Thursday, December 6, 2012

Personal Strategic Planning Development - Optional tasks

Following are some additional thoughts relevant to developing your personal strategic plan. For the most part, these address special situations, or are optional enhancements to Creating Your Personal Strategic Plan.

Create SMART Goals and Strategies

Make your goals and strategies SMART: Stretching (challenging), Measurable (so that you know whether or not they have been achieved), Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound (i.e., set target dates/deadlines). (Note: There are many variations of what SMART means, but all are similar. See, e.g., Wikipedia).

Avoid Analysis Paralysis

Don't try to create a perfect plan -- especially if it's your first one. If you're comfortable that you have a plan that will help you, go with it.

Additional Thoughts re Creating Personal Goals and Strategies

If you're having trouble organizing your SWOTs, here are some additional ways to organize SWOTs within a dream to arrive at goals, or within a "goal group" to arrive at strategies:
  • By major outcome: For example, for your health dream, two big goals/ major outcomes might be 1) to lose 30 pounds, and 2) to lower cholesterol to 200 or less.
  • Chronologically: However, group the SWOTs by major milestone, not every single step. Some special cases of chronological sequence are:
    • Study, plan, do.
    • Analyze, design, construct, test, implement, monitor/maintain.
You can also use the "define requirements" approach described below to organize your SWOTs. For example, for your career goal the job requirements might lead you to define goals for education, experience and knowledge/skills, and then organize your SWOTs around those goals.

Focus Your Plan

If it's your first one, keep it simple and focused. Don't spread yourself too thin. Initially, you may want to limit yourself to, say, 3 dreams -- picking one as your priority, until you've had some successes.

Create a summary version of your plan to help you focus; it should be no more than one page. Typically, my summary plan includes only my dreams and goals -- though on occasion I may include some critical strategies as well. For me, the "outline view" within Microsoft Word is ideal for this purpose since it allows me to hide the lower levels of my outline (in MSWord, click "View" - "Outline"). Click here to see the first page of a sample plan created using the Outline view. If you prefer something less "dry," consider using "mind mapping" software such as Mindjet or SmartDraw. Here's a view of that same plan using SmartDraw.

Special Situations: Define "Requirements" for Realizing Your Dreams

After you have described your dreams, but before you start brainstorming your SWOTs, consider doing a little research on one or more of your most critical dreams. What education, experience, knowledge, skills, attitudes, behaviors, etc. will it take to realize that dream?

This approach is especially effective where objective requirements already exist, such as in career planning. In that case, job descriptions of your ideal job often effectively define the requirements you must meet in order to be a successful candidate. Knowing these requirements can not only help you define your goals, but also give you objective criteria to help you identify your strengths and weaknesses.

However, don't limit this approach to your career plan; consider it for any dream that you want to devote special attention to. Helpful expert advice is available from friends & family, on the web, and elsewhere, to help you realize virtually any dream. You can use that information to get a clear understanding of what it takes to be successful in that area so that you can set appropriate goals and address your deficiencies. (For a more detailed discussion of this approach, see An Approach to Career Planning).

Special Situations: More on Creating Goals

There are two basic ways to create goals -- 1) starting with your SWOTs, and 2) starting with your dreams. It is sometimes helpful to try both ways.

Creating Personal Goals From Your SWOTs ("Bottom-Up")

This approach to creating goals is "bottom-up" since it starts with your SWOTs.  SWOTs for a dream will sometimes fall naturally into smaller, related groups. For example, your financial dream might include a group consisting of SWOTs such as: I spend too much eating out; I have no savings; I don't know where my money goes; I make a good salary; I'm behind on my credit cards; I'm living paycheck to paycheck; etc.

The idea is to create a goal that, when reached, overcomes the obstacles (weaknesses and threats) and takes advantage of your strengths and opportunities. In this case, you might create a goal such as "Develop and implement an annual budget."

Creating Personal Goals From Your Dreams ("Top-Down")

The "top-down" approach starts with your dream. What are the most critical goals you need to accomplish in order to realize this dream? This approach will be especially useful when you naturally envision a sequence of goals that you must reach in order to make the dream a reality. For example, if one of your dreams is to start a new business, one of your early goals might be "Develop business plan."

If you initially create your goals by starting with your dreams, try following up with a bottom-up approach using your SWOTs to flesh out your goals and clarify what reaching each goal will entail. If you initially create your goals starting with your SWOTs, try following up with a top-down, "big picture," approach to make sure that you've covered all the important goals.

Core Posts in This Series:

Discovering Your Vision: identifying the dreams you want to make come true!
Identifying Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities & Threats (SWOTs): the central step in the planning process.
Creating Your Personal Strategic Plan -- developing & writing your goals and strategies.

For a schematic that illustrates the relationship between all of my personal strategic planning posts, see Personal Strategic Planning Schematic

The picture is from Public Domain Pictures.
Copyright © 2012            Last modified: 12/28/2012

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