Tuesday, March 22, 2016

3 Keys to Successful Long-Term Planning

The first casualty of war?  The plan.

I still make 'em. I make lots of plans. I, on frequent occasion, even write them down. For I am...

List Girl, Planner Extraordinaire! 
~cue superhero theme song~

I do short-term, I do long-term, I do them by halves and by wholes. For plans are pathways to achieving one's goals.  

I am...not going to tell you a story. I am going to tell you 3 tips to setting long-term plans, 3 times to revise those plans, and 3 times to scrap the damn things. 

3 Keys to Successful Long-Term Planning

1) Set Goals within Your Sphere of Control
Yeah, yeah, it sounds glib, but too often people choose goals rife with dependencies on others. Guess what? You can't control other people.  Ex. "Hitting the NYT Best-Seller List" is a common long-term author goal. It's a shitty goal. Why? Because you're depending on 3rd parties to achieve that goal; the most obvious being consumers. There are the sneaky things too like other releases during that week, the often changing parameters of the NYT list, and reporting systems that don't report all books sold.

How do you revise that goal? Most people would think "go smaller, go micro, go with the task you can control that's just shy of hitting The List." That's goal-setting to benefit others (like your boss). I'm talking about setting long-term goals for your life. You go bigger, think deeper. What is it that hitting The List gives you? Once you figure that out, you adapt your plan to achieve it through means and methods within your control.

2) Be Realistic about Resources & Responsibilities
Whether it's money, family, flexibility, or knowledge, don't lie to yourself. Take those things into consideration when making the plan. Be brutal with yourself if you must, but be objective. At certain points along the route, you're going to assume additional burdens; similarly, you're going to shuck burdens along the way as well. If the words "I can't" crop-up as a road block, then think bigger and think differently. Innovate other ways of achieving the milestone. 

Any long-term goal should be a challenge to achieve. It's how we grow as individuals.  You will need to gain new skills, more knowledge, more experience. Allow yourself a learning curve. Give yourself permission to be a student. Assume there will be failures along the way. Celebrate them, learn from them, move on. You will never be omnipotent, but you can be successful.

3) Don't Be Tethered to Time
This probably flies in the face of every bit of goals and planning instruction you've ever encountered. Remember, we're talking about the long-term here. Short-term goals and plans, they're all time-based. Long-term isn't. So many people start their long-term goals with "By the time I'm XX age..." Age is a factor only in what others will let you do. If age is a constraint, go back to the first point in this list. Death is pretty much the only mitigating factor of time in long-term planning. 

3 Times to Revise the Plan:
1) If you've set the right goal, the plan can always be revised. It's a living pathway. As you learn more, revisions to the plan are expected.
2) When achieving another goal takes higher priority. 
3) When an influencer enters or exits your sphere--this could be technology, a person, war, etc.

3 Times to Scrap the Plan: 
1) When you no longer want to achieve the associated goal.
2) When you're dead.
3) Did I mention dead?

Remember, folks, spontaneity is fine as long as it's planned.