Love it or hate it, business planning is a necessary evil for an entrepreneur. Luck is not a strategy and the law of attraction demonstrates over and over again, the rewards that can be reaped when you are deliberate about your time and focus. That said, it’s not just about planning. Optimizing your mindset plays a huge role in your business success. In this article we will unpack 10 strategies to adopt in your business planning activities for 2022, that will ensure you stay focused and work on the most important aspects of your business.
Plan for the plan
The best way to avoid overwhelm and start off on the right foot is to create a Business plan. At least annually but preferably with quarterly goals and checkpoints, business planning is by far the most important tool in your entrepreneurial toolbox, and yet many business owners don’t take the time to ensure that their business planning day is productive and valuable, let alone book out dedicated time to focus on this.
It’s great to get a CEO day on your calendar for planning, but if you don’t go into that day with a solid idea of what you want to achieve, you’ll end up throwing shit at the wall. There is no right and wrong when it comes to what items should be on your agenda, the notion here is to simply plan that agenda. Struggling for ideas? Here are a few prompts:
- Define or redefine your vision, mission, values, and guiding principles
- Create a business manifesto
- Get clear on KPI’s
- Carry out a SWOT analysis
- Define annual goals
- Outline your objectives for the day
- Plan your environment
Review and Assess
Reflection is also a powerful tool. Not to be confused with dwelling on the past, reflection allows you to look objectively at your past month, quarter, and year. You can choose to reflect often or just a couple of times a year. The key to a successful reflection is to learn from your actions and assess whether, if faced with the same situations, you would take the same course of actions.
Stuck on reflection ideas? Here are some reflection question ideas to ask yourself:
- What have I accomplished this year?
- How have my accomplishments or goals aligned with my business values and mission?
- Where was the majority of my time and energy spent?
- Were those goals I set really that important?
- Where am I settling?
- What did I learn about myself in the past year?
- What did I learn about my business in the last year?
- What pieces of running my business did I hate most this year? What pieces did I love most this year?
- What caused me the most stress and how could I navigate it better in the future?
- What am I most grateful for in 2021?
Book out important dates
When you plan for important things and get them into your calendar ahead of time it will:
- Ensure they happen
- Allow you to think about them ahead of time
- Ensure you are not scrambling at the last minute to get something in your calendar
What you define as important dates, is entirely your choice and they don’t all have to be business-related, remember this is your business, you get to decide what is important. Maybe you want to book out your birthday, or a loved one’s birthday or a special anniversary. Maybe you want to book some days off in the summer or close down for Christmas. Perhaps you have decided that CEO days need to be monthly this year. Whatever you decide is important and needs dedicated attention this year, spend some time booking out those days in your calendar, early in your year, and don’t make exceptions for pushing them off.
Let things go
A great way to bring in new energy is to take some time to remove the things that are not serving you. This can be people, conversations, physical things, thoughts and emotions, and ideas. Think about what zaps your energy or doesn’t leave you on a high note, these are the areas that need to be purged!
How do you feel about your work environment? Does it make you happy when you sit at your desk or do you feel distracted or drained of energy? Who do you not look forward to hearing from? What are the conversations you are replaying in your head?
Once you have identified your energy drains, it’s time to say goodbye. This is often the hardest part and there are many ways to make this process feel more comfortable. Donating items you no longer love can feel more comfortable than just putting things in the garbage. Writing a goodbye note, even if you don’t send it, can help you feel better about ending toxic relationships. Telling yourself “what’s done is done” can help you move on from situations and conversations that you are dwelling on.
Take some time this year to acknowledge where your energy is being zapped and find comfortable ways to let things go.
Define who you are
In our current VUCA world, it’s not unheard of to lose sight of who you are and what is important to you. As entrepreneurs, we can get so busy caught up in the day-to-day that we neglect our North Star. As important as business planning is, and understanding our mission and vision for our business, it’s also incredibly important to understand our personal mission and vision. These may be the same as your business or they could be completely different, but if you don’t have them defined, you may feel like there is a disconnect. If you have a sense of something being missing in your life, it could be time to revisit defining who you are.
Boundaries are the backbone of business and life balance. Knowing what is important to you and what you are not prepared to compromise on, speaks to your values and ethics. It is essential to define these boundaries early on, both in your personal life and as part of your business planning process.
Boundaries can be put in place for “big-ticket items” such as pricing your services or knowing who you will and won’t work with, but they can also be used for the smaller areas which may not seem as important but play a big role in creating that balance. Ensuring that you finish your working day at a certain time for instance, or that you don’t work weekends, goes a long way to ensuring you avoid burnout and have time for self-care. Boundaries, or Non-Negotiables as I like to call them, ensure that you are able to be your best self at all times.
Manifest your dreams!
