“Most people overestimate what they can accomplish in the short term, but underestimate what they can accomplish over the long term” – Author Unknown
One of the most difficult areas of time management is strategic planning. Generally speaking, most companies have at a minimum a three-year rolling plan in motion at all times. This helps ensure accountability and that business and financial targets are met over the long hall. The question is, how can you introduce strategic planning into your personal life so that your big goals are realized over time, just like companies do? The answer is to start at the finish line and work your way back to now!
When I first heard strategic planning laid out like this, it was like a light went on for me. I always understood the strategic plan concept but never thought of it in the reverse order paradigm. This is how it works. Pick a big goal for yourself that is only achievable over the long term. On a whiteboard or somewhere visible, create a three-year timeline (years represent key milestones) with each year broken up into one-month increments. This will create monthly placeholders for you to map out your action steps within each yearly milestone. Then, fill in your chart as follows:
- Start at the end of year three and write out specifically what your achieved goal will look like (what, where, how much, etc.).
- Then, step back through each year one by one, noting the big milestone you will need to reach over the course of that year to hit your end goal.
- Finally, fill out the incremental steps you will take each month that will get you to your yearly milestones.
Let’s say your goal is to take that special someone in your life on a cruise around the world. Great goal, but really expensive! First, do some research and figure out what the price range is for your dream cruise, taking into account any extra spending money you will need for the journey. Let’s say for the sake of this example that your luxury excursion costs $3,000 and you will need an extra $600 for spending money, bringing the total to $3,600. First, calculate how much you will need to save each year to reach your annual milestones. In this example, that would be $1,200. Here is what your strategic milestones would look like, keeping in mind you need the more granular monthly increments to stay on track.
While this example is simplistic for the sake of showing the process, the more complex your goal, the more this type of visual planning will serve you. You must have tangible milestones that move you in the direction of your destination. You must know what winning looks like for you, or you will never achieve it. Finally, here are some steps to make sure you realize your strategic target.
- Look at your three-year plan each day
- Take DAILY action towards your goal no matter how small
- Adjust the next increment or milestone to catch up if you fall behind
- Experience the joy of reaching your goal now, as if it has already been realized
So, what big goal do you keep putting off because you can’t find the starting point, much less visualize the finish line? Dust off your goal, pull out a whiteboard and start dreaming. Then turn that dream into a strategic plan and make it a reality! Remember, most people overestimate what they can accomplish in the short term, but underestimate what they can accomplish over the long term.
Here are links to previous time management articles.
P.S. If your big goal is to start your own online business, then I can help. Check out these training resources and start building your strategic plan today!