LAURA LYNN | Strategic Planning Part Three: Accountability and the review process
Edmonton-based freelance graphic designer, writer, and illustrator. Also specializes in wayfinding and signage design, exhibit design, strategic planning consultations, and proposal writing.
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Strategic Planning Part Three: Accountability and the review process

Now that you’ve developed a strategic plan that is representative of the goals you want to accomplish, is obtainable (yet still challenging), and has specific and measurable tasks and metrics attached, the next challenge is to carry out your intentions and stay accountable to your plan. Here are a few strategies that, depending upon your personality and work style, might help to keep you on track and how you’ll know when things have gone off track.

Be honest and accountable to yourself.

This absolutely does NOT work for everyone, but if you’re more of an independent type who is honest with yourself, you might feel more comfortable pursuing your plan without any need for outside intervention. If you maintain a daytimer (either on paper or on your phone), schedule in your goal activities for the year, make lists that you can check off, put post-it notes all over your computer monitor, whatever you need to remind yourself of the tasks you need to work on each day/week/month. Setting reminders for yourself is especially important when you’re first starting to develop new daily habits until they become part of your regular routine. At the end of the day, do some reflection on what you managed to accomplish, what you can improve on, and make plans for how you’re going to kill it tomorrow.

Be honest and accountable to someone else.

Everyone needs a little push sometimes, and if you’re lucky to have a partner or friend (or, better yet,  a group of friends) who is great at giving you a kick in the pants when you really need it, you should definitely be sharing your strategic plan with them. As I mentioned in the previous posts, the more widely and openly you share your goals and intentions, the more support you’ll receive in achieving them.

For best results, get your amazing ass-kicking partner or friend to develop their own strategic plan and be accountable to each other. Commit to sitting down and discussing your progress with each other either monthly or quarterly to make sure neither of your plans get neglected. If you’re the competitive type, this might even drive you to be more productive than you would have otherwise, since you’ll be excited to share everything you’ve achieved at your meetings. And be sure to schedule these meetings in advance to help ensure you stick to them. The ability to commit to regular progress meetings is a good sign that you’re serious about committing yourself to the goals you’ve set out to achieve.

Complete quarterly self-reviews.

Set aside an hour or two of scheduled time every three months to complete a review of your progress to date. I have personally found more value and motivation in completing this exercise than through any of the other strategies that I listed previously. Three months into your plan, it is crystal clear what goals you have been sticking to and which ones have fallen to the wayside. This is a great time assess what is working, what is not, what can be done better, and what changes you can make in your daily routine to realign yourself to those goals.

If you’re new to strategic planning, it can be really easy to start getting down on yourself at your quarterly reviews. Making significant life changes is hard, and you may simply have taken on too much or perhaps weren’t completely honest with yourself when you were assessing how much time you need to accomplish your regular life activities and/or your goals themselves. If you’re feeling disappointed, make sure you don’t abandon your plan completely! Take a good look at the reasons why you’re missing the mark. If its a timing issue, seeing if you can make some adjustments. If it’s a commitment issue, maybe you need the support of someone else to check in on your progress. Remember that sometimes the real reason you’re not achieving a goal is that you initially thought it was something you only thought you wanted. It’s okay for your priorities to change. As long as you aren’t abandoning goals in favour of Netflix marathons or sheer laziness, chances are you’re still accomplishing more than you would have if you hadn’t planned at all.

Complete an annual self-review.

My own strategic plans align wtih the calendar year, so its usually during Christmas vacation that I complete my annual review. You can do this as formally or as informally as you like. I’m someone who really enjoys and benefits from keeping track of my progress over the years, so I find value in actually writing out my review.

Since all of your goals have specific metrics attached, it’ll be easy to see what you completed and what you did not.  The most important thing is to understand why goals were not achieved. As always, be honest. If you didn’t achieve a goal because life threw you a curve ball and you had to spend time on something you didn’t inially plan for, its completedly justifiable why some that goal might not have been achieved. If you didn’t write 500 words every day because you thought at the beginning of the year that writing would be a priority and it turned out for you that it wasn’t, that’s justifiable too. Don’t write off partial completions as failures either, just understand why they weren’t fully completed and where you can do better next time.

And don’t forget to celebrate your successes! Take a good look at everything that you were able to get done over the past year, especially those things you never thought you were capable of. These items are great motivation for setting the bar higher next year. As time goes on, you’ll start to see that there really isn’t anything that you can’t do. It all just comes down to priorities and you will always make time for the things in your life that are truly important to you. It’s okay if once in awhile if one of those important things is a Netflix marathon.

Strategic planning takes a lot of effort to execute and it might take you a couple of years to get the hang of what works for you and your life. If you stick to it, I promise that you will surprise yourself with your accomplishments and get done more than you would have got done without it. You will also get a better idea of who you are, your working habits, and the things that are most important to you, which will all lead to more life satisfaction.

If you need any help creating your strategic plan, need someone in your life to help you stay accountable to it, or would like more tips to keep yourself on track, feel free to reach out and send me an email (hello{at} I’d be pleased to work through your challenges with you.

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