? Well this is where that gets real. 

What will you do to accomplish your goals. When will you begin? What safeguards will you put in place to ensure you don’t quit before you reach your goal?

You’re getting closer to having a real plan. Real plans lead to real success. If you take this planning process seriously then you’ll have some serious success as well. 

Planning for a Better 2021 – The “Won’t Do”

When most people want to accomplish something they begin by thinking about what they will have to do in order to accomplish it. 

When the most successful people want to accomplish something they often begin by thinking about what they will need to stop doing in order to accomplish it. 

In the next step of the planning process we’ll discuss what you “will do” to achieve the goals you set in the last step. But before we do that we need to determine what we can eliminate from our daily activities. One of the big reasons people fail to achieve goals is they think they don’t have the time to work on them. They are soooo busy they can’t take on one more thing.

In all likelihood they are right about that, they can’t. Where they make their mistake however is in thinking they don’t have enough time. They have all the time in the world. What they are lacking are priorities. YOU can’t do it all! I know that for a fact because no one can do everything they want to do. 

If you can’t do everything that matters in your life then stop doing the things that don’t matter. 

Just like everyone else you have 1440 minutes in a day. You may be busy for every minute of the day but the most successful people don’t concern themselves with being busy…they focus on being productive. 

They know what activities and actions will get them closer to a goal and they make those activities a priority. They do them before less productive activities. 

The “won’t do” step of the planning process is where you keep track of exactly where your time goes. Every 15 minutes you make a quick note about what you were doing in the prior 15 minutes. Notice I said a quick note…the notes should be in categories such as “business call” or “personal call.” How ever you are using your precious allotment of time, write it down. Write it ALL down. 

If you’re like most people you don’t really know where your 1440 minutes are used each day. (Ever said to yourself “where did the day go?) The most successful people know how they have used their day at the end of it. Less successful people can only guess.

If you keep track of how you’re using your time you won’t have to guess. You don’t have to track your time usage very long, a typical week ought to be enough to give you a very good idea of where your time is being used. 

Once you have an idea of how you’re using your time then you can determine which things bring value into your life and which things simply steal your time. As I’ve said before, this is YOUR plan. It doesn’t matter if someone else thinks you’re using your time poorly. If YOU see value in how you’re using your time, and IF you’re being honest with yourself, then keep doing it.

If however it is not going to help you get closer to one of the goals you set earlier in the planning process then stop doing it in 2021. 

Don’t even think about the things you’ll need to start doing to reach your goals until you have a solid list of things you won’t be doing in the future. 2021 is the year you trade in being busy and replace it with being productive. If you don’t do the things that provide you nothing in return it’s very likely you’ll have all the time you need to accomplish everything that does. 

The Power of Planning

Plans don’t always work. I was reminded of that fact when a friend was telling a story from his childhood. 

 

His family had a large dog but he wanted a hamster. His parents surprised him one day with a hamster all is own. The dog was overly “interested” in the hamster so my friend made a plan to keep the hamster safe and sound. 

 

His plan involved keeping the hamster in a box with a clothesline running through it. He would attach one end of the clothesline to one wall and the other end to the opposite wall. He was sure to hang it high enough so that the dog couldn’t reach it. He was at least as sure as a ten year old could be. 

 

He was pretty sad upon returning from school one day to find his beloved hamster in multiple pieces with the box laying nearby. I guess hanging the box five feet off the floor was just too enticing a target for a dog that stood 3-1/2 feet on all fours. 

 

As elaborate a plan as it was for a ten year old it just didn’t work out. 

 

So plans don’t always work but here is the good news…planning almost always does. I should say that planning almost always works, or is beneficial if…. you’re using a solid planning process. 

 

With that in mind here is an 8-step planning process I’ve written about before. I’ve used it for years as have many other successful people I know. It simply works.

 

Step one is to develop a clear and honest picture of your current situation. Many people don’t get to where they want to go because they have no idea where they are starting from. If you’re not completely honest with yourself in this step the rest of the process is likely doomed to fail. 

 

Step two is stating a very specific understanding and vision of your desired situation or outcome. Specificity is the key here, if your desired outcome is murky your results will be too. 

