I LOVE STRUCTURES
(and freedom so go figure!)
I always have – maybe because growing up they were everywhere I lived – a bell literally would go off every 40 minutes.
No, before you think it, I did not grow up in some strange Pavlovian experiment – I have always lived in schools as my parents were both teachers and also either housemastering or headmastering – 18 years bouncing around boarding schools during term-time and then home, to school, during the holidays.
(And now you know – nope, they don’t turn the bells off on the last day of term).
So I overdosed on structure and routine from a young age – for the first ten years with military precision witnessing the strict discipline of a military school. You would often find me “parading” on the sideline of the parade square on a Sunday as the band played big tunes and the boys looked stern in their Sunday best. I imagine I was quite a sight – blond pigtails, red terry toweling pants and most probably red wellies. I am still mocked by my family for always needing to put like with like and create lines of order!
Ingrained from an early age – timetabling, structure, routine, order, neatness, precision and a certain standard of behavioural excellence (hmmmm – expected but not always delivered, but who could stay mad at that face!).
This, I believe, is why I love a good plan.
I have always liked to know the when’s, where’s, who’s and how’s, as well as the what’s and why’s – the last one being fundamental to my curious nature but probably a little tiresome to my parents …… but why?
The way I figure it, if you collect together the basic information – the find-outables, the obvious, the controllables, the fixed variables – by doing due diligence and data discovery then you have more of an opportunity to stay present and open, seeing signposts and possibilities as they present themselves.
As a business owner how often do you get kiboshed or paralysed by “The How” of the matter?
My plan always tells me how I can achieve what I set out to do and my plan gives me the confidence to take action in the knowledge that the desired outcome is achievable. If I then decide that is what I really want to “do” then the next step is simple – Step 1: implement the plan.
But I don’t always do it!
It sounds crazy – like a waste of planning time – but it’s true.
And I know many business owners that are the same, they set “goals” and make plans but then never look at them again – the difference is that most of them tell themselves a story about goal setting and planning not working, constricting creativity and clashing with their entrepreneurial desire for freedom above all else!
For me the true value of the exercise lies in the planning process – going through the motions in a comprehensive and considered way. The review of:
- what has been;
- what has worked before;
- what I liked and disliked;
- what my clients engaged with and where they disengaged;
- how my market changed and the current “trends” in my industry;
as well as consumer trends and beyond to worldview shifts, the reflection time on the environment I have created around me – who and how it supports me and what needs to be changed or sacked off.
Then there is the clarity I get from exploring what I really want to achieve, without settling, considering:
- the lessons learned and how the learning can be implemented going forward;
- what that means to boundaries and structures within my business;
- what I want more of and less of;
- what I want to feel more of and less of;
connecting with my intuition, then my rational mind and finally feeling into the way forward. Reconnecting with my values and ensuring they are aligned; creating a vision that excites me and then drilling down to a clear succinct goal. A point of focus, because as we all know:
“Where your attention goes, your energy flows and life grows.” ~ Brian Bacon
So, I create a clear goal and then start about figuring our “The How” – but only in the form of five tactics or activities, which are still quite broad as I like to keep my creative options open and not stifle myself with my own micromanagement.
There aren’t always five – but I have always liked the number five so I never have more than five!
I ascertain what five key things will take me to goal achievement and then I run whatever numbers I need to – for example what it means in terms of numbers of leads, conversions, clients, cash …. etc.
And there you have it, in all it’s glory, the way forward, the master plan – I don’t really need to look at it again as through the planning process I have worked out how much, how many, and how to.
I know what to do and how to do it and all that is left is to crack on. No need to be looking down, watching my step I know where I am going – the terrain is mapped out and I have committed it to memory.
Invariably, as I start the action taking something comes out of left field which affects the plan, but being able to be open to “what is” during the implementation phase helps me to minimise challenges and maximise opportunities.
When you look up you can see these things coming.
When you have a plan you are confident in then you can afford to look up and look around and be alert to changing circumstances in your environment.
When you have a plan then you can take your time – no hustling, no forcing, no desperate grabbing – just decisive action taking, step by step. The ability to flow with “what is”, the flexibility and freedom to pivot and replan, the capacity to be present and responsive to the everyday and the headspace to receive what is right under your nose.
In short, I wouldn’t be as effective in my business activities if it wasn’t for my penchant for planning. I rarely see one through to completion because usually new information arises and the plan changes resulting in something far greater than could have been fathomed at the time of plan creation.
Plans, for me, are multifunctional – they ensure that I really invest time and energy thinking things through and aligning myself to what my heart really desires and what that looks like in terms of goal achievement. They enhance my self-belief, keep my inner critic quiet, keep fear at bay and give my monkey mind the misguided impression that it is fully in control and is making good progress towards something of great importance.
At best a plan is executed in full allowing you to achieve the outcome that takes you one step closer to achieving your life or business vision; at worst it is a distraction for your ego and a containment of fear so that you can be open to the resources around you, connect to self and follow your soul – it knows the way – towards a life of greater contribution, meaning, fulfilment and, above all, joy.