The easiest way to achieve anything you want in life is to have a plan. This applies universally to all things. Without a plan, nothing will be accomplished. When we’re stuck, it’s just because there is no plan in place to move forward. The next steps aren’t clear. Most people only plan for the day or month – rarely thinking about the future. If you want to create a new future, you need to create a plan that reaches into the future. This article is a little longer than most of my articles, but, if you stick it out to the end you will come away with what is probably the most important life skill I can share with anyone. Planning.
“Failing to plan is planning to fail.” – almost everyone at some point
I’ve talked in other articles about finding your $100K life by first finding what $100K job you want to pursue. Then finding the gaps between what you know today and what you need to know to fill that new role. This is the foundation of creating a career plan. Planning doesn’t apply explicitly to careers though, it applies to everything. Just like the mantra above, you can nearly guarantee that without a plan in place, you will fail to achieve whatever goals you set.
Nothing gets done without planning. This includes being happy. If you aren’t happy today and your goal is to be happy – then you need a plan in place to achieve that happiness. The plan might include waking up earlier to work out and feel better about your physical self. It might include cutting out a hobby once a week so you can have more time to yourself to unwind. It might include cutting out alcohol for both reasons. Your plan is yours and nobody can make it for you. There are some tips that can help to make sure it actually works though.
When you make a plan, create SMART goals within your plan to help to let yourself know you’re on track. SMART is an acronym that stands for Specific. Measurable. Achievable. Relevant. Time-boxed. For example, I want to lose weight. My goal could be “Start eating healthier.” Or it can be “Only eat 2000 calories per day for the next 6 weeks.” In the first example it isn’t exactly clear what I need to be doing or what the definition of success would be. In the second example, it’s extremely clear. The same thing applies to your work. “Make more money” should be replaced with something like “Increase my salary by 10% in the next 8 months.”
In the latter case, even though that goal is specific and measurable and fits all the SMART criteria – it isn’t so specific that you know all the steps you need to take to achieve it. This is the difference between settings goals and planning. Goals inform your plan, but the plan keeps you on track. Regularly checking your progress against your goal tells you if you were successful or not. Let’s go back to the eating healthier example. Eating 2000 calories per day is great, but how will you go about starting that? Your plan might look something like:
|Find low calorie recipes for breakfast, lunch, and dinner||5/25/17|
|Pick enough recipes to keep a varied diet over the next 6 weeks||5/25/17|
|Build a weekly shopping list||5/25/17|
|Week 1 shopping||5/27/17|
|Week 1 meal-prep||5/27/17|
|Week 1 lunches packed||5/27/17|
|Week 2 shopping||6/4/17|
|Week 2 meal-prep||6/4/17|
|Week 2 lunches packed||6/4/17|
This is just a basic plan to achieve a simple goal. If you want to take control of your life and become a rock-star at getting shit done, then I suggest planning on a 5-year time-frame.
Step 1 – Identify your 5-year goal (green below)
Using the SMART goals method. “I want to be a marketing manager for a small to mid-size company.” You don’t need to time-box the statement because you’re already time-boxing it within the 5-year plan. Basically you’re saying “In the next 5 years I want to become a marketing manager for a small to mid-size company.”
Step 2 – Identify a list of 3-year goals (purple below)
These goals will support the 5-year goal.
Step 3 – Create a list of 1-year goals (blue below)
These will support each of your 3-year goals. If you look at the plan I put together below you will notice that each of the items identified to this point are goals, not specific tasks. These are all similar to “Only eat 2000 calories per day for the next 6-weeks” instead of “Week 2 meal-prep”.
Step 4 – create a plan to execute on each of your 1 year goals. (blackbelow)
Once you’ve listed out all of your 5 year, 3 year, and 1 year goals then you need to create a plan to execute on each of your 1 year goals. Similar to the plan we put together above for eating 2000 calories.
