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!