The Journey: Planning (it’s important)

This is the first installment in The Journey.  I have a few other draft posts that highlight some of the topics I want to cover and thought those might be the best first post, but the more I think about it, the more the idea of planning comes to mind as the best place to start.

I suspect that the ideas and concepts that I reference below are not new to you.   I’m sure you’ve read about them before or even use them in your daily routines.  However, if you are like me it’s always good to have a reminder of what works and to explore how others use planning concepts.

Exposed To Planning At A Young Age

I suppose you could say that I have planning in my DNA.  Growing up both my parents used lists and monthly planners to handle their tasks and work towards their goals.

Let’s talk about my mom’s use of planners and to do lists.  Everyday she would start with her glass of iced tea and a blank sheet of paper.  She wrote down all the tasks she needed to complete that day and then would place that list on the counter above where the dishwasher was.  As she knocked out a task,  she’d cross it off her list.  That’s how she got through the day and made sure that everything got done, everyone was where they needed to be and that the house was running as it should be.

While in high school friends had given me a planner as a Christmas gift.  Turns out that while it was a thoughtful gift, it was also given as a reminder to schedule all aspects of my life.  A few friends thought I was over-committed (work, clubs, groups, sports) as well as was spending too much time with the girl friend and not enough time with my other friends.   Point Taken!

Lastly, while in college I had adopted the Franklin Covey method of planning and used their planners.   I Listened to the tapes, read the book and started to use the concepts that Covey had used to help people achieve their goals and accomplish their tasks.  Until the proliferation of smartphones I had used a paper based planner as much as I could.

This isn’t a post about which planner to use, just that having a planning method is important to organize your days, your weeks and your months.

Your Business Plan

Do you have a business plan?  You should.  It doesn’t matter what job you have, the type of business you own or the role you play in an organization – you need to have a business plan.

Many years ago a friend asked how I was spending my time off.  In typical fashion I was taking the last two weeks of the year off to burn up some PTO, spend time with family and prepare for the next year.  I advised him that some of my time would be spent refining my Business Plan.  “Your what?”, he replied.  He never thought of having a business plan for his current, corporate role.

I explained to him that every year I develop a Business Plan for my role.  It includes my individual goals, the tasks needed to meet the goals, the resources I needed to be successful and what the path looked like to get there.  I generally used PowerPoint to develop this plan and I would make sure that it aligned with my department goals.  I used to love sharing these plans with my leadership.  Having a plan made it easier to engage resources when needed.  The plans helped sell ideas on how to win larger RFPs.  These plans also helped me stay on track each quarter  so that I would be certain to hit my goals.  One other benefit is that if I ever needed to hand off a project or responsibility – it was documented and could be easily communicated to the next person that would be taking on the project.

Why Is A Plan Important To You?

The idea of The Journey is to share what I’ve learned along the way and to help the reader ponder their own journey.

When I decided that I wanted to go off an do something on my own I developed a rough Business Plan.  It started off as a couple of paragraphs, a few spreadsheets and was basically a collection of ideas with no process to make it a reality.  However, I didn’t yet need that process.  What I needed was to vet out my idea.  With a rough framework of a business plan I was able to talk about it with bankers, potential clients and industry experts.   Each month I would revise the plan and expand the plan as I learned more about the industry and solicited feedback.  There would be months when it would just gather dust and there were months were I couldn’t stop thinking about it.   However, I had a plan that I could work on, revise and share.

My biggest fear with having that plan was that it would never become something.  What I mean here is that what if someone else started my idea?  What if I never opened the business?  What if I never put my plan into action?

If you have an idea – whether it’s for something full time or even a side hustle, start planning it.  Use whatever works for you; Evernote, Word, Docs or a paper journal.  For me, it was Word.  Being able to insert graphs, tables, charts and a table of contents made it easy to work with.  If I had to start it today I’d probably start with Evernote to collect and organize thoughts and information and then transfer it in Word or Docs.

While execution is important, without a plan you have nothing to execute.  Start planning!

The Ideal Planning Example

To me there is no greater planning example than a marathon training plan.  I’ve run six marathons in my life.  Doubtful I’ll run anymore, but the training to get there requires a focused plan.  In fact, that’s what I really enjoyed about the marathon – the training and planning.  Without a plan I would have not been able to finish one marathon, let alone six.

Without going into a ton of detail here’s what I would do…

I would develop a 20 week training plan. Each day was preplanned so I knew exactly what I needed to do for the next 140 days to be successful.  Somedays had long runs, some short runs.  Some days were off days and others were cross training.  I had scheduled races along the way.  There was no way I could fail if I followed that plan.  How many of us schedule the important parts of our lives this way?   Not many I suspect.

This kind of detail is important if we want to be successful.  Imagine if you pre-planned each day with your “ultimate” goal in mind?  How could you fail?  You probably wouldn’t!

How Will You Win In 2018?

When I started to draft this is was late 2017 and now 2018 is here.  Perfect example of planning versus execution – hey there’s another blog post idea!

2018 is here and it’s not too late to put your plan into motion.   The new year means new goals, new opportunities and new challenges.  They all await us in the this new year.

So how will you prepare and plan?