Keep your plans simple

Sometimes, planning can lead you into traps. Pitfalls that often require you needing to go right back to the start to make a brand new plan.

This failure usually stems from plans that are meticulously worked on, or try to predict too far into the future. The more hours spent combing through the contingencies and edge cases, the more assumptions made about how something will go; the higher the risk of the plan completely falling apart. Tumbling down around you like a house of cards.

Over the past week, I had found myself in a familiar place. Thinking (and most definitely overthinking) on the things I want to work on. I spent a couple of days planning things and writing notes on all of the goals I want to achieve over the next year and the series of products I wanted to release.

I stopped suddenly, though, as the notes rolled into the hundreds and thousands of words.

I've been here before...

Last year, I meticulously planned out several books, courses and products I wanted to launch over the following year. A grand-scale plan for my path to success. I had timelines and deadlines and all sorts of detailed notes on all of the various things I wanted to get done.

It was a masterpiece... or so I thought.​

In action, though, it totally sucked. Only around 10% of that plan ended up being realised. Because it was only when work got going on things that I discovered that I had made several guesses that were entirely off base. I'd also grossly underestimated the amount of time certain things would take and the costs of certain things.

It was a mess.

I had over-planned. Made too many assumptions. And, ultimately, I had wasted a bunch of time.

While that year-long roadmap plan I made cost me a bunch of time and was utterly useless in the end. It taught me the valuable lesson we're discussing today: That plans need to be actionable and fluid blocks that aren't so set in stone. And that they should never be a year long. Never ever.

My reading on this topic led me to a book I now draw a lot of inspiration from in my own systems. That book is the 12 Week Year by Brian Moran and Michael Lennington.

In the book, the authors speak about how the further you plan into the future, the more guesses you have to make, and the more uncertain your plan becomes (exactly my experience). I won't recap the entire book here but in a nutshell: The 12 Week year is exactly what it says on the tin. It's about moving away from the standard, annualised planning mindset and moving towards a more maintainable 12-week cycle for plans. Finding the things you need to work on the most and planning out the forthcoming 2-3 months to get them done. It's much more light-touch than the usual annual plan and means that if (probably when) something goes wrong in your plan; it's a much smaller fall. And a much smaller task to replan and adjust.

When making your own plans, keep things as simple as possible and try not to make too many guesses. That, combined with making a smaller plan with a tighter scope to break down larger challenges into smaller chunks, will dramatically increase your chances for success.

This originally appeared on my newsletter.