Dan Rockwell publishes a blog each day. It is called Leadership Freak and is an easy to read and productive way to start a day. Not each is wonderful, but many are. July 13 is a good example of wonderful. The Thing I Hate About Planning.
Dan lists 15 important things about planning that many people, especially ones who have not done much of it, tend to overlook. Some of the factors relate to business planning but there are enough of them that relate to personal planning that it is worth your trouble to read it, print it, and refer to it often.
Point #1 “Try things for awhile. Figure out what does and doesn’t work. Make plans after you’ve actually done something. Planning something you’ve never done is pooled ignorance.” People who want to know the answer before they start are living in Fantasyland. Everything is harder than it looks. My advice is that when you get stymied on any point make a decision and try something. Review and revise is crucial. That is where the real facts are learned.
Point #7 “Identify behaviors when making short-range plans. What will we actually do to accomplish our objectives?” Some people treat plans as if they were political promises. All talk, no real action. It is never okay to lie to yourself. Do not plan things you will not do.
Point #9 “Acknowledge that long-range plans are vague; short-range specific.” The future is impossible to know beyond a short period. You may have new skills or new resources. You may have nothing. Review and revise to keep current. Your brain has a center that keeps your self image connected to reality. Your plan should too.
Point #12 “Explore what you don’t want.” Specific exclusions preserve resources; not the least of which is time. Maybe some other day is a wise insight.
Point #13 “Consider dangers when making mid-range plans. What do we need to protect? What needs to be improved?” This is the priority part. You cannot and should not try to do everything at once. Start with what pays you best.
Point #14 “Determine how and when to evaluate success.” The “and when” part is important. Too often is destructive. You might want to appoint a who shall evaluate part as well.
Many people mistake plans for accomplishment. Given that plans are useless but planning is valuable, people must learn that the process helps identify valuable purposes and then it efficiently allocates skills, time and money. The future will pass judgement on the plan’s efficacy and the plan will change.
Planning is about deciding what it is you want, when you want it, who will be involved, and what do you have to get it with. None of those questions will get you anything. Most of your initial perceptions will turn out wrong. No matter. Starting to implement an imperfect plan is the important part. Good plans evolve; they are not created.
As Nike says, “Just do it.”
Don Shaughnessy is a retired partner in an international public accounting firm and is now with The Protectors Group, a large personal insurance, employee benefits and investment agency in Peterborough Ontario.