The key to any plan is to have it written down someplace. If it's written down, you can be held accountable to it. A plan without accountability is no plan at all.
When looking at your plan over time, you need to see three things:
1) Where did I want to be,
2) Where am I, and
3) A plan of attack to make up the difference quickly if there is a gap.
The key is to make a plan, write it down, and ask the three questions above throughout the plan.
Your plan should be specific enough to keep you on course towards your purpose, but agile and flexible enough to take on new opportunities that may allow you to reach your purpose quicker, or in a way you never thought possible.
There are lots of different planning styles and programs...I frankly think they over-complicate the process. You spend 8-hours analyzing what you could have found out in about 3-hours. After years of going through many different planning styles, I've boiled it down to a few simple steps. I use this in both my personal life, as well as, our association planning. Here are the steps:
Step One: Identify Your Threats to Achieving Your Purpose
On your journey of achieving your purpose, various obstacles are going to get in the way. They may be the economy, an ineffective boss, divorce, or a competitor. Regardless of what they are, you need to identify what those threats are, and then determine whether they are controllable or uncontrollable. If they are uncontrollable, write down what you should do as a contingency if it were to occur. If it is controllable, this is where you want to put your real effort. I have found in my life, most people are so worried about what they can't control, they forget to be 100% effective and focused in what they can control.
These are the tools you will use to overcome the obstacles in step 1, and take advantage of opportunities that come your way. Resources may be your job, your network of people, or training you are involved in. After you have a full list of resources, brainstorm what resources you need to acquire to be more effective at achieving your mission for life, or your association. Once you have this full list, you have all the tools you need to be successful.
Step 3: Ask Yourself Three Questions:
- What am I doing now that I should be doing differently?
- What I am not doing that I should be doing?
- What am I doing that I should stop doing because it's done?
After deciding what your purpose in life or business is, performing these three simple steps helps to keep you on track with minor adjustments, as opposed to waking up one day and having to create radical change because you let yourself go adrift.
I want to make one final point on planning in the area of life...this is soooo important. I think everyone should have a plan in the areas of physical health, emotional development, spiritual growth, and financial accumulation. I want to end on the financial accumulation issue because it is a biggie. Many people think the illustrious notion of retirement, "just happens." They spend their entire life having fun, and then wake up at 60 with the reality that they don't have enough saved to quit working, or have the option to enjoy life. I want you to take a close look at the following chart. It represents the four stages of life. Stage one is childhood through college. Stage two is mid 20's and early marriage. Stage three is your mid 30's though retirement. Stage four is actual retirement. You spend your entire life pushing the ball of savings up the hill hoping to get to the final stage and retire. The data at the social security office tells us that of all adults who reach 25 years of age, 69% of those people will have their ball roll all the way back down the hill at age 65, and have to depend on others for one or more of housing, healthcare, transportation, and food.