Planning is for sure the word of the month. Every start of the year makes us set goals, draft deadlines and dream a little.
Besides being a very good incentive to buy notebooks, planning is also a stage that helps our brain prepare and distribute its resources. In order for this stage to have the desired impact, a few criteria need to be met when making a plan, especially one that involves an organization.
Even if you are sure you have the best plan in mind, take a moment to think about your HOWs and what some alternative routes to your destination might be.
Let’s say you want to start your writing career by publishing your first book this year. You have your topic all set and you think the best plan is to simply plan 6 hours of writing every day until you meet your goal.
Now, here are some alternatives. The biggest challenge is probably drawing the characters, context, and plot. After that, the story might grow naturally. So an alternative would be to focus more resources on having the structure ready, then allowing yourself time for inspiration and learning. Let’s say 1 month of full-time writing work, with the following months of less pressure.
Another approach would be to write down key information that should be in your book. Then draft a timeline and plan your working schedule based on each module or chapter. 20 hours on the intro, 112 on chapter one, etc.
Thinking about alternatives may offer you new perspectives on your plan. And, most importantly, it allows you to test drive your initial idea by asking your brain to confront it with different options.
Go From Big to Small
Thinking about the macro before the micro allows you to divide attention and effort. You will no longer have to think about everything at the same time. You only need to work on what your current phase is.
To continue the previous example, thinking about all the details in the book all the time might lead to never writing it. However, breaking it in chapters and main events will direct your focus and creativity on one topic at a time. Another great benefit is that having this structure will remove the pressure of uncertainty. What should I write next? What should I do now to grow my business? How should I develop my employer branding to recruit the best employees? The unknown is a strong stress factor and removing it will push your efforts further instead of consuming valuable energy.
To start, find the biggest steps or phases in your project. If nothing else comes to mind, use a classic Prepare – Deliver – Evaluate&Learn framework. Then write down the main steps or actions to be done for each. When this stage is over, take each phase and plan in detail the objectives, actions, stakeholders, and resources.
Don’t Get Lost in Details
If you are planning a project you are very enthusiastic about, you will definitely have a million ideas in mind about how things should go: the presentation materials, the title of the first email, the look and feel for the landing pages, the channels, a video script, the design of the room to have a business shooting, the outfit maybe.
Your brain will love these details. They are candy for it because it allows it to focus on the aspects it wants and loves. But too much sugar is bad. And so are too many details. If you focus so much on the little things you risk missing the big picture.
As an entrepreneur or project owner, your role is to sail everybody to success, not to drive the project into the wall because the details are not perfect. After all, perfection is just a sisyphic chore.
Pretty basic, right? How many times have you sent a meeting invite or set an alarm?
Yet practicing this in project management is rare. The reminders I am referring to are however not detail-oriented. They are not the “buy toothpaste” or “pay cable” kind of reminders. They are timeline-oriented, meant to let you know when you are about to enter a new stage of the project. A timeline reminder would be: “you have entered the last five days of project drafting” or “you entered the execution phase. For the next 25 days, your goal is to deliver this webinar to over 200 people.“
Having these reminders set very early in the project will help you and your team with an extra automated project manager. Plus, you can structure them so that you offer a little extra motivation as well. Imagine you would receive a reminder saying: “You’ve done a great job so far. Keep it up and we will get to our goals in no time!“
Have Clear KPIs
Know how your destination looks like. Feel it, then break it into objectives and indicators that motivate and help you navigate.
Knowing that you want to have a book on the market is important. And to get there answer yourself some further questions:
- how many pages will the book have?
- how many copies do I want to sell in the first round?
- what is the number of pages I will write daily to have the book done in a year?
- what readership will my online free chapter have?
- how much money will I make from this book?
Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) are generally measurable so that you can easily track across time. Sometimes breaking a phase into something measurable is challenging but it helps revealing specific actions and resources invested. How do you measure the awareness your project or brand has? What do you guide yourself in order to say your popularity has increased or decreased compared to last year?
These 5 recommendations to plan a great year can easily move to a list of twenty. But it is not the size of the list that matters, but the thought behind it: always search to simplify your work and your life. When it’s easy to do a good job, you might find yourself naturally doing a great one.
Performance is not about effort, but about energy invested wisely.