I put together a quick plan for becoming a Marketing Manager, assuming that today the person is just starting out in marketing. Fresh out of school. It’s pretty long, but you can see how the plan flows from 5 year to 3 year to 1 year and down into a specific plan to execute within that year. It will be extremely clear to you what you need to be doing and what you’re falling behind on.
|Marketing Manager at a small to mid-size company||5/25/2022|
|3-Year Goal (s)|
|Take on new projects to expand marketing experience||5/25/2020|
|1-Year Goal (s)|
|Work on at least 3 new projects by the end of the year||5/25/2018|
|Identify opportunities to work on new projects||7/1/2017|
|Choose projects to focus on||7/15/2017|
|Begin work on at least the first new project||7/30/2017|
|Seek additional education outside of work to learn new skills||5/25/2020|
|1-Year Goal (s)|
|Read “Start with Why” in the next 3 months||8/25/2017|
|Purchase “Start with Why”||6/5/2017|
|Read “Hooked” in the next 6 months||11/25/2017|
|Watch all Strategic Marketing lectures by Jayanta Chatterjee by the end of the year (https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLbMVogVj5nJRLj4IAD-qinMIQ_SiMUWfn)||5/25/2018|
|Watch lecture 1||6/10/2017|
|Create tasks to watch the rest of the lectures||6/12/2017|
|Gain a better understanding of the marketing differences between local, facebook, linkedin, twitter, or instagram and how to execute through each medium||5/25/2018|
|Read (3) articles on local marketing||7/10/2017|
|Read (3) articles on facebook marketing||8/12/2017|
|Read (3) articles on linkedin marketing||9/10/2017|
|Read (3) articles on twitter marketing||10/12/2017|
|Read (3) articles on twitter marketing||11/12/2017|
|Take on leadership responsibilities wherever possible||5/25/2020|
|1-Year Goal (s)|
|Reach out to my boss in the next two weeks to see if there are any opportunities for leadership that I could try within my current job||7/9/2017|
|Reach out to my boss via email||6/9/2017|
|Determine if available options will support my goal||7/1/2017|
|Advise my boss of which option I would like to pursue||7/9/2017|
|Volunteer to lead a marketing effort for a local non-profit||5/25/2018|
|Identify local non-profits that I am interested in||6/9/2017|
|Contact each interesting non-profit and see if there are any opportunties available for marketing support||7/10/2017|
|Make a short-list of each non-profit with opportunities and decide which to pursue||7/30/2017|
|Contact the non-profit I’ve chosen to arrange a start date||8/17/2017|
Just remember that a plan is a living document. You do not create it on Day 1 and live by it strictly without compromise as you go through the year. At any step you will possibly find new information that forces you to adjust your plan or change it entirely. You might add new tasks to accomplish your 1 year goals, you might add new 3 year goals to help with your 5 year goal or you might throw out your 5 year goal entirely and start over. Life comes at us fast and we need to be willing to adapt. I put together this plan in about one hour and having it in place would increase my odds of becoming a Marketing Manager in 5 years dramatically compared to not having done it. It’s worth the hour.
You might be wondering what step 5 is. Well – it’s pretty simple.
Step 5 – Go do it!
Execute on your plans and make sure you’re taking action toward your goals according to the plan you put together.
If you think you don’t have time to do the things you need to do in order to support your goals, then I suggest you track your time for a day or a week to see where you’re wasting it. We’re all wasting time. Tracking time will help you find out how you could fit in the tasks you want to accomplish to achieve your personal goals. Literally just write it down:
Then just repeat this for each day. It will help you to find extra time. Especially on the weekends.
There isn’t anything sexy about planning. It’s super nerdy. Your friends that aren’t doing it will make fun of you for it. The power planning gives you will be worth it. Planning will allow you to succeed where other people fail. There is nothing wrong with taking full control of your time and your life. Having and executing plans like these will make you a stone cold killer at getting your job done and will have you looking back over the last 5 years in awe of everything you’ve been able to accomplish. What are you waiting for, go make your plan! And if you liked this article, share it on Facebook. Other people need to know this and its up to you to spread it to the world!
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If you want to learn more about my life and how I found success – check out my book here: What To Do About Money and Success
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