“Plan to succeed or plan to fail.”
Words I’ve heard so often in my life, I’ve lost track of who I originally heard them from.
Yet, I believe truer words have never been spoken.
Either you make the plans, and lay out a course of action, that leads you towards the success in reaching your goal, or you end up not planning, and by default, end up planning on failing any endeavour you start out on.
Whilst it’s impossible to plan for every eventuality, and there’s always going to be some unplanned, unexpected circumstance that trips you up, thwarts you, or causes you to change direction, without some semblance of a plan, you automatically end up defaulting to where the wind blows you, and trust me, most of the time it’s definitely not where you want to be.
I’ve tried various different ways of planning, and have run the full spectrum from micro-planning, where I literally plan out each hour of my day, through to complete spontaneity, where I end up deciding what to do in each moment, and whilst both have their merits, and benefits as life experiences that I recommend going through (at least the spontaneity one), neither, on their own is hugely predictive, or accurate. Overplanning leads to missing too many immediate short term objectives/goals (because things being out by a few minutes, can throw your entire day off schedule, if you plan too little ‘buffer’ time for those unexpected eventualities), and complete spontaneity leads to a complete lack of predictability for lifestyle/cashflow, and sustenance purposes. (Not that it matters when you’re being completely spontaneous, but it does mean you can’t realise any long term visions, by just living day to day, surviving, rather than thriving, at least in my experience of it.)
I’ve found there’s a healthy balance to be had, between planning and spontaneity, and the easiest way to plan sensibly is to do 1 thing each day. No more, no less. Have one clear objective for each day, and then work towards accomplishing that one objective. And make sure your objective is realistic, and practical (for example, if you’re a coder, don’t plan on writing a working prototype of an entire program in a day, unless you’ve got experience in creating prototypes in a day, and know that you can reliably churn that out.) Often, I find myself overly optimistic as to how much work I can complete in a day. In fact, most days I never get anywhere near as much off my to-do list as I’d like. Which is why, you have to always start with your most important action for the day.
That one thing, that if it was all you did, the day was worth it.
Simplifying the day down into a single task, or a single action makes it manageable, and more realistically achievable. (That said, if you’re finding each day you set yourself the same task/goal, and you always end up having to move it to the next days activities, perhaps it’s time to re-think that plan of action!)
Sometimes, the most sensible plan is to spend a fixed amount of time, on a particular activity or project (for example 1 hour per day, on project X, or activity Y), and whilst it won’t guarantee that the activity or project will be completed, it does mean that each day your making a dent, no matter how small, in the grander challenge/problem.
For me, my goal each day is to slowly increase the amount of ‘personal’ time I create each day. I know that I want to have 3-4 hours each day, that I can spend, as ‘me’ time, doing things that aren’t necessarily work related, but are projects that inspire me, or keep me hopeful that there may yet be a change for the better in society at large. That said, every action, or decision I make is based on a ‘Vision’, or goal I had set myself when I was 13/14 (I forget exactly how old I was, but I remember the ‘moment’ of that decision really clearly!). It’s a serious BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goal), one that I will only share in public when it’s time. For now, it’s something I work towards each day, each month, each year, and whilst it’s been at least 15+ years since I started working on it, it’s informed, and been a part of my decision making process every step of the way these last 10/15 years. That’s not to say I’m anywhere closer to realising that goal, and the longer I spend immersed in the challenge, the more I realise how it will possibly take me a lifetime, to realise my goal, or even get close to making it a reality. But then if it were that simple/easy, I’d have done it by now
I still plan on getting there one day, but the mechanism by which I get there will continue to change/evolve over time, the route I take to get there is uncharted, and unknown, so that shall be it’s own challenge, and the likelihood of me getting to my goal, seems ever more distant/unlikely, the longer it takes. And yet, in spite of it all, I persevere with that vision that inspires me so.. I keep taking small baby pigeon, ant like steps, towards a goal, that I don’t even know if I will ever reach. And yet that deliberate planning, and step by step process of chunking down the goal, into manageable pieces means that each year, I make a plan, and each year I review that plan, and see if I’m still going in the right direction, or if I need to make changes, and if so, what are they?
I encourage you to plan on doing something amazing with your life, and then taking small baby steps each year towards your long term goal. Plan it backwards, into something that can be done, and then keep on chipping away at it, until you finally reach your destination.
So what are you planning now? Care to share? Leave me some details in your comments below!
I also realised, after writing this, that I have a podcast that relates to planning for success, that might also be of interest to folks..
So have a listen to it here: