Planning for People who Hate to Plan

Here it is late March, and lots of folks haven’t yet gotten around to doing their personal planning for 2014 – despite all good intentions. The start of a new year is our trigger to consider new goals, and to take into consideration the wealth of advice out there for how to keep them. If you haven’t yet come up with your own goals by this time, it may seem like you might as well wait until next year and try again. But don’t get sidetracked by the early year hype – right now is always a good time to plan. And for those out there who hate to plan, it can even be (dare I say) fun if you play by your own rules.

We know that what gets imagined, written down, and described is more likely to get done. A person can say I want to grow my business, but if they can think through the types of activities they want to do, the amount of revenue they need to bring in, and their ultimate clients then they are more likely to succeed. It’s a virtuous cycle because planning focusses your attention.

Many times we don’t want to plan because it’s hard work to come up with the answers to such big questions. It’s hard to take time from our routines to figure out what kind of work we really want to do or what will make us happy.

Any planning is better than no planning at all. You can plan for a period of two months or two years. You can write it in a formal document or scratch it out on a napkin. Do it your way; just do something. Use what you know about yourself, and you can find a way to plan that works for you.  Here are some suggestions that might inspire you to get started.

Use a guide/coach
This isn’t necessarily a person, although you’re sure to find plenty of advisors out there.
But even simpler is to find a tool or system that asks the big questions for you. There’s planning ideas and software available via the internet.

Go someplace that makes you happy. Location matters.
Find a place you like to go, and head there to do your planning.  This could be a hotel, the coast, a coffee shop or your patio. Feeling happy and at ease might be just what you need to give you that extra push to make the time. Plus, positive, relaxed surroundings help us think more expansively.

It’s almost impossible to do any thinking work at your desk, so if that’s where you’re parked to plan it’s going to be heavy lifting. Treat planning as a gift to yourself, and use your environment to your benefit.

Create an environment where you can focus.
Experts say that concretely planning how to achieve a goal, rather than vaguely considering it, works because it helps us to focus.  How important is focus when it comes to accomplishing what you want?  According to psychologist and bestselling author Dan Goleman, it’s vital. “While the link between attention and excellence remains hidden most of the time,” he writes, “it ripples through almost everything we seek to accomplish.”

Goleman’s latest book, Focus: The Hidden Driver of Excellence, says it all.  By setting aside time to plan how we’re going to achieve our goals, we can visualize and strategize, which will make them that much more tangible and attainable.

Be specific.
It’s easy to plan squishy goals like “I’m going to get in shape this year,” but by not being specific, we’re planning for failure. Nutritional author Dr. Josh Axe shows the difference in a compelling example here.

Whether it’s about weight or exercise or a major business venture – any goal written down in specific terms is more likely to be achieved. However, you don’t have to go over the top on details. As Peter Bregman discusses in Harvard Business Review, setting areas of focus rather than time-bound goals can be an effective strategy.

Give yourself an A to start.
Benjamin Zander, renowned conductor of the Boston Philharmonic, talks about the importance of starting by giving everyone an A. What he means is that we will be our most creative and risk-taking if we stop worrying about being successful, and focus on our contribution. If we already assume we’re great, what’s possible then?

In planning, assume you’re doing it perfectly. Your goals are just right for you. Whenever, and however, it’s still the right way to go. By taking the pressure off goal setting as a big ticket, must-do, January 1 endeavour, we allow ourselves to benefit from it all year long. 


Adapted from an article on