5 Tips for Developing a Strategic Plan

It’s springtime, glorious springtime. I love the sweeter weather, the pops of purple and white and pink in my garden, the flutterbies and the runny babbits exploring my back yard.

All this roused life can be distracting for me; historically I am less productive at this time of year. This is why developing a strategic plan, filled with short-term and long-term goals, keeps me on my crucial path of moving forward and getting things done!

5 Tips for Developing a Strategic Plan

What is a Strategic Plan?

A strategic plan looks different for everyone, so this answer will depend on who you are and what your short-term and long-term goals are. I define a strategic plan as something that is personal, a plan that will matter to you on some level, whether it is need-based or want-based.

At the foundation of the BEST strategic plans are SMART goals:

S=Specific

Clear, well-defined, and answer most, if not all, of the five “W” questions: Who, What, Where, When, and Why.

Who else will be involved?

What is your goal?

Where will this take place?

When will the goal be achieved?

Why is this goal important?

M=Measurable

Measurable goals help you track your progress and also can let you know if you need to reassess. For many goals, you can repeat the 5 “W” questions here to figure out if your process is successful. Sometimes we set quality goals, but fail in our process to achieve the goal. This is a great place to make sure you are taking effective, actionable steps.

A=Attainable

Your goal needs to be attainable, otherwise you will not be successful. Setting something beyond the scope of your ability, resources, time, or knowledge will only lead to frustration. If it’s not attainable, that doesn’t mean you fuhgeddaboudit! Just back up, set smaller goals that act like stepping stones to this harder-to-reach goal. Once you complete those smaller goals, that once-evasive goal is now yours for the taking.

R=Relevant

A relevant goal is one that makes sense in the overall scheme of your other goals and your Life in general. It has to be worthwhile and should connect in some way to at least another goal. If it’s a stand-alone goal, meaning, if it really has nothing to do with anything else you’re trying to accomplish, then ask yourself how you can make it matter more. If you can’t, then maybe it isn’t the right (relevant) goal for you at this time.

T=Time-Based

Setting target dates and times (deadlines, if you will) can allow you to schedule days, weeks, or months in advance. Knowing when certain goals are supposed to be accomplished will also help you in scheduling other goals so that you don’t overburden yourself with too many big goals all at one time. Target dates and times keep you on task, especially when you have multiple smaller goals to manage simultaneously.

 

But a Strategic Plan doesn’t stop at SMART goals. It is further developed using similar assessment tools and probing questions so that you will actually respond and act. The devices I use to develop a strategic plan are honed in a variety of ways to help keep me focused and on track–I modify them depending on what it is I need to accomplish. I personalize all of the action steps involved, or make sure that I care about the main purpose of what I’m trying to achieve.

For example, I can’t simply say I have to “work in the garden today.” I am much more inclined to follow through if I say “I will weed and mulch the garden for two hours today because it’s supposed to rain the rest of the week. Plus this will count as my exercise for the day.” Not only does this fill the requirements of a SMART goal, but it is strategic in that I have made it personal. This goal matters to me.

5 Tips for Developing a Strategic Plan

Add Positivity

I’m generally a positive person. I believe in the power of positive thinking and that the Universe gives back what you put forth. It’s hard to set goals for nasty tasks, but if I put a positive spin on it, then I’m more likely to get that task done.

TIP: Reward yourself for accomplishing a goal.

Assess Progress Every Day

Long-term goals or especially difficult goals can be easily lost in the busy-ness of Life. When you set yourself reminders or check-ins every day, you can catch yourself in the act of doing well or doing not so well. This also helps you figure out if you’ve set the bar too high, ultimately giving you a chance to readjust so that you don’t fail meeting the goal altogether.

TIP: Record your progress with a journal or photos. The tangible evidence will keep you honest!

Express your Goals

When you talk about your goals to your team (people who are supportive of your writing journey), you have a built-in accountability squad. Good teammates will ask how things are going with your goals, if you need help or if you need to vent, will remind you to get cracking. This outlet can be especially empowering.

TIP: Schedule a coffee date with a teammate and share your goals with each other; arrange to check in with each other once a month.

Back-up your Goal

Let’s face it. Not all goals get achieved. Woody Allen said, “If you want to make God laugh, tell him about your plans.” This can be frustratingly true. But God doesn’t have time or the heart to screw you over twice (here’s my positive thinking shining through), so back-up your goal with another goal. I keep a list on my desk of quick (but annoying) tasks that aren’t overly important, which is why they keep getting shunted from one week’s to-do list to the next week’s to-do list. But they’re still things that, once they’re accomplished, would make a difference in my life in some way.

TIP: Housecleaning, organizing computer files/folders, or starting a recipe book.