 

Step three is where the real work begins. That’s where you develop short, medium and long range goals. A short range goal could be a day, week or even a month. The longest range goals can be as far out into the future as you like but there must be an end date. Someday is NOT on your calendar or anybody else’s. Don’t mess around with this, the end date must be in your expected lifetime. (Yes, I’ve actually seen people set goals for after they are dead) Your goals must be specific, measurable, realistic, and timed. I repeat, someday is not a real day. 

 

Step four is where the actual plans are developed. What actions are you willing to take each day to get closer to one or more of your goals? What will you change to make it happen? (The only way something doesn’t need to change is if you have already achieved the goal) What are you willing to sacrifice in order to achieve your goals? 

 

One point I’d like to make here. I wrote what actions are you willing to take each day to get closer to your goals. It is my personal belief that no matter how busy you may have been on any given day, if you didn’t get closer to either a personal or professional goal you were not productive. Successful people do not mistake a busy day for a productive one and if you want to be successful then you shouldn’t either.

 

Step five is determining the investment you are willing to make to ensure that your plan succeeds. While you are determining the investment you’re willing to make don’t forget that every successful outcome likely requires two things, money AND time. Believe it or not the money part is often easier than the time part. I can’t tell you the number of times I made a plan to get in better shape. I set some goals, joined a club, wrote a big fat check and failed. I failed because I never committed the time to actually go to the club. After many expensive memberships I finally determined it just wasn’t a priority in my life. Don’t make my mistake, if you’re not committed to your plan then you’re not committed to success.

 

Step six is setting up your time table. Most people think this is only about deadlines. That’s a common mistake. Just as important as when the plan will come to fruition is determining when you will put the plan into action. I’ve seen many a great plan never implemented. If there are not specific action steps built into your plan, including the very first action you will take, then you may have a decent plan but your planning process is fatally flawed. 

 

Step seven is launching the plan. Put some air under its wings, take the first action you’ve planned and see what happens. 

 

Step eight is the follow-up step. Hopefully you have trusted people in your life that you have shared your plan with. Revisit your plan with them often. The fact that everything isn’t happening exactly as you planned doesn’t mean the plan was bad, stuff happens. The best news is your plan allows you to see where and how you’ve gotten off track, that makes it much easier to get back on. 

 

Very few plans remain completely intact throughout the process of implementing them. Don’t let the first hiccup derail your success, adjust, re-launch, and move forward. Repeat as often as necessary. 

 

My friend got another hamster, he used a nearly identical plan to protect it. The second plan merely included the addition of a ladder to hang the box higher. Work your plan as designed, adjust as needed, and you’ll go higher too. 


That’s the power of planning! 

Your Most Important Day Ever

What was or what will be the most important day of your life? 

 

Maybe it was your 18th birthday, you know, the day you could begin repaying your parents or caregivers for all that they have done for you. Perhaps it was or will be your wedding day, the day your life journey with the person of your dreams truly begins. It could be the day that you were fortunate enough to realize your true purpose in life. 

 

All of those days no doubt had or will have tremendous impact on your life. They are very special days indeed. But the reality is that today is the most important day of your life. 

 

Most people don’t think of it that way but here’s why it’s true. Today is the singular day you can control. Maybe not all of it but more of it than any other day. Today is the day that has the potential to make tomorrow and all of your tomorrows after that your best day yet. 

 

You cannot change yesterday. The best thing yesterday can do for you is inform the decisions that you make today. Learn from yesterday’s mistakes and keep the good memories close but in terms of overall importance to your future, yesterday is a has been. Never never never allow a bad yesterday to make your today a bad day too.

 

I like forward thinking people but never focus so much on tomorrow that you lose control of today. Whatever else you don’t do waste one precious minute of this day worrying about what might happen tomorrow. 

 

Instead carve out a part of today that will ensure tomorrow is exactly what you want it to be. 

 

Early, very early each morning I invest 30 minutes planning my day. I block time to accomplish the important things I must do that day. It makes no difference what time zone or part of the world I’m in. Those 30 minutes are often the most important, and productive, minutes of my day. 

