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!
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:
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?