Daily Steps to a Long-Term Goal

I think we all have huge goals we’d love to see to fruition. They’re so huge they often seem impossible. Crazy ideas. They’re so idealistic that they often take a back seat to our more practical goals, and we end up only fantasizing about them instead of acting upon them. Taking one little step every single day toward that long-term goal will help you realize that so-called impossible dream. Doesn’t matter what Day One is, just so long as you always do one small task (action step) related to that Crazy Idea every day hence. Acting on a dream is so much fun that you’ll find yourself getting caught up in it for longer bits of time.

TIP: start a private Pinterest board and collect images related to your Impossible Dream.

 

Here’s my two cents I plop down anytime I offer writing advice: Regardless of where you are in your writing journey, I always recommend that you redesign and re-imagine recommended tools and ideas to fit YOU and YOUR needs. Writing advice is NOT a one size fits all. Rather, it’s like an adjustable waistband. Start with something known to work, that all the other people are raving about. Then play around with other options until you design something that is ALL YOUR OWN. You are more likely to stick with writing habits that are of your creation anyway!

Do you have a strategic plan? How do you go about goal-setting? Any tips to share?

Have a writerly day!

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43 thoughts on “5 Tips for Developing a Strategic Plan

  1. Excellent (and very timely) post. I’m really good at those vague sort of goals: “work in the garden today.” I think because, overall, their easier to set. The downside is, that makes them all the harder to obtain. I’m going to have to revisit my SMART planning.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. You make great points here. I seem to accomplish some things, but couldn’t tell you the strategy I use to make it happen. I wish that I could because I could apply that strategy to the things I don’t accomplish– and get them done, too. Strategy, it would seem, is not my strong suit.

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    • Strategy is difficult to figure out, I agree. For the longest time, I didn’t know I had a strategy when it came to housecleaning and garden chores. It wasn’t until I actually mapped out a month one time that I saw what I was doing, and I was like “Oh wow, that was pretty smart of me! I’ll keep doing it that way because it works.” Sometimes it just helps to write it out in order to see what’s going on and what you need to do or change or fix.

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      • Kate, I like your idea of keeping a monthly list [log?] of what I’m doing, then backtrack to see what my strategy is. Smart thinking on your part. I must be doing something right because I do accomplish things. But could I do things better/faster/easier? That remains to be seen. Thanks for the idea.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Reverse engineering (working backwards from a big goal or something you have already accomplished) is extremely helpful to figure out the smaller steps you took or might need to take. Also remember to factor in anything that might have had influence such as your mood, the weather, other people, etc. Good luck! 🙂

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  3. Yes, springtime can definitely be distracting. I also find I do better if I prioritize and get the most vital things done first. All the smaller things fit in better than when I try to do them first and then run out of time for the most important (like family time, etc). Great reminder post, Thanks, Kate.

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  4. I love how you apply the SMART principles to our everyday life. It’s a good way to approach our writing, because the more specific our goals are, including with timeframes, the more likely we are to reach them. We have to be especially diligent as writers because often no one is looking over our shoulder to keep us on track. Having reasonable goals helps us do this.

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    • Took me years to realize that finishing a writing project requires more than me sitting at my desk and putting down words. Yes, that’s a key component, but if we don’t set deadlines and expectations for scenes, chapters, acts, etc., then the project could go on and on and on! I feel much more in control when I know that I have to complete a certain aspect to my novel by a certain timeframe. Of course, the trick is keeping yourself honest. Too easy to move those deadlines …

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  5. Wah! But this sounds like work! 😉

    Seriously, this is the outline we keep for projects in my office, where results need to be tangible or we end up with unhappy clients. In a way, I suppose our readers are clients. We form agreements with them to tell a good story, to satisfy them in the way our story or book blurb promises. Keeping to goals like you’ve posted here, Kate, helps us stay true to and honor those agreements. I especially like the idea of sitting down for a coffee date with a friend once a month to assess progress. First, I need to find a friend, but then – absolutely – I will get on that step.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Haha, I know, it is work to set goals that actually “work.” I think readers are our clients, too. They expect something from us when they begin reading the first word–whether it’s a novel or a blog post. We wouldn’t be very good at our jobs if we posted half-finished blogs or published an unedited novel.

      As I mentioned to Carrie above, the only problem in all of this is that we have to be honest — far too easy to ignore or move deadlines, or alter the goals in some way that fits with our productivity levels. While we should assess our goals and change them if we’ve set the bar too high, we have to be careful that we’re assessing honestly and fairly and still challenging ourselves. That’s probably where the “friend” or “teammate” comes into play.

      Mayumi, do I really need to remind you that you have writer friends? Maybe they’re not in your physical neighborhood, but you have plenty in your cyber neighborhood. I’m happy to be your check-in friend! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • I know, Kate. I just feel so selfish talking about my stuff to somebody, even a writer friend who would understand. If someone is paid to listen, that’s one thing. Though, does the hired person genuinely care, beyond the level of doing a good-enough job to be paid? There are projects at work I get sincerely excited about…but there are others I know I’m just phoning in. The latter is how I imagine most people think about my stories.

