Tell me if this sounds familiar: You’re working 12 hour days, you’re involved in every important decision in your company (large and small), and… you’re exhausted.
If this describes your situation, I have a suggestion (and you may not want to hear this):
Set aside a little time to do some planning.
Not a two-day offsite to lay out a strategic plan for the next 10 years (although that would be helpful too). I’m talking about half a day, in your office, with a handful of staff, to look at the next six months.
Stay with me, I’ll explain how and why in a minute. But first, let’s handle the main objections to planning I hear from my clients every day:
- We’re not ready yet. We’re too small, we don’t have enough people, we don’t have the right people.
My response: Size, staff and experience have nothing to do with the need to plan. You don’t get in your car and just drive, whether you’re going to the grocery store or across the country. You think about where you’re going before you ever leave the house. Planning is what gets you where you want to go.
- I don’t have the time. I’m running like crazy as it is. I’m too busy for planning. We can’t get our stuff done now – I don’t need another thing to manage.
My response: When you’re feeling overwhelmed, doing more isn’t better. Until you set priorities and direction, you’re just digging whatever hole you’re in, that much faster. The key is to identify which activities will really move the needle forward for your company. You can’t do everything.
- I have it all in my head. I’m the one who makes the decisions around here and things change too quickly anyway. Why bother?
My response: If it’s all in your head, nobody else can help you. Besides, many business owners really struggle with communicating their vision effectively. Planning results in everybody getting on the same page so they can put all their energies behind one or two agreed upon priorities for the year.
The Six Month Plan
Planning is all about helping you and your team focus so you can finish what you start.
It’s about getting everyone aligned around the most important activities in the short term. It’s about slowing the wheel-spinning in your company and creating some clarity and a sense of purpose around one or two desired outcomes. These outcomes will get you energized and lift you out of the muck you’re slogging through every day.
It’s a three-step process:
- Figure out one or two goals you want to achieve six months from now. Buy new equipment? Introduce a new product? Expand into a new territory? Improve some aspect of your team? Pick something important that you want to get done – and that can be achieved in six months (not something that’s going to overhaul your entire business).
- Set aside half a day. Quick and simple, in your office, with a white board and your management team. List all the projects that your team is currently working on.
- Choose only one or two of the projects from the list – those that are the most important to meeting your six month goal(s) – and focus all your team’s energies and efforts on getting those projects done. Trust me, less is better.
Here’s what’s going to happen as a result of that half day:
First, when you get together in a room and start listing ideas and projects, you’re all going to realize that you have too many things going on and that too much of it is random and uncoordinated. That realization alone is worth the price of admission.
Second, and now that it’s all laid out in front of you and your team, you can ask and answer one simple question: Which of these things will really move us closer to where we want to go?
Realize there are only so many hours to spend on projects in addition to your regular job duties. Establishing a few priorities, making quick decisions and getting the stuff done that is related to your goals is what planning is all about.
You’ll be more focused on what’s important to achieving your goals
Again, this isn’t meant to take the place of longer-term strategic planning (which I’m a big believer in). But if you’re not doing any planning at all, this is a great place to start.