If you are reading this article on planning, it stands to reason you have established goals you want to achieve. If they are not written down and detailed, stop now and review our other posts about SMART goal setting and types of goals. Only having a vague idea of what you want will cause you to expend valuable time and resources ultimately leading to frustration. Take the time to establish your goals. They serve as the target you are aiming for and provide guidance to steer you in the right direction.

A properly set goal will have a deadline for completion. Parkinson’s Law advises us that “people usually take all the time they allotted themselves to accomplish a task”. We find this to be quite accurate. The worst example is when no definitive time parameter is set. This results in a haunting list of incomplete projects. You target date is a very important metric to measure your success, and we recommend selecting one that is a bit ambitious. Used wisely, it guides your level of effort keeping your feet to the fire. We find nothing better for motivation then knowing an imminent day is approaching to judge if you were successful or not.

Laying out your action plan requires taking a hard look at the goal. What needs to happen to make it a reality? Most business goals relate to an increase in productivity. Do you know the strengths of your business and where you could improve? Is there a team that needs to be built, skills that need to be learned, or equipment that needs to be acquired? What obstacles are likely to occur, and how can they be overcome. Some aspects will be easier to plan while others will take longer and be complex.

Let’s keep it basic and say you are looking to increase your company’s revenue. How will you do this? There are many ways including attracting new customers, retaining customers longer, increasing the amount they spend, or bundling and cross-selling additional products/services. Whichever method you choose to implement you must critically evaluate what steps are needed and break them into a checklist. This process of reverse engineering takes your big goal and divides it into smaller, manageable projects all with their own target dates. It allows you to continuously gauge progress, gives you daily objectives to complete, and provides the satisfaction of checking off the smaller goals along the way.

Now, what happens if you do miss the mark? It all depends on the type of goal and what is at stake. If it isn’t a “life or death” situation, most of the time you find yourself further along in your journey better off than where you started. In addition, you are armed with new knowledge and experience to draw from on future attempts. Failure is nothing more than feedback and provides us lessons as to what didn’t work. Adjust yourself accordingly, and take another shot at it.

This simplified method of planning lays a strong foundation for achievement. Just like your goals are individualized, your planning will be as well. Each company has unique strengths, limitations, and philosophies. A successful plan will build on your strengths, use metrics to track performance, seek feedback from your staff and clients, and be guided by your core values.