The thing is our world is always changing. Most of the time, it’s not overly noticeable or we handle it fairly well.
This particular global challenge is different, though, because we are all affected. This has caused chaos for our economy, our livelihood, and our original plans for the year. And it feels unmanageable for many of us.
It’s tempting to just sit and wait. Because how can you make a plan when you don’t know what will happen next? However, the one thing that hasn’t changed is our ability to adapt, and we can use this to create new goals and make a plan that works for us now.
The capacity to modify our behavior is something we are all born with. In fact, it is one of our greatest childhood gifts. As a baby we use it to move from crawling to walking.
It’s the same skill we use to wash our hands more frequently and maintain a safe physical distance. We practice flexibility when we decide not to watch the news and listen to a positive podcast instead.
Many of us have used this muscle to move our work online during isolation.
In fact, behavioral flexibility is considered one of the five principles for success((The Empowerment Partnership: Five Principles for Success)). Used together with sensory awareness, we give ourselves maximum potential to achieve success.
The good news is, by embracing this flexibility muscle, you can make a plan in any situation. This includes times when you feel you have no control, like now. It’s just about staying aware and adapting as you go.
Here’s how to get started.
1. Plan Your Outcome for the Year
Beginning with the end in mind and working backwards is a well-known strategy to achieve success. Shared by Stephen Covey in his book 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, it is a habit that has stood the test of time.((Forbes: The 7 Habits Of Highly Effective People: How We Can Apply Them Today))
Without knowing our target, it’s impossible to adequately plan or have influence over what we achieve.
This highly effective habit is essential, even in the current situation. No matter what is happening in your external environment, you can still decide on an outcome you want.
As you get clear on this and write it down, you will begin to notice opportunities to help you achieve it.
2. Be Realistic
When you set your goals, consider whether the timeframe is realistic. Sometimes our deadlines can be a bit too tight depending on things out of our control.
This doesn’t mean we can’t achieve them.
Based on your choice of strategies and your workload, you may be able to meet a very short deadline. Take a sensible and logical look at your goal and decide if the timeline is realistic. If not, change the deadline.
3. Don’t Map out Your Plan
This is one of the biggest mistakes I see at any time throughout any year. Through a desire for certainty, people map out their plans for the whole year, each step documented month by month. Mapping out the whole year is possibly why many people dump their plans during crisis.
If we do this, we leave no space for adapting as we move forward, and it limits our potential.
As we start to take action, our brain and our external environment changes. This means we become aware of greater opportunity, which could help us achieve even more. But we have to leave room for this possibility.
When we make a plan, we use smaller chunks and deadlines. This leaves room for adjustments, and we maximize our scope for success.
4. Make Your First 90-Day Plan
This means chunking your goals down into a 90-day plan only for your initial quarter. As you do this, you leave room to be adaptable with whatever comes up.
It takes 90 days to build momentum. This means it will take three months to see a result from a strategy we use. This is an unconscious concept, but we can use it to consciously help us stay on track and propel forward.
Divide your year into four quarters, starting from where you are now. Then for each 12-month goal, decide what outcomes need to be achieved in the first 90 days only.
Write the goals down and decide which strategies to use.
5. Chunk It Down to the First Month
Different sized chunks of information motivate different people. Some people feel more compelled by big picture goals. Others feel more motivated by shorter-term goals.
Those who love longer term tend not to chunk goals down and may take haphazard action. Those who love details find it difficult to see the big picture and can get stuck.
The most successful way to make a plan is to use both large and small chunks.
By chunking your goals down to what you will achieve in the first month, you can feel a sense of achievement much earlier. This keeps you on target and encourages you to achieve more.
Check your 90-day goals and set goals for the first month that align with them. Write them down in your planner to help them stick in your mind.
6. Break It Down Again
Notice how we only set goals for “firsts,” and this includes our first week.
It’s a natural tendency to want to plan out the whole month, but don’t. This can seriously keep you stuck or put far too much pressure on you.
Plus, remember there is always more than one way of achieving something. There are opportunities we won’t even see until we’ve achieved something else. This means if we map the month out, we can limit ourselves.
Setting goals just for the first week leaves heaps of room for the unforeseen, and that means we can modify it to suit changing situations. It also means we can feel good about ourselves at the week’s end as we look at all the ticks. Our unconscious mind loves that!
Write outcomes for the first week into your planner that will help you achieve your goals for the month.
7. Plan and Structure Your Week
This is where many people come off track, especially when things are changing rapidly.
With a list of goals and no structure to follow each week, it’s easy to become distracted. If we don’t plan each day, we can go a whole week feeling like we’re getting nowhere.
Structuring our week and forming a routine can also greatly improve our health. Some of the benefits include better stress levels and better sleep((Northwestern Medicine: Health Benefits of Having a Routine)).
When we structure each week and day, we feel like we are getting somewhere. This motivates us to keep going, even when the unexpected arises.
Write a plan in your journal for what you will do each day of the week to achieve your goals. This is where you can chart it out on a daily timeline and create a routine.
8. Reflect and Readjust Your Plan
This is something I recommend you do at least at the end of each month. However, when things are changing rapidly, it’s necessary to do this more frequently.
Using our awareness and flexibility regularly, we can make the most of any situation by looking at how we can change. We can make adjustments fast to keep up with the external environment and things we have no control over.
We are also able to see where mistakes have been made or if we can tweak something slightly to maximize results.
This is why we don’t map the year out. It gives us much more flexibility to respond positively to external changes.
At the end of each month or more regularly if you need to, look for what has worked and how you can do more of it. Consider what didn’t work and how you can change it. See what you need to start doing or stop doing.
Then, write your plan for the following week or goals for the following month to include those changes.
9. Rinse and Repeat
When you reach the end of your 90 days, rinse and repeat. Make a plan for the following three months and chunk your goals down in exactly the same way.
As you continue to do this, you will notice you boost the momentum you have already built. You will feel a huge sense of achievement, and this will spur you on to accomplish more.
You may notice by this stage that some of your goals may have changed slightly, and that’s okay. Remember, as you take new actions your awareness expands to see new potential. This may change your shorter-term goals because you have found something better.
That’s a good thing and all part of being flexible, so run with it.
Whether you’re currently surfing the COVID-19 crisis or another challenge entirely, you can still make a plan by adjusting.
More than this, planning without flexibility can get in the way in any circumstance. This includes the good times because nothing is static.
As you plan while allowing space to readjust to external changes, you will find your results are pleasantly surprising.