Planning will always be an important part of achieving any major goal, but it’s never as simple as putting a plan on paper and watching while everything falls into place. Life is way too unpredictable, which makes it easy to lose sight of our goals, or plan inefficiently in a way that simply leaves us spinning our wheels without hope of moving forward. I don’t know anyone who plans things perfectly every time, but I do know that taking a look at how you plan is crucial if you want to achieve meaningful goals.
You may or may not be surprised to learn that I do not have a personal mission statement written down anywhere. Of course, I have goals for business and in my personal life, along with strategies for how to achieve them. But I don’t spend a ton of time writing those things down, because that’s not how I plan most effectively. When I’m trying to accomplish a goal in life, I keep the focus on a few core concepts:
- Micro or Macro? While I don’t necessarily write every little thing down, I do invest significant time in planning. For me, it mostly happens in my head. I look at my goal, consider my options, and plot the best path forward. If writing things down helps you plan, however, by all means do it! It’s all about finding what works for you.
- Set Your Mind to It. It’s much easier to achieve your goals when you’re in the right frame of mind to tackle the task ahead. By focusing on what really matters – and just focusing, period – you put your concentration where it’s needed most. Doing so will help you avoid spinning your wheels, and allow you to focus on accomplishing each of the smaller goals that builds up to the big one.
- Develop Systems and Maintain a Steady Course. This might be the part where you expect me to lay out a five-year plan, but I’m no guru. What really matters is developing systems to accomplish your goals, and making sure that those systems work for you. It’s not about what someone else tells you will work, but what you know, first-hand, will get the job done for you. Remember that no plan is perfect, so it’s important to maintain a steady course, trust your process, adjust if necessary, and see your plan through to completion.
You may have noticed that I haven’t spent much time focusing on overly long-term planning, and that’s no accident. A plan for the future is crucial, but life changes so quickly, especially when it comes to personal matters. That makes it really hard to plan too far into the future. There’s simply way too much unpredictability to commit to goals that are that far ahead, and every single day is influenced by circumstances that are often beyond our control.
For me, planning works best when I keep the focus on the relatively near future, lay things out mentally rather than in writing, and prepare myself for the reality that circumstances will change in unexpected ways. I don’t necessarily share my strategic thoughts with others, but I do have goals and systems for accomplishing them. At the end of the day, I’m willing to look at what’s working, what’s not, and how I can do better in the future.
If your ideal planning process looks different from mine, that’s okay! The point is that you want to find a method of planning that works for you, refine it over time, and be willing to stick with it to accomplish your goals. If the distant future looks too daunting, try planning for the near future instead… works best for me. Attitude, Perspective… Mindset.