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! 

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.

Success is no Accident

Success is no accident. Success is the result of hard work, perseverance, help from those around you and a solid plan. The more solid the plan, the better. Developing a plan for success increases your chances of success 100%. Yep, a plan doubles, at least, the likelihood of success. I find that statistic very interesting but here is one even more interesting, or scary depending on your point of view. 80% of people go through life with no actionable plan for success. 80%!

     

I’m pleased that everyone reading this has a real plan for success, one that truly drives their behavior. I must admit however that I am a little suspect that everybody reading this is indeed among that 20%. So let’s see if it’s true.

     

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 the plan into action:

 

1.  Clear picture of current situation – we must know where we are before we can know where we are going

 

2. A clear understanding and vision of the desired situation – specificity is a key here

 

3.  Development of short, medium and long range goals – it is perfectly okay to adjust your goals as circumstances change

 

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

 

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

 

6. 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 enough to hold you accountable to your plan, this is a lot of work and is almost impossible to accomplish alone

     

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

     

Your plan is not work, it is an investment and it is one of the greatest investments 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. 


So, what’s your plan?

The Perils of Planning – Part Two

No battle plan survives contact with the enemy. – German military strategist Helmuth von Moltke.

In part one of this post we laid out the first four steps of an 8-step planning process. Those 4 steps represent a fair amount of effort and thought, more than the average person puts into an entire planning process. 

Despite that effort and thought you STILL don’t have a plan! Those first four steps are only about preparing to plan, they are not the plan. 

In part two of this post we’ll finally get to the actual plan. Before we begin let’s review. Here are the first 4 steps in the process:

  • Develop a realistic picture of the “as is” or your current situation.
  • Paint yourself a picture of the “should be” or your desired situation. 
  • Determine the investment you are willing to make in order to successfully execute your plan. This investment should be thought of in terms of both financial and time.
  • Set short range, medium range and long range goals that will stretch you while remaining realistic and obtainable. 

Ok, let’s continue with the process:

Step five – Develop your timetable. A plan is serious business, it’s not a “someday I’m going to” thing. Someday is not a day of the week. Doing anything in your free time doesn’t happen because your watch doesn’t show free time. There is no free time any more. A plan must include a timetable, the timetable has timelines, dates and deadlines. It includes when you will begin implementing the plan and when the plan will be complete. It includes start and end dates for each and every goal, whether they are short range, medium range or long range. Timetables create the pressure and accountability required to make something happen. A plan without a timetable is a plan doomed to failure.

Step six – Prepare the plan. This is the step where the rubber meets the road. You list, with great, great specificity exactly the steps you will take to achieve each goal within the plan. In this step you determine the who, what, when, and how of your plan. Who will help you, who will mentor you and hold you accountable to stick to the plan when the going gets tough?  What will you do and when will you do it? When will you review your plan and make adjustments if required? Perhaps most important how will you respond to a failure within the plan?  Remember, always remember, a failure in part of the plan does not make the entire plan a failure. No plan survives real life completely intact. 

Step seven – Implement the plan! It’s amazing how many people do a pretty decent job with the planning process and then never actually put the plan into action. No plan has a chance to succeed until it’s implemented. It’s okay to start slow but it’s vital to start. 

Step eight – Follow-up. This step is critical to the success of any plan. Not just follow up at the end of a plan but follow-up during the entire plan. Review and review some more. Tweak and adjust. Keep your plan alive by changing it as required. It’s not a mistake to admit you forgot something, it’s a mistake to ditch the entire plan because of one or two mistakes. Have your mentor or coach help you review your plan, a good mentor will help you keep it real. 

So that’s it, an 8-step process that can lead to success. 

Successful people plan, they know that even when the plan doesn’t work as designed proper planning always pays dividends. If you truly want success then do what successful people do….plan!

The Perils of Planning – Part One

No battle plan survives contact with the enemy. – German military strategist Helmuth von Moltke.

People tell me all the time that they don’t plan because plans don’t work. They say “stuff” always comes up that keeps them from executing their plan. People interrupt them, things outside of their control go wrong or someone, likely a boss or customer throws a wrench into the plan. All of those things are the enemy of your plan.

As common as I know those things are they are also the very reason everyone needs a plan.

Success comes from planning!

Someone may achieve some level of success without a plan but it’s the kind of success that is nearly impossible to sustain. It’s short-lived because they are not certain how they achieved it and even less certain about how they will maintain it. 

Here’s a fact about planning: while plans often don’t succeed planning almost always does. The thought process that goes into developing a plan is always useful whether the plan succeeds or not…. if the planning process used was a good one. 

Below is the first half of an proven 8-step planning process that can help you find success, whether the plan succeeds or not.

Step one – Determine the “As-Is” or current situation. Before you can get to where you want to go you must know where you are. Many plans fail in this very first step because people don’t always take a realistic look at where they are at. They sugar-coat their issues, they believe they are farther along the path to their goals then they really are. Sometimes they have convinced themselves they are working hard enough to succeed when they are barely working at all. You MUST be brutally honest with yourself in this step, if you fail to develop an accurate picture of where you’re currently at you’ll find it very difficult to chart a course to ultimate success.

Step two – Determine the “Should-Be” or desired situation. This is a highly personal step, in this step you determine what success means to you. Many plans fail because people chase somebody else’s dream. When the inevitable bumps in the road show up we give up because we don’t want the dream in the first place. Don’t determine “a” desired situation, determine “your” desired situation. 

Step three – Determine the investment that you’re willing to make to achieve your goals. The common mistake people make in this step is thinking of investment solely in terms of money. The money is the easy part when compared to the physical and mental part. I can’t tell you how many dollars I’ve spent on fitness club memberships; writing the check was the easy part. I seldom was willing to invest the time required to use the club. When you think of your investment you must ask yourself if you’re willing to invest the time and effort required to succeed. DON’T FORGET, if you’re going to start doing something new you’ll likely have to stop doing something you’ve been doing. What are you willing to give up to get something else?

Step four – Set goals. Set short-term goals, perhaps as short as a day or a couple of weeks but no longer than a few months. Set medium-range goals, somewhere between 3 months and a year. Set long-range goals, from a year to 5 or 10 years. Some of the goals may be “slam dunk” goals but some should be stretch goals. Push yourself, if you easily achieve your goals it’s likely your not pushing yourself to your full potential. That said, do not set unrealistic goals, they demotivate you and can cause you to give up on your entire plan. 

That’s it for this post, we’ll look at the final 4 steps of the planning process in out next post. Those steps are the difference between a plan that could work and a plan that will work!