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. 

If This, Then That, If That, Then This

The problem with making a plan is that the plan often fails. Some unforeseen “thing” happens and the whole plan falls apart.

That’s why I never make a plan. Instead, I make plans. My plans take on the look of a flow chart. It is full of one contingency after another. If this happens then I’ll do that. If that happens then I’ll do this…and on it goes. It is like having plans within your plans.

I review those plans on a regular basis and rewrite them as necessary at the beginning of each New Year. There is no better stress reducer than preparation and that has never been truer than in this particular year.

My “if this, then that” plans could never have foreseen what is happening in the world right now. But the combinations of my “if this, then that” plans do in fact account for nearly every single change and related consequences we’ve seen so far. And for me, as for many of you, some of those have been whoppers.

The whole “if this, then that” strategy comes from a single principle from a life changing book by Dale Carnegie. The title of that book is “How to Stop Worrying and Start Living.” It is far from Mr. Carnegie’s most famous work. But people who have also read his legendary “How to Win Friends and Influence People” would give the edge to what Carnegie folks call “The Worry Book.”

The principle says to “Consider the worst that can happen. Accept the worst. Try to improve upon the worst.” I don’t suppose Mr. Carnegie realized it at the time but that translates pretty well into “if that happens I’ll do this, if this happens I’ll do that.

Knowing what you’ll do in difficult circumstances offers you great peace of mind when those circumstances arrive. Making big decisions before they need to be made allows you to make much better decisions.

I guess I’m supposed to be stressed out by all that’s going on around me but I’ve reviewed every single “if this, then that” in my plans. I can’t find a single one that says “be stressed” so there is no stress to be found.

There is no stress because my wife and I are implementing plans we made 25 years ago. Frankly we are a little farther into the “if this, then that” scenarios than we would like to be but that’s fine because we are in complete control of our futures. No one else gets to decide them for us.

You can have that same authority over your life IF you make plans that contemplate every possible outcome. This type of planning takes a pretty serious investment of time but the return on that investment is peace of mind and that my friends is priceless.

I may not get to decide all of my circumstances but I have complete control over how I respond to them. You too can have complete control over the circumstances of your life if you’re willing to make the effort before you need to.

As for me, I’ll just follow my plans because I know exactly where they lead.

There is No Requirement to Plan

So much has been written about planning. Trainers, speakers, coaches, motivational types, they all write and speak about the importance of planning. Especially this time of year. 

 

They will tell you that you must have a plan for 2019. They will use all the standard cliches about failing to plan is planning to fail…you’ve heard it all before. That’s ridiculous, nobody would intentionally plan to fail. 

 

The truth is that you don’t need to plan to fail, it kind of happens all by itself. There is no special effort required. If fact, the less effort the better. Giving a half-hearted effort with no plan only delays the inevitable failure. So just sit back and watch it happen….to you. 

 

Don’t let people bully you into making a plan that you have no intention of following. I can hardly think of a bigger waste of time. Step up and be honest about it. Let them know straight away that you have no intention of putting forth the effort required to implement any plan. 

 

Most people will leave you alone after that. They leave you alone because their plan does not include helping others. Well, truth be told it’s far more likely that they don’t have a plan either. 

 

It’s actually a rather small number of people who have a real plan. Now by “real plan” I mean something written out. It includes an honest assessment of their current situation and a realistic look at their desired outcome. 

 

Within their real plan are short range, medium, and long range goals. Their plan has a budget within it. It’s a two part budget, one part details the money they are will to invest to achieve their desired outcome but more importantly it details the time they are willing to invest in order to succeed. 

 

The best plans also include things they will STOP doing so they have the time to invest in more productive activities. Of course it’s not a real plan if it doesn’t include implementation steps, start dates and completion dates. The plan does NOT include words like tomorrow or someday because people who make real plans know those “dates” can’t be found on a calendar. 

 

You can spot people with real plans because they are typically the people who people without plans complain about. People without plans are jealous of people with plans because they tend to have more of the stuff that the people without plans want. 

 

If that’s confusing to you don’t worry about it, I’ve been confused by it for years. 

 

It’s never too late to develop a real plan. If you’re one of those people who are tempted to once and for all develop a real plan for success in 2019 I have a warning for you. Once you invest the time to develop a REAL plan for 2019 it will continuously pull at your “lazy strings” until they are completely unraveled. 

 

Before you know it all the comfortable excuses you used in the past to explain away your “bad luck” or “unfortunate circumstances” will be forgotten. You won’t accept circumstances created by someone else, you’ll make your own. 

 

You will find yourself accomplishing more than you thought possible. You’ll use your old excuses as fuel to motivate you. You won’t stop until you’ve achieved the goals you built into your real plan. 

 

 Or…you could just do what you’ve always done. There is absolutely no requirement that you have a plan for success. You can just wander through life the way some people do. Like pretty much everything in life it’s a choice. 


YOUR choice!


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.