Think about some of the greatest entrepreneurs of our time—Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Oprah Winfrey. When they started their journeys, they all had something in common: a dream. Whether that dream was to invent a new product that would change the way we live, improve the world of technology, or change our definition of daytime television, they were working toward something.
Lots of people have dreams, but these entrepreneurs stand out because they took the necessary steps to make their dreams realities. Most likely, they turned their dreams into realistic goals, planning and organizing. We can imagine each must have had “moments” along the way that would have required them to revert to Plan B, C, or D when things went awry.
In the business world, we generally create mass plans when mapping out something as complicated as a multi-million dollar, multi-year project; however, we often skip the almost equally important To Do list for the week. Taking the necessary preliminary steps to “start small” when it comes to planning will help to improve your business and salvage at least a little bit of your sanity.
Here’s how a little careful and realistic planning can help you in your business:
Efficiency. Mapping out your week, month, or year will ensure that you use resources and time efficiently. For example, knowing you have a huge pro bono project coming up in two months that will take twenty hours might make you think twice about committing to a pro bono project this month that will take eight hours.
Competitive advantages. Planning will give your business an extra edge against the competition, not only making you more organized, but more prepared.
Prioritizing. Making lists will help you to prioritize, so you are not left wondering how you missed a due date or deadline.
Goal setting. Planning a few benchmark goals for the month or year will help you stay on track and your business goals
Cutting down on the “moments.” Because they’re no fun.
And here’s how to execute a successful plan:
Plan for obstacles, creating a contingent plan for unexpected problems. Having a Plan B, C, and D will make you better at improvising and more nimble, keeping you on track when emergencies or stumbling blocks arise.
Create a timeline to ensure that you and your business are more efficient. When making a timeline, be realistic but aggressive with project deadlines.
Set goals and map out the steps it will take to achieve them.
Do not just mark meetings down; block out time to work on specific projects, and treat these items just like any other commitment on your calendar.
Leave room for mistakes. It is important to realize that you cannot possibly plan for everything, and plans do not always go as they are supposed to. Flexibility is key!
Remember that no single approach works for everyone. While a task management system may be the best approach to planning for one person, another may function better using Post-It Notes and handwritten To Do lists.