Planning10 Dec, 2011, by Seema Bhatnagar
This is a part IV of seven part series of Goals setting and achievement.
- Part I, Why you should have goals?
- Part II, Frameworks for setting and achieving goals.
- Part III, Initiation
- Part IV, Planning
- Part V, Execution
- Part VI, Controlling
- Part VII, Learning
What is Goal Planning?
This is a phase where selected goals in the initiation phase get timelines and gets strategized. Planning is an important phase and demands you to think about the time required and the best way to achieve your goals. It also makes you to think about what all road blocks you may face while achieving your goals.
Why Strategic Planning is important?
"Achieve success in any area of life by identifying the optimum strategies and repeating them until they become habits." Charles J. Givens
Coined in English 1825, the word strategic is of military origin, from the Greek. Strategy, narrowly defined, means
"the art of the general" (from Greek stratigos). A combination of the ends (goals) for which an individual/organization
is striving and the means (policies) by which it is seeking to get there.
A strategy is sometimes called a roadmap which is the path chosen to plow towards the end vision. Strategic Planning is an important phase where you put in your efforts to understand how best you can achieve your goals.
Whenever there is a goal there is an underlying blueprint or design or a pattern which if followed can assure you a success in accomplishing goals.
Companies and organizations spend millions on strategizing their marketing and advertising plan.
In military or army, the most important personality attribute all Generals should possess is their ability to strategize. They should be able to define a strategy to counter the attacking enemy.
People usually spend less time in strategizing and planning and straight away jump into execution and this becomes a single most reason of failure in achieving goals. If you have played chess at any point in time in your life you would be able to appreciate the importance of having a strategy. A well defined strategy is must to win the game.
Right from the childhood, in school or at back home, we are appreciated more for executing than strategizing tasks. This is especially true for Asian countries like India, Japan and China and probably that is a reason why people are better here in execution than strategizing. Not strategizing becomes a habit in our adulthood and we straight away jump for execution of goals without ever bothering much about strategizing.
Initiating goals is the first step, which brings you near to your goals but actually, strategizing them to achieve desired success is most important part of goal achievement. Strategy is one of the most important factors which determines the success and failure of your goals. A well defined and thought through strategy can guarantee you a success in your goals.
My personal experience with Strategic planning
I was given an assignment by my company to visit Italy for a long term stay. In Italy, Italian, is the first language for all official purposes, and few people prefer to speak in English. I had no knowledge of Italian language at the time of getting an assignment and I had almost one month in hand before flying to Italy, instead of feeling hapless after landing in Italy, I made a goal to learn basic Italian before reaching Italy. At that time, it was feeling almost impossible for me to learn Italian in 30 days but I thought through and decided a strategy and plan to learn Italian. To do that, I took online tutorials, joined online forums, practiced writing and made myself comfortable in basic Italian in just 30 days. I will not say that I became fluent in speaking Italian but yes my status was more than zero. That was my strategic planning which helped me to accomplish goal using full force. After this, my confidence level was at a new high since I had accomplished my goal and acquired a new skill.
Guidelines for Goal Planning and Strategizing
Following are some guidelines which can be helpful in goal planning and strategizing.
- Develop Required Skills
- Gather Information
- Connect with people
- Think of obstacles
- Do less to get more
- Break Up tasks
- Sequence your tasks
- Leverage your environment
- Set accountability
- Give your full energy
Give a thought about the skills you already possess and what all new skills you need to acquire in order to achieve your goals. There could be some primary or core skills which you must have and secondary skills which are nice to have to achieve goals. This could be joining a new course or joining a new community or may be learning a new language. For example, if you are applying for a job which involves customer handling then you must possess excellent verbal communication skills and it is fine if you are simply average in written communication. In this case, the primary skill or must have skill is verbal communication skill and nice to have is written communication skill.
Understand your goal thoroughly and figure out the gap between you and the goal you want to achieve. What is that knowledge which you are lacking about your goal? Is there anything which is confusing you? To get the crystal like clarity on your goals utilize the vast resources of information available. Gather information from books, newspaper, magazine, online material, online forums, and groups.