Have you ever noticed how, when you think about something constantly, you begin to see prompts or instances for that something? Like when you are looking at buying a certain make and model of car, you start seeing them everywhere? That’s the power of manifestation. Manifestation is bringing something tangible into your life through attraction and belief, and often visualization can help with this.
Vision boards are one of the most popular tools for visualizing and manifesting that which is most important to you. However, vision boards don’t have to be this big, elaborately designed, worthy of an art gallery creation. Sometimes it’s as simple as changing your computer background to an image of what you want most or surrounding yourself with representations of what you are looking to attract. As with most points in this article, it’s about defining your vision. Take some time to define what it is you are looking to achieve in the coming year as part of your business planning process and create some visuals around that to help you manifest your dreams.
Find your Ikigai
Ikigai is a Japanese concept that means your ‘reason for being.’ ‘Iki’ in Japanese means ‘life,’ and ‘gai’ describes value or worth. Your ikigai is your life purpose or your bliss. A reason for getting up in the morning. When you are connected to your purpose or your North Star as it’s sometimes referred to, everything that you do in relation to your bliss creates a sense of well-being and happiness.
A couple of things to clarify here – first, while traditional Japanese philosophy focuses on finding your bliss, western interpretation has used ikigai as a method of finding your dream career.
Second, your ikigai does not have to be based on a pastime or hobby that you love. In fact, trying to turn one of your hobbies into a money-earning machine will zap the joy right out of it.
In western society, Ikigai says you’ve found your dream career when your career includes these four qualities:
- What you love
- What you’re good at
- What you can be paid for
- What the world needs
This ikigai diagram helps to visualize this concept by showing these four main overlapping qualities:
When you are able to spend your paid time doing something that you are deeply connected to, your energy can be seen across your work. This fuels the law of attraction and brings more abundance into your life. When you are working on your business
Adopt mini habits
Aristotle tells us: “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence is not an act but a HABIT.” The reason we don’t start things is that we’re afraid we won’t finish. But mini habits are so small you can’t help finishing.
A mini habit is a very small positive behavior that you force yourself to do every day, however the habit is so ridiculously small that failure is not an option. You then build on your habits day after day, increasing the size or repetition slowly so as not to get overwhelmed with the magnitude of the habit. Your brain simultaneously learns to adopt the daily mini habit while not getting overwhelmed with the size.
In business planning, this could be something like connecting with one new person a day on Linkedin or creating one social media post per day. If you need more self-care during your business day this could be drinking one glass of water per day or meditating for one minute. Find the daily time slot that works for you and when you have mastered one, add on another one. Don’t rush to get to the next level, the point of mini-habits being to build the behavior of repeating actions on a daily basis, rather than how much you increase in a short amount of time.
It can also work the other way too, so as to move you from larger more distracting habits to smaller ones, eventually eradicating them, like setting a time limit for your social media browsing or giving yourself 10 minutes to clear your inbox.
Start using a planner
What gets measured gets done and if analytics are not your thing, then the next best method is simply to write it down. When you take what’s in your head and get it onto paper (digital works too), you can better organize your thoughts as well as create space in your brain for your next big ideas. This is an especially useful tool for those of us with creative brains or challenges such as ADD/ADHD. With so many thoughts running rampant on a daily basis, it’s no wonder that we are constantly distracted or overwhelmed.
This simple process of ticking things off on a list and working through things more methodically can tame the chaos and ensure that at least some things are getting finished.
I use the Franklin Covey Planner. I’ve tried various digital planners but get lost in the design layouts which takes me away from the task at hand. My planner gives me a monthly high-level overview as well as a day on 2 pages with a big notes section.
At the beginning of every month, I look at what I didn’t get done last month as well as brain dumping what is occupying my thoughts. I then assemble all of the tasks into the monthly overview split between personal and business. I then go through the entire list and schedule as much as possible into the planner pages for the month ahead and indicate on my list that it’s scheduled.
Every morning while enjoying my tea, I look at my daily plan and what I have already scheduled. I bring forward anything I didn’t get done from the previous day and add in the day’s daily tasks. Sadly, I don’t always make it through my list, and while this sometimes feels disappointing, I can find comfort in moving the needle on the big tasks that I brain dumped at the beginning of the month.
Using a daily planner is something I have had to work hard on incorporating into my daily routine. Sometimes I don’t feel like planning the day’s tasks and without a doubt, I can say that these are my least productive days. The balance comes from not scheduling too much for yourself on a daily basis. When you have a week of moving the same task to the next day’s plan, it’s time to take a deeper look at that task and its importance to your goals.
There are many tools that can help you plan for your business activities with no one methodology being better than another, it boils down to what resonates with you. One thing is clear, however, you choose to get there, business planning is a must.