After reading “Create a 1-page strategic plan” on the Church of the Customer blog, I was inspired to try out an idea: Building a personal plan for the year in Milestone Planner. New Year’s resolutions have never really cut it for me – a few weeks and they are a distant memory. I prefer to start out the year with a set of goals. However, the plan never seems to “fall out of the sky” fully formed, so Milestone Planner’s emergent style seemed to fit the bill. Here’s how you can build your own personal strategic plan for 2010:
1. Create a plan!
Plans are a great statement of intent. They provide something to benchmark progress against. No plan, no benchmark. So, sign up at milestoneplanner.com if you haven’t already (A trial account is free, and will last you through the year). You’ll have a blank project plan waiting when you sign in. If you are already signed up, just login and go to projects, then click the button to create a new plan.
2. Map Out Your Roles and Responsibilities.
To make some sense of your goals I suggest dividing them up. There are a number of ways to do this:
- By role – e.g. Father, Musician, Husband, etc…
- By area or domain – e.g. Family, Job, Community, …
- By theme – e.g. Health, Wealth, Social, …
Simply create a workstream for each role or area – you’ll be prompted for the first one, or click “add a workstream”. After you’re done, you’ll have some horizontal groupings with spaces ready to add your goals for the year. If you aren’t sure which approach to take, try a couple and see which one works best. It is easy to delete workstreams – just click on their title.
3. It’s a Whole Year!
Think marathon, not sprint. You don’t need to achieve everything in January, but you also don’t want to leave everything until December. At the top left of the screen, by the project name, click edit and change the project start date to 01/2010, change the end date to 01/2011 – you might want to give it a sensible name at the same time. There, the plan is now a year long. Thats a good few hundred days to spread things out over, but first…
4. Begin With the End in Mind.
To borrow a Covey phrase, begin with the end in mind. Scroll right to the end of the plan. Think about the end of December 2010. What would you like to have achieved in each of the areas you’ve defined? Click on the time line and create a goal, or two if you need to, in each workstream. Capture your thoughts and go for big, but specific goals. More than seven workstreams with more than one or two goals in each is probably biting off too much, but you know yourself. Choose what you think will work. Remember, you can always update the milestones and add or remove workstreams later – this is an emergent strategic plan.
5. Work Backwards – Little by Little.
Now, zoom out and look at the year. Thinking about those end goals, what the smaller milestones on the way towards them that you can achieve throughout the course of the year? If I wanted to play live in a band at a local music venue by the end of the year, I can think backwards: “Rehearse a full set” – I’ll put that in at the end of October. “Choose and learn 12 songs” – I’ll put that in at the end of July. And so on. I might start with “Guitarist Recruited” in February. You hopefully get the idea.
Take those big end-of-year goals (you might want to change them to yellow or red to mark them out – just click on them) and break them down into smaller goals. Look up and down the plan at the milestones in each of the different streams – are there any opportunities for synergies? If I had a goal around more time with the family, I might want to have them in the band. Of course the rule for truly realising synergies is to avoid compromises, so you might want to leave that one.. In all seriousness, it is interesting how a personal plan starts to mesh together when you look at it this way. Sometimes the opposite happens too – you spot areas of your life that really aren’t fitting in. This might be a time to tweak some ‘big’ things.
6. Sleep on it…
With your first cut of the plan done, take one last look at it, then log out. Let the sun go down and them come up again. Let your brain digest all of those thoughts you’ve just had. Now, login and look at the plan. Does it still make sense? Can some of the milestones be better defined, or rearranged? Drag things around until it is right.
7. Share Your Plan.
This might not be for everyone, but if you have a trusted friend or partner, you might want to share the plan with them (it’s simple to add them – just click on ‘people’ and enter their name and email address). Having someone else look at your plan can help in a number of ways:
- An independent set of eyes see what you might miss. It is good to be challenged.
- Sharing your plan creates a sense of accountability and motivation to achieve it.
- A shared load… Having someone who will cheer you on is good when things get tough.
Of course, you might feel your plan is too personal to share, and that’s fine. I’d ask yourself why you aren’t comfortable sharing it – the answer to that question is surprisingly full of useful insight.
8. Live the Plan!
Now live the plan! Email yourself a copy and print it out and put it somewhere you’ll see it. Come back and login to the plan – I’d say once a week. Look at the upcoming milestones and watch the red “today” line mark your way through the year . Mark each milestone done as you achieve it, and update goals and milestones if things have evolved during the year.