Connect with people who have already achieved similar goals. You could get excellent and proven information from a person who has already explored those avenues. For example, if you have a goal of starting a new business then search for entrepreneurs who have already walked on this path. Speak to those entrepreneurs and understand how they could achieve those goals. Hire a coach or look for a mentor to get a more personal attention and clarity about your goals.
While planning for goals, think of all obstacles which might come in your way. Brainstorm all possible obstacles you
can think of and prepare a list. Out of this list figure out the ones which really makes you feel threatened and can
possibly deviate you from your path of goal achievement. Now, think of different possible ways in which you would handle
Doing this exercise, will give you handy solutions for your most threatening obstacles which you can use while actually executing your plan and you would find yourself more equipped for handling the obstacles. If you see another brighter side of this exercise, it is actually taking you closer to your goals since you are continuously imagining and immersing yourself in a near real life situation, which in fact is enhancing your power to handle opposing forces.
There might be some handful (not all) activities or tasks pertaining to your goal which determines the success of your goal. Identify those key activities or tasks and prioritize them. Such activities could be 20% of your overall activities but they would accomplish 80% of your goal success. So figure out and prioritize such key activities and see how preparing for these will make your goal achievement more smooth.
Break up or divide your goal into steps or small tasks which are easily manageable. And make these small tasks as
measureable, which mean your small tasks should be able to reflect the progress of your overall goal. For each task or
activity try to answer,
When? Where? How? Why? What?
Most importantly your tasks/activities must be aligned as per the strategy you have decided, otherwise chalking out strategy will prove futile for you.
You may use any software which provides you the facility of creating timelines for tasks. A very popular example is MS Project. You may also use MS Outlook or calendar given with your email client. An easiest option could be Gmail calendar which you can use on the web and access it from anywhere. I use it for myself for creating timelines and setting business meeting etc.
Attach realistic timings to your tasks and activities. Ensure that timelines are matching your schedule and you do not really have to struggle to meet those timelines. Otherwise achieving goals might prove demotivating for you. If one of your tasks is to have a brisk walk every evening before dinner but your regular office timing is till 9 pm then assigning 9:30 pm to your goal for a walk will be overkilling for you. The idea here is to set yourself up for success and overcommitment could jeopardize your overall plan and can put you in a demotivating state.
Once you have fair idea about sub tasks which are required to be accomplished to reach your goal, the next logical
step is to sequence your sub tasks according to the importance. Sequencing will help you in determining the most
important and least important of your tasks in your list. You may have a look at Beat the clock series for organizing
your urgent, important and less important activities according to TIME MANAGEMENT MATRIX.
Your environment plays an important role in strategizing and planning of your goal. Try to figure out how your environment is supporting you and what all things are present in your environment which will encourage you in achieving your goals. There might be certain people or other factors surrounding you which may bog down your progress. So identify such factors and replace them with more favourable ones and stay away from the negative forces. For example, if your goal is to have a healthy food, then stock up your refrigerator with all fresh fruits and vegetables and whenever you are feeling hungry, instead of munching on some junk food you a have better option available around you.
Once you have defined goal and have a pretty much fair idea of how to go about it, inform your friends, family, spouse and tell them about your new goals and when you are going to achieve it. If possible get a person who can hold you accountable for your goal progress and achievement. Doing this will make you accountable to yourself and the person to whom you have to answer. Also, people with whom you are setting accountability will keep asking you about the progress and updates whenever you would come in contact with them. You may think it as a positive collaboration for your goal.
Allocate your full resources and full force while planning your goal. Leave a zero possibility for any failure even if it means over committing yourself somewhere. After all, it makes sense to achieve it in first attempt instead of attempting it again and again with half hearted efforts.
In the next post, we will discuss about the execution part of goal setting and achievement.
Why you should have goals?
Frameworks for setting and achieving Goals
TIME MANAGEMENT MATRIX