We sure all love strategic planning, don’t we?
But following through on those plans later on, well, that’s a different story.
I still remember when I was first getting started in the almighty online several years ago.
I created a whole notebook where I would write things down.
My goals. My visions. My projects.
My large 10,000-miles-above tasks.
My small ground-level tasks.
The complete step-by-step processes, and all sorts of other sexy things.
I’ve actually dug it up from the depths of my file cabinet for some quick proof.
Consider Exhibit No. 1:
That’s a great start, wouldn’t you say? Except, fast forward almost two years later—and I had done almost nothing.
Not nothing, per se.
In fact, I was doing tons of stuff every day. But somehow I didn’t achieve any of the goals I had set out, and I didn’t build anything significant—anything that would allow me to call my mom saying, “Look, ma’! I’m successful now!”
So what is the problem with strategic planning, and how can we avoid falling into that abyss?
How Assumptions Kill Your Strategic Planning
The main problem with creating a strategic plan—not the practice itself, but many of the executions—is that we keep making too many assumptions that interfere with the overall picture of what needs to be done later on.
The main thing to keep in mind is that you don’t know what you don’t know.
It sounds basic, obvious, even silly, but the fact is that overthinking is the fastest path to failure.
It’s inevitable that along the way, you will encounter a load of new obstacles and inputs that will force you to adjust your strategic plan.
Those are all things you simply don’t know today.
The best way I’ve learned to overcome this is to build your plan around the most basic vision for what you want to achieve.
In other words, have a general overview and then make specific decisions as you go along.
In my first attempt at strategic planning, I wanted to make sure that I had every possible scenario covered—that I was ready for everything.
It turned out I was ready for nothing. I didn’t know what to do because my genius plan didn’t include the things I didn’t know that I didn’t know.
Don’t Fall for the Deadliest Procrastination Habit of Them All
This opinion might not sit well with you, but the deadliest procrastination habit of them all can often be strategic planning.
Procrastination, as defined by some smart people, is the practice of doing the unimportant just to make yourself feel good that you’re working hard, while the most crucial tasks remain untouched.
I’m not saying strategic planning isn’t important.
After all, if you take action without a good strategic plan, you will only go somewhere—not necessarily where you actually wanted to go.
But on the other hand, strategic planning without action will get you nowhere at all.
So, the whole trick is to find the right balance between strategic planning and taking action.
Create a very basic plan that allows you to start executing, but doesn’t cover all ends.
Think of it as a working document—you don’t need a finalized draft in order to implement.
That way you can improve your plan as you go along and won’t get stuck at the drawing board.
Find Your Natural Business Persona
In business, you’re either the dreamer or the doer.
The dreamer is the naturally creative business person. Someone who always has yet another idea to try out.
Dreamers are great at creating plans, picking things to do, setting goals, and so on.
But they aren’t particularly good at executing those plans.
They jump from idea to idea and project to project.
It’s hard for them to stay in one place and one mindset.
The doer is the person who doesn’t like untied ends and will do everything they can to finish what they’ve started.
They are great at executing the plan and getting things done.
They will follow the path that someone else has presented to them.
Everyone can act as either of these personas, but our natural instinct shifts toward just one of them.
Dreamer vs. Doer
If you’re too much of a dreamer, you will get stuck in the strategic planning trap and never get out. You will keep creating new plans and then failing to execute.
If you’re a pure doer, on the other hand, you will just keep taking action without looking back at the goals.
Whatever stage you’re at right now, stop for a moment and ask yourself the following:
Am I the dreamer or the doer? What would the other persona do?
Once you are aware of your natural bias, you can take action.
Shake yourself out of strategic planning limbo, focus on the crucial elements of your plan, take action on those, and then adjust over time when needed.
This is how you become an effective leader!
Every business venture, every market, and every niche will keep throwing curveballs at you.
Success comes not from having a bullet-proof strategic plan, but from learning to adjust your plan as you go to account for these external factors.