Write something down... anything!
Louis CK* does a very funny routine and in it talks about how he is so very proud of himself for just thinking about doing something and revels in how wonderful he is for just having had the thought. He does point out he never really seriously came close to doing it though.
In part I thought of this because it is the beginning of a new year, but also because I've been proudly telling people that my 2017 goals and objectives are down on paper.
When I ask if they have done the same, a serenade of crickets seem to follow shortly thereafter. If you come from a corporate world you know there is an agonizing amount of process and administration around setting annual Goals and Objectives, so I was even more surprised when a few hard core business people seem to look away as I ask.
To be clear I am not referring to "resolutions"**.
I am talking about a plan for the year that is associated with a vision which includes objectives and activities to get you there. There are two parts that I am referring to: having a plan and actually acting on it.
If you were asked by the Cheshire Cat where you wanted to go in 2017 would you have an answer? It speaks to the old adage, "It doesn't matter what you do if you don't know what you want". Business, particularly bigger business, is very good at the process of developing plans aligned with strategy, mission and vision (sometimes agonizingly so). Why shouldn't you?
Remember that this isn't just an academic exercise (nor should it ever be).
We should have a Vision for our Life and Guiding Principles that focus us, and as superfluous as this may seem, they actually act as a lighthouse when life gets stormy and complicated. With these guiding principles (as well as consideration to the current situation), plans, goals and objectives can be developed to drive action. Remember this about planning; it can take two hours and one piece of paper or three months and countless PowerPoint presentations. In the end, it is important have one.
I suspect that most carry a plan in their head that may (or may not) be tied to a longer term vision for themselves; if push comes to shove though, they have one. And this brings us back to Louis CK... having a plan in your head is analogous to him revelling in the fantasy of thinking about doing something and how wonderful it is to just be thinking of it.
The point to be made is your plan does not become real until you write it down.
With the act of writing it down (typing, graphically representing it, or whatever for it takes), you have created something that is now tangible, communicable, measurable, and the first step to executing on it. There is a large amount of perspective regarding how your probability of success increases by writing something down and this is well articulated in a book called The Art of Quitting by Peg Streep and Alan Bernstein ***. For me, there is also a commitment that comes with writing it down.
And one last thing, don't be so particularly concerned with the format and formality... simply put, the vision and plan really are just "what you want to be, and what are you going to do to get there?" The formality of a good planning format and language can always be evolved to include a Vision, Mission, Guiding Principles, Smart G&Os, strategies and tactics. You will get there soon enough.
Just write something down... anything.
This is what I have written down for 2017. I am partial to PowerPoint so I was able to simply cut and paste.
The Vision for a fulfilled Life
- Self confidence with myself and the world through mindful action and presence. (self)
- Self awareness and knowledge through activity & travel, learning, knowledge and wisdom. (self)
- Deep emotional connection with a “Life Companion”. (relationship/spirit)
- Deep connection and Legacy for my Daughter. (relationship/spirit)
- Satisfying circle of friends with personal and professional connections. (relationship/spirit)
- A safe, comfortable and tranquil living space (environment)
Intimate work with a company or small circle of clients to help them grow into their goals. (environment)
2017 Goals and Objectives (Guiding Principles in Bold)
Self Confidence: Maintain an uninterrupted physical lifestyle. Study mindfulness. Expand networks and formal association membership.
Self Awareness and Knowledge: Travel internationally at least once in 2017. Take at least one academic courses. Read one non fiction book each quarter.
Deep Emotional Connection: Develop a soulful “Life Companion” relationship. Continue to build an adult relationship with my daughter.
Satisfying Circle of Friends: Continue initiating quarterly get-togethers. Assess toxic friendships and develop positive new friendships.
Legacy: Continue activity to move Family Legacy plan forward.
A Safe, comfortable, tranquil living space: Maintain current situation until 2018.
Intimate work: Continue GPE Stratagem as an income generator (> $XXXXX K). Continue Blogging activity (no less than twice a week). Expand social networking. Develop one entrepreneurial opportunity. Write a book.
I have written out the detailed activities for each the above goals (for the first six months of the year); come July I will review and adjust the objectives accordingly. Based on the situation and my successes, I then develop activities for the second half of the year. I am big on Goals and Objectives being SMART*** to ensure that there is the greatest chance of success.
There you have it.
There is a science to developing Goals and Objectives that ensure the greatest likelihood for success, but for me, just write something down and bring them to life as quickly as you can. You can optimize the formality and wordsmith them as you go.
* Louis CK is a very funny American comic - Louis CK Live at Beacon Theatre (language warning but very funny).
** I simply hate resolutions, and yes I know hate is a strong word.
*** Chapter 7 - Mapping your Goals
**** SMART is an acronym for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time bound. This is the criteria that should be used to develop good objectives.