Planning for a Better 2021 – The “Follow-Up”

Congratulations! You have a plan. If you’ve followed the steps we laid out in the previous 7 posts you not only have a plan, you have a plan based on your values and goals. There are not too many people who can say that. So good for you.

While your plan is ready to be implemented, or “launched” it is not yet done. In fact, the best plans are never done. That’s why the 8th and not really “final” step in the process is called The “Follow-Up.” 

Even as you work your way through your plan you should be reviewing it periodically to make sure it still “works” for you. If we’ve learned anything from 2020 it’s that life has a not so funny way of turning our plans to mush. 

Mushy plans are not good plans. So constantly be tweaking your plan. 

While tweaking your plan you must keep this undying principle in mind…you plans can, will, and should change as circumstances require. The Core Values upon which you’ve built your plan should remain rock solid. 

Your well thought out and developed plan is a living plan. Do not allow it to die a circumstantial death. As your environment changes, as you change, as circumstances change, your plans must change as well.

The “Follow-Up” step is where you schedule 30, 60, 90, 180 day reviews of your plan. During the 180 day review schedule additional follow-ups as needed. Put these follow-ups on your calendar. Ask your coach, mentor, or accountability partner to review the progress you’ve made towards your plan. They can offer suggestions for adjustments or advise you to stay the course. 

You now have a plan that clearly states who you are and where you are. You have a plan that says specifically who you will be in the future. You have a plan that illuminates the path that you need to follow to arrive at your goals in life. 

Continuously feed your plan with fresh thinking. Provide it with the effort and discipline needed to keep your plan in constant forward motion. 

Your reward will be a life full of the things you earned while working your plan. Pay particular attention to that previous sentence. Your reward will be the things you EARNED while WORKING your plan. 

You have an awesome plan but it will not work for you if you do not work for it. Work your plan and enjoy the life it helps you earn.

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 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!