Eisenhower's famous quote, “In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless but planning is indispensable,”: is just as true to everyday life as it is to the battlefield. Having a plan matters, but life is messy and things often don’t go exactly to plan. You plan to save $200 this month but then drive over a nail and need a new tire. You plan to go to the gym every day this month but your kid get sick and you have to miss the first two weeks. Whatever it is, there are things that happen after a plan is made that change how we must act to meet the goals of the plan. We can’t account for all the unknowns, but we can continually adjust our plans to account for them.
Know your goal:
The first rule of managing any plan, is to understand why you made a plan for it in the first place. For example, if you made a plan to drive to the airport to pick up a friend, and that friend's flight was canceled. You wouldn't still drive to the airport. Because the reason ‘being there to pick up my friend because I want to be a good friend’ is no longer valid. In this example the change to the plan is obvious. Other times it is less so. Looking back to your original goals helps you adjust your plans as you go along.
Assess what to do now:
“Don't need to watch where I'm going; just need to know where I've been” Towmater
Knowing where you have been is key to understanding where you are actually going. Take the plan of saving $200 a month. If you miss one month but find you saved $250, $210, and $200 the three months before that, you can stay the course. You are hitting your goals overall. But what if you look back and see $100, $0, $20 as your savings. This is a different story. Now you need to dive into the why. Is it because you made choices like going out to eat or getting take out that took you away from your goal? Have you had ‘unplanned’ emergencies each month? If so your goal might not be reachable unless you shake up your approach. You might need to find a way to earn more income on the side to be able to hit your saving goals. Whatever the situation or reason, carefully looking into what has been happening and why is key to setting the best course forward.
Plan your next steps:
“Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.” – Abraham Lincoln
Now that you have focused on your goal, seen where you have been, it’s time to find your next steps forward. This is where the really hard work begins. If you are failing to get to the gym because of childcare struggles, and that happens often, maybe your next steps are to move to a home based exercise routine. If you are unable to save the amount you want because life is expensive and you just don’t have the extra money, it’s time to assess your skills and schedule and see how you can earn side income. Whatever your goals and plans, this is where it’s time to adjust when things are not going well, and stay the course when things are progressing well.
Planning is indispensable, and it takes time. Spend some time every week to focus on your original goal, look at where you have been, and make actionable next steps. Taking time for these three things will unlock the best possible you!