The Secret Ingredient to Planning Like a Pro

Surely, you’ve heard this before: ‘Failing to plan is planning to fail’. This quote is often attributed to Benjamin Franklin and he’s right. Making plans for 2021 is important, and we need to start doing it now.

You may ask, why am I writing about planning the next year in October? I think it’s an important time of the year to do some planning for the next year. First, it’s almost the end of the year anyway. Only November and December are left, and we all know what December is like. We won’t get anything done that is outside of the crazy stuff we really have to do.

If we leave planning for the following year to the 31st of December, we won’t be planning much. We may make some half-hearted New Years Eve resolutions that we surely let slip come mid-February. Planning now gives us a longer preparation time to make some impact in various parts of our lives.

The fact that we can plan anything has to do with our unique ability to imagine the future. Humans have developed a large frontal lobe in the brain that enable us to have a concept of time – among many other things. The ability to plan shouldn’t be underestimated. Instead, we should use this to our advantage and plan EVERYTHING.

Hang on, you might say. What about being in the now, enjoying the moment? And I say, yes, that’s important too AND the two approaches can work together beautifully.

If we’re looking at planning EVERYTHING, how would we go about it? Think of eating the famous elephant: One bite at a time (Of course, this is only a metaphor 😉). We need to divide whatever goes on in our lives and tackle each bit separately. This will prevent overwhelm and increases the chances of following the plan.

This is best done by selecting categories for every aspect of your life. For a lot of people, categories such as their relationship with their significant other, family, friends, career, hobbies and travel come to mind quickly, when they think about the future. That’s fine but let’s go a little deeper. What about health – physical, mental and emotional, personal growth or spirituality. Take some time to think about the various categories that are important to you. Once you’ve got the categories identified, it’s easy to create a vision for it, and then create goals.

Once you’ve decided on your most important categories, pick one of them to use as a prototype for trying out the following planning steps. After you experienced how to plan out one category, you can go back and repeat the process with the other categories as well. It will get easier.

“We carry inside us the wonders we seek outside us”

Rumi

First, we need to do some looking back before we can look forward, i.e. we need to reflect on this chosen category. When we go within and open our soul, we find what we were looking for. That’s why reflection is so important. From a solid foundation we can go further with our goals and our plans.

Reflections on past year events can be daunting, especially when the year is 2020. But even though it appeared that we didn’t do much this past year, there will have been many things going on. How would we even remember all the stuff? I’ve got you covered and included a reflection exercise that will help you remember and reflect on past events.


Step 1

🖋️ Make a list of the milestones of the past 11 months (yes, going back to 2019) as bigger events are usually easier to remember

🖋️ Draw a mind map for each event/milestone

🖋️ Start categorising the mind maps

🖋️ Recognise patterns (for example personal development, financial success, or peer recognition)

🖋️ Use your phone calendar for finding more of the things you did in the previous year

🖋️ Ask family and friends about their recollections of the year

I know that this is a bit of work, BUT it will be so worthwhile 💕

If you have followed the instructions, you should have a collection of milestone events that happened during the year complete with mind maps and first categorisation.


Step 2

✅ Pick the best and the worst event from your list

✅ Start with the best event and find all the things you can be grateful for associated with this event

✅ Then ponder what you can learn from this event for the future

✅ Finally find three things that you can do better in future in relation to this event

✅ Do the same for the worst event that happened last year


Step 3

Once you’ve done the steps for both the best and the worst event, compare how you went

❓ Was it easier to find things to be grateful for in the best or the worst event?

❓ How did you go with things to learn from both events?

❓ What about the things you can do better?


The secret ingredient – Develop a vision

When we reflect on what happened over the past year, we can find the VISION for the future. Yes, creating a vision is an important step that needs to be done before goal setting and planning, because goals without a vision can quickly become meaningless and before you know it, you will abandon even the best plan. This can be so frustrating. And we don’t feel motivated at all. BUT if we have a vision, we can easily set goals that fit our vision, and everything flows effortlessly.

A great exercise to get clarity of the vision that you want to pursue is to journal about your ideal day. The idea is to allow it to be written from the heart. This is not the time to let your mind interfere with judgement, doubt and logic. Let the magic vision write itself: Get into a meditative state and don’t stop writing for at least 20 minutes. Once you’ve got your piece of writing:

💕 Acknowledge it

💕 Find all the gems in it

💕 Do this by circling words and phrases that are similar

💕 Group the words into themes and make a list

💕 Read the list out loud

💕 Don’t allow your doubting mind to sneak in

This list should give you between one and five themes or broad concepts of your vision. Now, you have both the creative writing piece of your vision and some more abstract themes. Both are useful for aligning your goals with your vision.


Let’s talk about goals

We have already established that goals work best with a vision and when setting a goal, it’s best to give it some sparkle. Think about your goal as if you’ve already achieved it. Imagine how you would feel. Describe those feelings in great detail. Write a thank you letter to yourself for achieving this goal. Feel the feeling and read the letter every day until you’ve achieved the goal.

It’s also a good idea to make your goals as specific as possible. Let me give you an example: In the beginning of this year one of my goals was to walk 10,000 steps each weekday. Does this sound specific enough?

Well, what I didn’t put in there was that I love walking in nature or on the beach. The result was that I walked a lot every time I was in nature but had to drag myself to walk the 10,000 steps in the city or suburbs. Some days I didn’t even walk 3000 steps. Having learnt from that I will include my enjoyment of walking in nature into my goal.

“Don’t be satisfied with stories, how things have gone with others.
Unfold your own myth.”

Rumi

Rumi kindly reminds us to be authentic and to do our own thing. But many people think they should implement goals that are other people’s goals. This is a sure way to give up on them quickly or become frustrated and unhappy. Make sure your goals are your goals and are aligned with your vision. A vision as previously described is idealistic, it’s coming from the heart and not from the logical mind. Goals are different. The logical mind is welcome to do all the analysing and rationalising necessary. But goals without a vision is like skis without snow. If you try to ski without snow, you will wear your skis out very quickly and get extremely tired and frustrated. Goals without a vision are equally as tiring and frustrating. Goals with a vision feel easy and energising.

So far, you reflected and got your vision. A vision that is authentic to you. You aligned your goals with that vision. Now you only need to plan everything. Look at your goals and plan them out on a timeline over the year. When we plan, we have a much better foundation, from where we can take each step to achieving our goals.

When planning for the year, make sure to plan for rest and vacations. There’s no point to pack your schedule so tight that you’re burnt out after 3 months. Plus, how are you going to enjoy your goals if you don’t take the time to stop to smell the roses. Incorporate support into your plan and leave enough space for the unplanned moments and things that don’t go to plan.

“Obstacles are those frightful things you see
when you take your eyes off your goal.”

Henry Ford
Photo by Maryam62 | Pixabay

Think about not having a plan. You could see obstacles all around you and feel like life is dealing you a tough hand. You could drift through your life and at the end feel like you lived someone else’s life. This is one of the most common regrets that people have on their deathbed. However, if you do have a plan and followed the steps outlined above (reflection – vision – aligned goal setting – plan) you will be well equipped to live your own deeply fulfilled life. And when ‘failure’ knocks on your door, you will just dust yourself off and come up with a new plan.

 “You may have a fresh start any moment you choose, for this thing that we call ‘failure’ is not the falling down, but the staying down.”

Mary Pickford

I encourage you to do the exercises outlined above. It will be worthwhile the effort. I would love to hear how you go with it.

Happy planning,

Eva