All good plans come with a side of “life.” The expected and the unexpected are known for throwing wrenches into even the best plans.
It may come as a surprise to many of the people I have worked with, but I never have a true Plan B when I’m working toward a goal. It’s too much work to come up with more than one plan! Instead, I’ve found that it’s much better to use the plan that’s already created and build in chaos resistant tactics so that it can withstand life’s chaos.
Here are my 7 tips for how to plan in this way…
1. Build in extra time
The general rule is that work will grow to fit whatever amount of time you give it. However, there’s another rule: we tend to overestimate what we can get done in a short amount of time (or, we underestimate how much time we actually need.) Add in a little extra time, perhaps a day or two, to give you the wiggle room to get everything done.
2. Set your expectations lower
Having big goals is good, but your expectations should be set so that if you don’t complete them, it’s fine! You should expect to complete your goals, but you should also expect that it may take extra time or steps to reach them. Quite simply…
Aim for the stars, but be okay with floating in space for a while before you get there.
3. Assess your status at the end of the day
- Did you fall behind?
- Are you ahead?
- Have things come up that will make executing your plan difficult?
Getting a grip on what happened today and understanding where you need to adjust your plan is the first step to making sure that you are ready for tomorrow. This does not need to be formal: simply review your day and take note of anything that may affect the long-term execution.
4. Review the plan immediately when big situations occur
When the unexpected arises – things get delayed, a miscommunication occurs, or there’s a lack of knowledge that needs to be filled – take a moment to review the plan. Do not simply say “I’ll work on other things until this is rectified” because the chances of that big thing being fixed by the time you need it to be done are slim. Instead, review the plan and see what deadlines need to be shifted, if the plan can continue through the situation, and if there are any alternatives you can take.
Don’t panic! There is always a way forward; it just may be hard to see.
5. Adjust early, adjust often
A common theme I see is for people to push through problems and not adjust their plans, expecting that things will work out simply because the plan exists. Instead of falling into that trap, adjust your plan as soon as you notice that something may not work out. Do you need an extra day? Adjust the plan so that you have more time. Waiting for something to be delivered? Adjust the plan so you can wait, but still do other things. Plans are meant to be guides, not absolutes, so don’t be afraid to wiggle things around if you need it!
6. Assess periodically at a deeper level
Not just your daily reviews, but sit down, review, and revise your plan on weekly, monthly, and yearly intervals. What has gone wrong? What has gone right? Have you lost time or are you ahead of schedule? What needs to happen in the next week/month/year for you to hit your goals? Spend 15-20 minutes doing a deep-dive into what is working (or not working) and deciding if you need to adjust to hit your goals.
7. Know when to throw the entire plan in the trash
There is a time when you need to take a plan and throw it in the trash because it’s no longer useful. This usually happens when one of two things occurs: the end goal has changed significantly or there are no more possible steps to take in the plan but you aren’t at your goal.
If the target has moved, then you probably need to throw the old plan out. You wouldn’t use a plan for becoming a hairstylist if you’re aiming to become a doctor, right? Make sure your plan is relevant.
The other option is if you’ve done everything that you can in the plan and you’re nowhere near your goal. This tends to happen if we haven’t taken everything into account or there have been constant outside influences that have kept us in place. For example, you may be trying to save $10,000, but unexpected medical emergencies and unaccounted for bills are holding you back – it may be time to rethink your strategy.
Your Plan is a Guide: It’s Not An Absolute
At the end of the day, remember that plans are there as a guide and they’re not written in stone. Be vigilant in making sure that your plan is appropriate for your goal and adjusting for things that take you off course.
Have you been running blindly with your plans? Do you need to change and adjust the way the plan is laid out?