Strategic Planning Part Two: Turning your goals into an executable strategic plan
In Part One, we explored how you currently use your time and what you would really like to be accomplishing with the time you have. In this section, we’re going to turn those self-realizations and goals into a tool that you can actually work with.
Step 4: Turn your goals into tasks with specifc metrics attached.
This crucial step is the one most often overlooked during the planning process and can actually be the most detrimental to your success. Goals that don’t have specific and measureable results are pretty difficult to achieve.
It all comes down to words and numbers. Something like “Read more this year” is a great goal, but how will you really know if you achieved it? Re-word the goal and attach a metric or number to it so that it becomes “Read one book per week” or “Read 15 books in the next year”. Now it’ll be crystal clear if you achieve that goal or not. Either you read 15 books or you didn’t. Apply the same principle to every goal and make sure there are no ambiguities.
Some goals are really big on their own and might seem too daunting to even be achieveable. In moments like this, I frequently find myself coming back to the old adage, “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.” All this is really saying is that you can accomplish just about anything if you break it down into smaller, more manageable steps. Take your big goals and write down all the steps that you’re going to need to take in order to achieve it. If you want to take a trip to India this year to visit the village that your grandmother was born in, you will probably need to save a specific dollar amount to afford the travel expenses, buy a plane ticket, book accomodations, obtain a visa, buy travel insurance, pack, and other tasks. Once all those smaller tasks are laid out in front of you, it’ll be easy to start crossing them off one by one and you’ll find yourself in the Indira Gandhi National Airport in no time, wondering how you ever could have thought it was an impossible feat.
Step 5: Pare it down and re-assess your time.
By now, you’re probably really excited about all these new ideas and the progress you’re going to be making. That’s great! No matter how much planning you do, you’re going to need that excitement in order to get those goals into action, but the most successful strategic plans are the ones that are well curated.
With my “self-research” from Step 1, I usually have a pretty accurate idea of how much time I have left in my day to be productive after take out all the things I have to do. Most people will over estimate what they can achieve in a day but underestimate what they can do in a year. The more honest you are with yourself, the more accurate this will be, and the more strategic plans you do, the more realistic you will become in your goal setting. The idea is strike a balance between what is realistic for you to complete while also trying to push yourself to achieve the things you wouldn’t if you didn’t put effort into your plan or executing your tasks.
By using a similar method to that in which you used to time your real life activities, start breaking down each of the goals you’d like to accomplish over the next 12 months into estimations of how much time they will take out of your day/week/month to accomplish. Some goals will be single day efforts, like “go skydiving”, while other goals like “write 500 words per day” are things you’re going to have to schedule into your regular routine and make time for in order to complete them. Generally, I try to limit each category to 3-5 goals. Along the same vein, I try to limit the addition of new regular routine activities to 3. If in addition to all my regular life stuff, I’m trying to run every morning AND bike to work everyday AND write 500 words AND complete an art project AND meditate…I’m sure you can see how that’ll get derailed pretty quickly.
If it seems like your goals are going to take up an unreasonable amount of time, you’ll need to pare them down. Keep the goals you are most excited about doing and get rid of ones that just seem like something you should do.
Step 6: Make it presentable.
This is more of an optional step (unless you’re a graphic designer like me, in which case making something look nicer is a given, not an option), but its one that’s more important to those new to strategic planning. If your strategic plan is easy to read and easily presentable, you’re more likely to share it with family and friends who will in turn help keep you accountable to your new goals. People who share their goals are often much more successful than those who don’t, because ones it’s public knowledge, those people don’t want to be seen as someone who doesn’t follow through with their intentions. You’ll want to be a woman of your word when people check up on your progress and ask you how your plans are coming along.
In the final part of this series, I’ll share my strategies for staying accountable to your new strategic plan.