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  6. This is great stuff. I like how bite-size and specific it is. Every season presents its challenges for me, but spring and summer are particularly challenging with kids and sports and weather and beautiful things growing right before my eyes! I am slowly learning the the one-size fits all is actually a myth. I used to really love to dive in and see how and what a published author lived and breathed and wrote (outlining, managing time, laptop or notebook, drinking, sleeping) and think, “that’s the key to success!” I still love those details (I’m also nosy), but the more I read and learn, the more I realize it’s not a cookie cutter process. The only thing that seems constant is consistency and hard work.

    Great tips. For me? Getting to the page everyday. Honestly, sometimes this doesn’t happen, but it’s the goal. It’s scheduled. And slowly slowly, the words add up. Bad first drafts are written. 2nd drafts, too.

    Want to be monthly check in buddies? I’m just taking your advice!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Remember that online writing workshop we signed up for with James Patterson? I was just thinking about that the other day, actually, and wondering how many of the people who signed up for that were able to follow his advice to the letter and have it work for them. While some of his advice was helpful, not all of it was really applicable to the general population of writers.

      Writing everyday is the best advice I can give to anyone who wants to take things to the next level. And you’re right, some days you simply can’t, but I try to make up for it on other days. There are those rare days when I have a whole morning to myself, and the writing energy is non-stop. I take advantage of those opportunities–even if there’s something else on the calendar. If I can move it, I will.

      Yes, I’ll be your monthly check-in buddy! I’ll email you and we can set something up!

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  7. Smart plan Kate. Spring is a time for renewal, so why not renew goals? We all go at our own pace as you said but at least if we have planned goals and do our best to attain them we’re being productive. Some days ‘stuff’ does get left over on the plate, so we scrape it on tomorrow’s plate and work that much harder. I got way behind this winter on my bookwriting, but I’m back in the groove and that is motivating enough to keep all engines running smooth. 🙂

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    • Hi Debby! Yes, springtime is a great time to re-assess our goals. For some people, this time of year is what they consider their New Year, and they set their goals now. I love that approach because it makes sense naturally. My year changes with the seasons because I have kids, so I have to re-assess on a regular basis to fit everything in.

      I agree with you about working harder to deal with unfinished tasks from the day before. Sometimes you just can’t get to everything every day. And that’s okay. If we beat ourselves up about that, we’ll never set any goals. Keeping a couple of hours open every week is helpful for this, because then you can get those hangover tasks accomplished.

      Liked by 1 person

    • I am naturally organized and strategic in Life. I do not like spontaneity if it interferes with a plan I’ve already set in motion. This makes me pretty boring and predictable. 🙂 But it helps when I need to get my writing done–especially when I’m writing something that’s giving me a hard time. There is that part of my writing self that is drawn to organic creativity, where outlines and plans are despised. You’re right about the balance. It’s a matter of feeding that hunger of creativity while also making progress with outlines and strategies. 🙂

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  8. Love it, Kate. Now I have eye of the tiger in the background and I’m ready to take on my goals with an ardent fire. Mathair and I have been taking a blogging hiatus and are getting back into the swing of things so we definitely needed this positive motivation. Thanks so much and have a great weekend. 🙂

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  9. These are excellent points, Kate, and I need to do something like this. I’m very organized with my day-job work, and I really need to apply the same strategy to writing and other personal interests. This is a great post to keep for repeated reference!

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    • Thanks, Jacqueline. I have to stay on top of my goals because they change often and are at the mercy of so many other people and their needs. I must protect my plans if I want to make any progress!

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  10. I love how you break this down. You’re so right about personalizing a task rather than simply jotting down a ‘grocery list’ of goals that might otherwise get left in the shopping cart. Now. If you can come up with a winning game plan for the Sawx, I will be even more impressed. Just kidding, you’re quite impressive.

    Great stuff, Kate.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Cayman, I haven’t been able to follow the “Sawx” yet this year! They’re not winning?? How can this be? I’m distraught. *deep breaths* *beer* *deep breaths* *more beer*

      You’re right. I need to come up with a winning game plan for my boys. Right on it.

      Liked by 1 person

      • No, no, no. You keep doing what you’re doing. They’ll be fine without you. And besides, my boys will put out a hit on me if they know I conspired in any way to take down the Empire.

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  11. I love that Woody Allen quote! I definitely need more specific goals because I’m not doing/never getting to the more general ones. I hope you’re finding the time to enjoy the blooming out there!

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  12. Great explanation of a strategic plan! I teach Psychology and I spend a couple classes on SMART goals and milestones. It’s so important for success in life.

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  13. Pingback: Spring into Action – octavia lenee

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