 

My day doesn’t always go according to my plan, in fact it often doesn’t. But it does give me a measure of control over my day that few other people have over theirs. 

 

I want that control because today is too important to waste. 

 

I may chose to do nothing but rest. I may chose to not do anything at all but whatever I do it happens by choice and not by chance. Unless of course my plan is to have no plan that day and see where the wind takes me. That too is a choice that I make for MY life. 

 

I make that choice because today is too important to waste. 

 

Circumstances and “stuff” can knock me off my plan but only MY choice can keep me from returning to it. When I regain control of my circumstances I go straight back to my plan for the day. It’s those 30 minutes early in the day that make that possible. 


I invest those 30 minutes each morning because today is my most important day ever. It’s way too important to waste. It’s your most important day ever too!


Do You Have a Plan for Success?

I’m sometimes asked for my definition of success. I always start the same way, by explaining success is very personal and my definition is likely to be different than the next person’s. But I’m convinced that whatever your personal definition of success happens to be you’ll be more likely to achieve it if you have a solid plan. 

 

To be sure, a plan does not guarantee success, there are other factors in play as well but a plan, a good, well thought-out plan, can take into account many of those factors and provide you with a level of control over seemingly uncontrollable events. 

 

As I’ve seen again and again through the years the single biggest cause of failed plans is that they are never actually put into action. No plan, no matter how good it may be, will succeed if you never take action on it. 

 

While a plan does not guarantee success not taking action on a good plan virtually does guarantee failure or at least much more limited success than you otherwise might have. The bottom line on plans is pretty clear, if your plan is not actionable then it’s not really a good plan.

 

As we near the end of 2017 I’d like to share with you a planning method I’ve used through the years with great success. It is a simple process for developing an actionable plan; be careful however not to make the mistake of thinking that a simple process makes the execution of your plan simple, success is hard work.

 

I also feel the need here to add another caution; we’re talking here about a strong 2018 but don’t let that lull you into thinking 2017 is over, there’s still time to finish strong. No matter what kind of year 2017 has been for you how you finish it absolutely matters. Finish strong!

    

So, first let’s determine what an actionable plan is not: It is not, “I’m going to work harder” or “I’m going to work smarter” or any variation of the same. That is not a plan; it is a dream, a dream that turns into the nightmare of the same old thing.

     

A plan that succeeds has action built into it, the actions are very specific, and the actions have measurable standards that leave no doubt as to whether they have been accomplished. Each individual action has its own deadline, a deadline which is critical because you’ll never find “someday” on a calendar.

    

Here is an 8-Step Planning Process that has been proven time and again to help people achieve success if they are willing to put in the required effort:

1. Develop a clear picture of your current situation – we must know where we are before we can know where we are going

2. Be certain you know your vision of the desired situation – specificity is a key here

3. Develop short, medium and long range goals – it is perfectly okay to adjust your goals as circumstances change and don’t forget, one of the secrets of goal achievement is to break big goals into smaller ones to make the big goal easier to achieve 

4. Develop your program – how will you succeed – what will you sacrifice – remember success is not just about what you will START doing, often what you STOP doing is just as important. Be as specific as you can possibly be in this step

5. Determine the investment you are willing to make (time & money) – the commitment of time is frequently harder to make than a financial commitment

6. Set your Time Table – When will it all happen – just like it says, Time Table, specific dates and times, giving yourself a range of dates is giving yourself the opportunity to delay your success

7. Implement the total plan – no plan is more worthless than the plan never put into action

8. Follow-up – Check back often on how you’re doing – and while you’re checking back find someone that cares about you to hold you accountable to your plan, this is a lot of work and is almost impossible to accomplish alone

     

That’s it, there is your planning process, and before you start telling yourself you can succeed without doing all this “work” let me share something else with you: What you call success today will pale when compared to the success that is possible when you execute a solid plan.

     

Don’t think of your plan as work, think of it is an investment and it is the greatest investment you can make because it is an investment in yourself. You matter, your success matters and if you will commit to a plan you will see results almost immediately. The plan may not always “work” the way you intended but I can promise you the planning always will.