Start the year with a plan not a resolution

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This year, I noticed, or rather noted, the absence of the fated storm of emails and online reminders to set a new year’s resolution. This at least was the case on my social media channels, on Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, LinkedIn, as far as my eye could see.

(Perhaps this was not the case on mainstream television or radio, I would not know as I don’t spend time there).

We all struggle to make, let alone keep, new year’s resolutions, and the obvious reason is because we don’t have a plan for them.

If I decided in November of 2015 to stop eating sugar, I may devise a strategic and systematic plan to achieve this goal by January 1, 2016.

Week 1 Goal: don’t walk down the sweets aisle when grocery shopping
Week 2 Goal: Week 1 Goal + order coffee/tea/hot chocolate without sugar at cafes
Week 3 Goal: Week 1 Goal + Week 2 Goal + avoid alcohol, which is packed with sugar
The result: by January 1, 2016 when I confidently announce, “my new year’s resolution is to no longer eat sugar,” I would indeed succeed and feel great about myself.

The reality, however, is that new year’s resolutions fail as quickly as they are declared.

Planning is compulsory, new year’s resolutions are optional

Now that your first week of 2016 has begun and you go home at the end of the day to rest—maybe in front of the television or maybe on your computer, tablet or phone—or possibly somewhere without a smart device—it’s time to stop and decide to plan your 2016.

Whether you are a husband, wife or CEO, your plan can be simple, complex or somewhere in between.

Pages and pages of valid researched content is highly valuable, but so also are ideas in bullet points or lists written with texta on butcher paper.

The crucial part of planning is beginning, taking pen to paper and determining, “I am going to write a plan”. What your plan looks like is going to matter at this point only to you. Whether you are writing a plan to achieve your family goals for 2016 or whether you are a CEO planning to motivate your management team, this first stage is for you. You will have ample time to sit down in meetings with your managers (or wife) to brainstorm, delegate, detail and define your complete plan, but for now get it right in your mind.

It’s also important to understand that a plan is not the same as goals/objectives, and I assume this is understood, however defining your goals/objectives is a planning process. Your vision and mission also strongly influence your goals/objectives.

1. Think before you write

My plans often begin with thinking of what I want to achieve (goals/objectives) and how I want to achieve them (plan) in my mind. I can spends days or weeks “thinking” my plan. I try not to go beyond weeks, however, because I believe it’s important to write them down—documenting your goals/plan as soon as possible without rushing the process is crucial.

2. Write before you rule out

I will start with a simple bullet point list of my thoughts for my business—whatever comes to my head or has been cogitating for weeks. I won’t throw out ideas until I have written them down and looked at them. I also review them alone before I discuss them with others.

3. Divide and conquer

Once I have reviewed my lists I will then take each goal/plan and map it to broad business areas, e.g. operations, finance, sales, marketing, HR, etc.

Then I will divide each area into specific areas, e.g. employees, suppliers, online marketing, offline marketing, etc.

Then divide into even more specific areas, e.g. full-time staff, contractors, suppliers, social media, direct mail, etc., mapping each goal/plan to the more specific areas as I go.

4. Go electronic

At this point I have goals and plans all mixed together under the specific areas of my business. These are all on butcher paper, so now it’s time to look at transferring this information logically into a planning template, or simply creating my own Word table which lists in the header row “Business Area, Goal, Plan, Action and Due Date” and down the left column the specific business area.

5. Review and discuss

It is at this point that I will review, refine and tweak my plan if necessary and only then organise a meeting to brainstorm or discuss it with key strategic partners, senior management or an external consultant. In some cases you may need a consultant to work with you through each stage of the planning process and not just at this point. Whichever way you go, do what you can alone as best as you can with clarity in your own mind, because your investment dollar will go much further with a consultant or strategic expert when you are clear about what you want to achieve.

6. Implement, test and measure (at set intervals)

The last step is in my opinion the most difficult part of planning. While all the previous steps seem like a lot of work, and indeed may be, the hardest part is to actually do what you have planned, thereby testing and measuring its efficacy. I’m sure there are countless statistics about the success of businesses that plan, and even greater success of businesses that follow their plans, in contrast to the dismal failure of businesses that do neither.

It’s also very easy to have your completed plan printed and wiro bound at a local print shop so you can have it at arms reach any time for quick reference.

In Conclusion

New year’s resolutions often do not work or are not fulfilled. Planning, on the other hand, is a continual achievement. When we take the time to plan, we achieve the tasks set out in our plan and the realisation of whether our goals/objectives are feasible.

Once we think, write, review, discuss and do, our plan becomes the actualisation of our goals.

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