Saturday, June 27, 2009

Implementing Your Personal Strategic Plan


One of my favorite planning quotes is "Planning is the design of a desirable future." For our purposes here, the emphasis must be on the word "design."  Now that you have "designed" your future, you have to construct it!  You have your blueprint. Now, we come to the hard work part of achieving goals --
Implementing Your Plan

Keep Your Plan in View

Have a one page version of the highlights of your plan in view to automatically remind you of your plan every day -- for example, on the refrigerator, on the bathroom mirror, or in a picture frame by your bedside.

Use a Dream Board to Keep Your Dreams in Mind

Another good tool for reminding you of your dreams, especially if you are more visual, is a Dream Board. The idea is to create a collage of pictures of your dreams -- pictures that evoke the feelings you will have when you achieve your dreams.

A picture of a Paris outdoor cafe, or the French Riviera can serve as a constant reminder if you've always dreamed of going to France.  For years I've used a famous picture of Michael Jordan to remind me how good it feels to accomplish an extremely difficult goal that you have worked hard for; I love that feeling. A picture of a happily retired couple can spur you to save more.  The possibilities are endless.

Dream boards can be a very powerful tool. You want at least one picture for each dream. You can include pictures for some or all of your major goals as well.

In the old days, the primary source of pictures for dream boards was magazines. Now, images are easier to find on the internet (e.g., using Google Images). I use a mixture of both. The advantage of magazine pictures is that they tend to be higher quality. Equally important, it takes longer to find pictures in magazines; that means you spend more time searching -- and more time thinking about and visualizing your dreams.

Some people mount their pictures on poster boards. I've even heard of people who use a whole wall! I like to use 18" x 24", or larger, poster frames. That way it's easier to replace a picture with another picture that captures my dream even better -- and, it gives me a reason to think about my dreams all year long as I search for more and more effective pictures. (Target has some inexpensive poster frames that work well.)

Spending a few minutes a day viewing your Dream Board can be a very powerful reminder and motivator. For a more in-depth discussion of Dream Boards see this post.

Mottoes and Mantras

In this case, I mean a short phrase that you can use as a constant reminder of important, possibly of unrelated, aspects of your strategic plan.  For example, "You reap what you sow" can remind you that you won't reap the fruit of a comfortable retirement without sowing the seeds of savings.  You won't reap "prima ballerina" or "successful father" without first sowing those seeds.

Realizing goals is about deciding what you want to reap, and then sowing the proper seeds.  Too many people are surprised when things happen, or don't happen, for them that others think are absolutely predictable. A useful exercise for some is to ask yourself what seeds other people would guess you are sowing. And, that leads me to....

Get Help!

Don't be afraid to get input from other people. People you love and trust can often give you insights into your strengths, weaknesses and possibilities that escape you.

No man is an island! To be the person you ultimately want to be will require help from others. In the business world, these are called "stakeholders" -- others that are somehow involved in the successful implementation of your plan. Get their perspectives on your plan. Get their feedback, and, ideally, their encouragement and support; it can be invaluable. In addition, sharing your plan with others can help you increase your own commitment to your plan.

Success Requires Action

The plan is just your roadmap, you still have to make the journey. Remember, a plan is only part of the reason why people are successful. You still need HARD WORK. There are no magic bullets.

To help you transition from planning to action I suggest you consider a calendar, and weekly/daily to-do lists if you are not already using these tools. Simple to-do lists can be kept using paper and pencil, a smart phone app, or your PC (see, e.g., your Google Homepage). Software such as Microsoft Outlook often provides a more robust solution. For example, in addition to providing an electronic calendar, Outlook allows you to categorize to-do items (e.g., you can use your dreams or goals as categories), and assign priorities, start dates and due dates.

Monitor Your Progress

Review your progress at least once a month. Are you happy with your progress? If not, what can you do to improve your performance?

Keep Your Plan Evergreen

Update your plan yearly; typically, this will mean making minor changes at the strategy level rather than at the goal or dream level (and will not require a complete re-do). Re-do your plan from scratch (i.e., rethinking mission, vision and SWOTs) as you approach the end of the planning period -- e.g., 5 years -- or if there is a major change in your life in the interim, such as those mentioned in Do You Need a Personal Strategic Plan?



p.s If anyone knows the source of my lead quote, please leave a comment.  I think it was Frank? McCracken, but I don't remember the name of the book/booklet.  Google searches have been fruitless....

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Related Posts: Potential Next Steps

How Much Money Will You Need to Retire? Establishes targets for all salary levels.

What Percent of Your Salary Should You Save for Retirement? (by starting age)
My SIMPLE Retirement Saving Calculator/Spreadsheet: The spreadsheet used to create the above graphs
A Career Planning Approach: An approach to career planning that is useful in other areas as well.
Planning to Buy a House Spreadsheet: A home purchase planning tool
For a schematic that shows the relationship between all of the planning posts, see Personal Strategic Planning Schematic

Additional Reading

For a more detailed treatment of mission/goal-oriented time management, see Steven Covey's book First Things First: To Live, to Love, to Learn, to Leave a Legacy.

The picture is from Public Domain Pictures.

Last updated 12/28/2012      Copyright © 2009 

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