Why Planning Fails (and what to do instead)

It’s that time of year again.Strategic Planning that Gets Results
The time when entrepreneurs everywhere gather around a notebook, laptop, whiteboard or wall of stickie notes to map out an EPIC NEW YEAR.
You have got big plans for 2016, I am sure. HUGE, even.
You probably can’t wait to sit down with your tool of choice and plan out a year of doubled revenue AND 80 new projects AND a bigger team AND a complete redesign AND brand overhaul AND you’ll finally get those systems in place AND, AND, AND.

Here’s the problem with your planning: you’re skipping a very important step.

You probably know what this step is but you’re gonna skip it anyway. The step you’re skipping is looking back at what you’ve accomplished in 2015 in a strategic way to build momentum that will fuel 2016.
Here’s what will happen if you don’t skip this step: The momentum to achieve the results you want to achieve in 2016, will suddenly appear.

Momentum: force or speed of movement; impetus, as of a physical object or course of events.

You need to do whatever you can to build momentum in your business. Momentum is the stimulus for your epic 2016. Don’t start planning without it.

Now you may be thinking: I don’t want to look back at the goals I set at the beginning of 2015. I am afraid that I didn’t achieve all of them. In fact, I am afraid that I barely achieved any of them. All looking back is going to do is depress me and make me feel like my 2016 goals aren’t possible.
I understand this fear. I’ve been there. I have been setting business goals at the end of each year since I started my business five years ago. In the beginning, I set goals that couldn’t be accomplished in the year by anyone who requires sleep in order to function.
I didn’t have the resources (money, people, time) to accomplish all of the things I put on my goal list.
These oversized, unrealistic goals meant that I never wanted to look back at what I actually did accomplish in the last year, because whatever I did accomplish would be tiny compared to what I had planned for. And so, I would just focus on being positive, “thinking big” and creating another set of unrealistic goals for the year. If you continue in this cycle of goal setting, you will constantly be disappointed. As an entrepreneur, being disappointed often means entering into a funk and being in a funk means the opposite of momentum.

Momentum is your job as the CEO of your company.

Momentum creates momentum. You need to be 100% focused on the things that generate profit, cash or time. You don’t have time for funks.

Here is my strategy for looking back at what you’ve accomplished in the last year in a way that builds momentum for your 2016 plans:

First: Look at resources you had available to achieve your goals at the beginning of 2015. What size was your team? What connections did you have with people who could make it much easier to accomplish your goals? How much money did you have to invest in the projects you wanted to execute in 2015? How much time did you honestly have to invest in your work? (If you just had a baby, were caring for a sick parent, dealing with your own health issues, planning a wedding, moving across the country or world, or other big life-shifts happened, you probably weren’t working with as much time as you think you were.)
Second: Write down all of the challenges you experienced throughout the year. Did you get sued? Did you lose a massive client? Did you have to fire a key employee? Did you have to deal with a health issue? What were the unplanned for events that made it harder to make your 2015 goals happen?
Third: Now that you have a clear picture of what you were working with at the beginning of 2015 and the challenges that came your way throughout the year, you are ready to evaluate the goals you set at the beginning of the year. For each goal that you set, ask yourself not only “did I accomplish this goal” but also “why or why not?” My guess is having the context for the goals that were set will help you to realize that you accomplished a lot in 2015 given the resources that you had and the challenges that came your way.
When you evaluate what you’ve accomplished in the last year, you want to do so with a mindset of “Damn, look how far I’ve come!” rather than “Damn, look how far I still am from getting to where I want to be.” The first mindset builds momentum, the second mindset builds slumps.
So before you begin planning your epic 2016, take the time to remind yourself of the people, money and time you had available to you and the challenges you faced throughout this year. Then evaluate whether you accomplished your 2015 goals with context and ask yourself why were you able to accomplish it or what prevented it from happening? Instead of judging yourself harshly, look at your last year with a positive outlook about how far you’ve come. If you do these things, you will map out much more strategic goals for 2016 and have the positive momentum to actually accomplish them.
Ready to set your strategic goals for 2016? I am hosting a free call Friday, December 11th to teach you my strategic planning process that has allowed me to successfully accomplish the majority of my goals for the past two years, despite a variety of major setbacks. Join me for this 60-minute call here (space is limited).

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