What’s the Plan?

2010 BullseyeWell, it’s late February now. How are those New Year’s Resolutions going? I’ve never really liked making resolutions in January because we all expect to break them almost as soon as we make them. So why bother?

I’m sure you received many emails at the beginning of the year, as I did, expounding on the virtues of establishing goals for your business this year. I, as usual, chose not to go through the exercise at that time. But that doesn’t mean I don’t believe in setting goals. I just don’t think we should reserve the process for January 1st.

And it’s that word – process – that we need to focus on. It’s not just about setting goals, but about following up with more details about how we plan to accomplish them. It’s this lack of additional planning that causes New Year’s Resolutions and other goal-setting exercises to fail.

For the last few months, my business, my mindset, and my finances have been changing. And I’ve spent time in denial, distracting myself, confused, paralyzed, as well as working very hard. In my own way, I was processing the changes. (I wouldn’t mind finding a more efficient way to do this!) I finally found my way out of the fog last week and starting some serious business planning.

Binary StreamsFirst, I clarified how much income I wanted each month. Then, I decided what streams of income I would continue, create, or enhance to achieve that income. I used a few guidelines here. First, I couldn’t have too many streams. It just becomes unmanageable to split my time and attention between too many “departments”. I chose five streams for now since several of them are new and will require a lot of attention to get going. As these streams become more established, I can choose to add new streams if I wish.

Each stream of income needed to involve a product or service that I knew I would enjoy providing. There’s nothing harder than trying to start up a line of business when you just hate what you’re doing. Why try to force it? There are so many ways you can earn money, and this is how you’re going to spend a great deal of your time, so make it something you enjoy.

The next guideline was to be realistic about how much I could really make with a stream within the next few months. I didn’t want to start with totally unrealistic estimates for these streams of income because if I did, I would certainly fail in making the income I needed each month. Stack of MoneyThat would mess up my finances, but even more importantly, it would doom me to failure right from the start. This is a key problem we often have with goal-setting. When we make our goals too lofty, we’re almost guaranteed to fail and of course, that’s pretty discouraging. We might decide that setting goals is pointless and we lose our motivation to keep moving forward. As I execute my plan and the income from each stream meets my goals, I can always adjust my target income for a stream upward.

Now, you may be saying to yourself, “Duh. I know to do this. Is this the first time Peggy has ever done this?” The answer is “No.” I do know this and have done it many times over the years. I’m going over it again now for two reasons,

First, I want to emphasize that we need to do this over and over again through the years of our businesses. And not necessarily just at the beginning of the year. If we’re working a plan and getting the results we want, great. But if we’re feeling at all off course, going back to this exercise can help us refocus on where we want to being spending our time and energy. And even if we are getting the results we want, we will want to readjust our plan – raising income targets, adding additional streams – periodically.

The second reason for discussing these goals is to move on to what comes next. Far too often, I’ve set these goals but not continued the planning far enough or detailed enough for the level of successful results I wanted and could have had. I’ve resolved (“resolved,” get it? :-)) to do better this time, which means drilling down into each stream and creating plans that make it simple for me to know what I need to do each week and each day to achieve my goals.

So in the weeks to come, I’m going to share more about my planning process, hoping to inspire you to make yours as effective as possible. You’ll also be hearing more about the new products and services I’m going to be offering, so stay tuned!

Do you have a business plan for this year? How do you stay on track? I’d love to hear what works for you, so share what’s working – or not – in a comment below.

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