Three Planning Techniques for Your Best Year Yet

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This is the time of year that things begin to wind down for the holidays and, as it gets darker, we turn inward and start reflecting on the past year and looking towards the new. Personally, I find that doing this type of work early sets me up for January and has me hit the ground running instead of waiting to the new year to plan and then feeling behind. There are several things that have worked well for me in the past and today I thought I’d share them, so you can find one that works for you.

For these strategies, I encourage you to remember this important safety tip: you can do everything you want, you just can’t do everything right now. Prioritize the changes you want to make and focus on one at a time, getting just a little bit better each day. Remember that small, consistent steps add up to big results.

1. Stop, Start, Continue

With this technique, you get a bit of looking back, evaluation and tactical strategy for moving forward. It’s a very practical approach to change.

a.     Write a list of all the things you accomplished this year, large and small. What happened?

b.     From that list, determine the activities or behaviours you engaged in to get the results (good or bad) and create a second list.

c.      Now you’re ready to choose what you’ll continue doing that worked well, what you’ll stop doing that didn’t work well and what you’ll start to do to make a change.

d.     Post your list of Stop, Start, Continue somewhere you’ll see it every day and create your action plans based on this list.

2. Big Question

With this technique, you get a chance to dream big, but start small.

a.     First, write down all the things you’d like to do before you die, or if you have a bucket list already done, use that.

b.     From that list, choose just one thing on which you’ll focus. To help you choose, ask yourself the Big Question: “What would I most like to accomplish in the time that I have this year?”

c.      Once you’ve made your choice, break down the large action into small, manageable chunks so you can do a little bit every day towards your bigger goal. When you’ve completed this one, you can go back to B and choose another.

3. Decade Plan

This strategy is based on this simple statement that I first heard from my business consultant, Michael Walsh of Kaizen Consulting. When I asked him about a five-year plan for my business, he said that was boring and we should do a five-decade plan for my life instead, because, as he said, “Most people overestimate what they can do in a year and underestimate what they can do in a decade.”

As a person who wants to get a lot of things done, I’m pleased to say that this strategy really helped me focus on first things first and eased my anxiety about doing all the things I wanted to do in life. Here’s how:

First, map out your life in decades on a large piece of paper or a whiteboard like so, starting wherever you are and going up by decade increments: 

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Then, start listing the things you want to do in any given decade. For me, really getting established in my business needed some foundational work, so that’s where I started.

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Then, fill in the rest of the grid according to whatever else you want to do in your life:

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As you fill in the sections, keep the focus on very big picture and you’ll find that themes may emerge, and I decided to capture mine so I’d know where my focus should be each decade. Here’s how mine worked out in the end:

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My favourite thing about this strategy is it allowed me to take the long view, the biggest picture I could, the 30,000-foot view. Because I knew that the current 10 years would be all about foundations, I could measure whether I was on track. The good news is that many of the foundational elements are already in place and I’m only five years into the decade, ahead of schedule, and it feels great. When I felt like nothing was happening, I knew where to put my focus – was I working on something foundational? Yes? Then I could keep going without jumping forward, or worse, backwards! And the best part of this is that I know if I were to die tomorrow (Heaven forbid!), at least I’m heading in the right direction.

Whatever strategy you use, it’s best to have your plan in writing, since you can measure against it and see how you’re making progress. That adage still holds true:

“Failing to plan means planning to fail”.

Get your plan on today and let us know how it went in the comments below! 

Katherine Lazaruk