As a goal-oriented person, I am a big believer in checklists and assigned tasks/projects with deadlines. But traditional goal-setting never worked well for me. I need to have a core reason to get things done, something that answers to my life purpose. My search for a personalized, targeted system led me to developing a strategic plan, based on a track of meaningful short-term and long-term goals that make me productive, creative, and motivated.
What is a Strategic Plan?
I define a strategic plan as “a need- or want-targeted system of goals that makes a positive and productive difference in your life on a physical, emotional, or spiritual level.”
An example of a need-targeted system of goals could be eating eight servings of veggies a day; drinking 10 8-oz. glasses of water a day; exercising for 30 minutes every day because you NEED to lose 10 pounds to help lower your blood pressure.
An example of a want-targeted system of goals could be taking photography classes; setting up a craft room in your house; watching YouTube videos on scrapbooking because you WANT to create a scrapbook of your summers with your grandchildren.
Sometimes, it might be hard to tell the difference between what you NEED and what you WANT, and often, the two hit a crossroads. When that happens, your next step must be to make sure the goals you set as you develop your strategic plan are going to make a positive and productive difference in your life. That you have a reason for setting these goals. A strong, core, heart-centered reason will carry you for miles.
Each person will develop their own version of a strategic plan that reflects who they are, their life purpose, and the kind of journey they want to undertake.
For me, managing a coaching business, motherhood/household, environmental stewardship, and my fiction require an early morning wake-up (4:00), long bursts of focused work broken up by brief exercise routines, meditation, and healthy snacks, specific daily jobs that fall under an arc of weekly, monthly, quarterly, and yearly projects, and strict habits.
How do you know if you need to develop a strategic plan?
♦ Do you have trouble keeping track of your goals and plans?
♦ Do you end the day without accomplishing everything on your to-do list?
♦ Are you easily distracted?
♦ Do you feel unfocused, scattered, overwhelmed, disillusioned, exhausted, frustrated?
♦ Are your goals vague and unclear?
♦ Do you want to do things better/faster/easier?
♦ Is prioritizing tasks/goals difficult for you?
If you answered “YES” to any of the above questions, then developing a strategic plan might be right for you. Let’s dive in further.
At the foundation of strategic plans are SMART goals.
Goals that are clear, well-defined, and answer most, if not all, of the five “W” questions: Who, What, Where, When, and Why.
♦ Who else will be involved?
♦ What is the goal?
♦ Where will this take place?
♦ When will the goal be achieved?
♦ Why is this goal important?
Measurable goals help you track your progress and also can let you know if you need to reassess. For many goals, you can repeat the 5 “W” questions here to figure out if your process is successful. Sometimes we set quality goals, but fail in our efforts to achieve the goal. This is a great place to make sure you are taking effective, actionable steps to fulfill your strategic plan.
Your goal needs to be attainable, otherwise your strategic plan will backfire. Setting something beyond the scope of your ability, resources, time, or knowledge will only lead to frustration. If it’s not attainable, that doesn’t mean you fuhgeddaboudit! Just back up, set smaller goals that act like stepping stones to this harder-to-reach goal. Once you complete those smaller goals, that once-evasive goal is now yours for the taking.
A relevant goal is one that makes sense as you develop your strategic plan and consider your life purpose. It has to be worthwhile and should connect in some way to at least another goal. If it’s a stand-alone goal, meaning, if it really has nothing to do with anything else you’re trying to accomplish, then ask yourself how you can make it matter more. If you can’t, then maybe it isn’t the right (relevant) goal for you at this time.
An example of a relevant goal would be to run 5 miles a day to train for a marathon.
An example of a stand-alone goal would be to read 50 books this year because that’s what your sister is doing.
Assigning dates and times (deadlines) can allow you to schedule days, weeks, or months in advance. Knowing when certain goals are supposed to be accomplished will also help you in scheduling other goals so that you don’t overburden yourself with too many big goals all at one time. Deadlines keep you on task, especially when you have multiple smaller goals to manage simultaneously.
SMART goals are just the beginning. I further develop a strategic plan using specific “I” statements with clear-cut cause/effect so that I will actually respond and act. Modifications to my strategic plan depend on what it is I need to accomplish, how quickly it needs to be accomplished, and why.
I outline and personalize all of the action steps involved, making sure I care about the main purpose of what I’m trying to achieve.
For example, I don’t set a goal like “I have to work in the garden today.” Rather, my goal might state “I will weed and mulch the garden for two hours today because it’s supposed to rain the rest of the week. Plus this will count as my exercise for the day.” Not only does this fill the requirements of a SMART goal, but it is strategic in that I have made it personal. This goal matters.
5 Tips to Developing Your Strategic Plan
I’m generally a positive person. I believe in the power of positive thinking and that the Universe gives back what you put forth. It’s hard to set goals for nasty tasks, but if I put a positive spin on it, then I’m more likely to get that task done.
TIP: Reward yourself for accomplishing a goal.
Assess Progress Every Day
Long-term goals or especially difficult goals can be easily lost in the busy-ness of Life. When you set yourself reminders or check-ins every day, you can catch yourself in the act of doing well or doing not so well. This also helps you figure out if you’ve set the bar too high, ultimately giving you a chance to readjust so that you don’t fail meeting the goal altogether.
TIP: Record your progress with a journal or photos. The tangible evidence will keep you honest!
Express your Goals
When you talk about your goals to your team (people who are supportive of your writing journey), you have a built-in accountability squad. Good teammates will ask how things are going with your goals, if you need help or if you need to vent, will remind you to get cracking. This outlet can be especially empowering.
TIP: Schedule a coffee date with a teammate and share your goals with each other; arrange to check in with each other once a month.
Back-up your Goal
Let’s face it. Not all goals get achieved. Woody Allen said, “If you want to make God laugh, tell him about your plans.” This can be frustratingly true. But God doesn’t have time or the heart to screw you over twice (here’s my positive thinking shining through), so back-up your goal with another goal. I keep a list on my desk of quick (but annoying) tasks that aren’t overly important, which is why they keep getting shunted from one week’s to-do list to the next week’s to-do list. But they’re still things that, once they’re accomplished, would make a difference in my life in some way.
TIP: Housecleaning, organizing computer files/folders, or starting a recipe book.
Daily Steps to a Long-Term Goal
I think we all have huge goals we’d love to see to fruition. They’re so huge they often seem impossible. Crazy ideas. They’re so idealistic that they often take a back seat to our more practical goals, and we end up only fantasizing about them instead of acting upon them. Taking one little step every single day toward that long-term goal will help you realize that so-called impossible dream. Doesn’t matter what Day One is, just so long as you always do one small task (action step) related to that Crazy Idea every day hence. Acting on a dream is so much fun that you’ll find yourself getting caught up in it for longer bits of time.
TIP: start a private Pinterest board and collect images related to your Impossible Dream.
Here are my two cents I plop down anytime I offer writing advice: Regardless of where you are in your writing journey, I always recommend that you redesign and re-imagine recommended tools and ideas to fit YOU and YOUR needs. Writing advice is NOT a one size fits all. Rather, it’s like an adjustable waistband. Start with something known to work, that all the other people are raving about. Then play around with other options until you design something that is ALL YOUR OWN. You are more likely to stick with goals that are of your creation anyway!
How do you go about goal-setting? Any tips to share? Are you interested in developing a strategic plan?