There is a saying that “all plans are useless, but planning is vital”. Plans are useless as they become out of date very quickly. But without the process of planning you won’t prepare for the future. You need to plan but don’t stick to your plans so rigidly that you miss opportunities. First you need to know where you are going. All of the things you want to achieve in your life require effort and preparation. You need to ensure you acquire the qualifications and experience that will allow you to progress in your chosen career and in business, and to do that, you need a plan. Having a plan gives you a framework against which to measure your progress. A plan also provides a reference against which you can judge new opportunities.
There is a question in the Bible commentary “If the Lord frustrates the plans of the nations (Ps 33:10), and only his plans remain forever (33:11), then what’s the point of planning? Wouldn’t it make more sense to just live with an attitude of “go with the flow?” (Commentary in Word in Life Bible Contemporary English Version pg 808). Far from it, You’ve just got to have a plan! It is a basic rule of life.
Richard Templar in his book “The Rules of Life” described a plan as a map, a guide, a target, a focus, a route, a signpost, a direction, a path, and a strategy. He further explained that a plan is an indicator which says you are going somewhere, do something, be something, be somewhere by a certain time. Plan gives life structure and shape, it gives life power. We may say not all plans work out, not all maps lead to the treasure, but you will stand with a better chance when you have a map or a plan.
A plan indicates you’ve had a bit of thinking about your life and you are not just waiting for something to turn up. Note if you leave your life to chance you have no chance! Work out what it is you want to do, plan it, work out the steps to take to achieve your goal and get on with it. Richard Templar warned “if you don’t plan your plan, it will remain a dream. When you do not have a plan, you reinforce to yourself your sense of being “not in control”. But once you have a plan, everything else falls into place. Once you have a plan, the logical steps to achieve that plan also become available and accessible. A plan isn’t a dream; it is something you intend doing rather than something you want to do. And having a plan means you’ve thought through how you are going to do it.
Do you know that God also Plans? He is a master strategist. He plans his action and his deeds. He planned the creation, he strategized. “Come let us create man in our own image” was a strategic statement made at a strategic meeting during creation. “It is not good for man to leave alone; I will therefore make a companion for him…” This is a statement of planning. Some people misinterpreted the biblical injunction in Mathew which warned us not to be worried or anxious about tomorrow as a warning against planning. Not so! Being anxious or worry is different from planning. To be anxious is to be nervous or being uneasy about tomorrow. A planed life is devoid of nervousness. However, be careful because God brings fulfilment. Just because you have plans doesn’t mean you have to stick to it, to follow it, to obey it to the letter come hell or high water. Let your plans be directed by God. The plan is always review for improvement, for changing as and when you need to. The plan shouldn’t be rigid. Circumstances change, you change, and you change your plan.
A good plan needs to include four key elements- A vision statement that describes where you want to be; a set of objectives that if
achieved, will lead you to the vision; a success map showing how these objectives link together; and an indicator describing what success will look like at each stage. Let me briefly share with you Brain Tracy’s Seven Questions in Strategic Planning. These are questions you ask yourself when planning.
One, define your business/career clearly. Remember when God was planning to make man He was clear and definite on his business “to create man in our image, to have dominion…” It is therefore pertinent to ask yourself, “What business are you in”. Define your business in terms of what you do for customers or for your organisation. Also, define your business in terms of what effect it has on your products or services have on the life of work of other people. By the same token, you define your own personal work in terms of the effect or impact that you have on the people you work for and with, both internally and externally. Once you’ve decided clearly what business you are in, you apply zero based thinking to your activities and you ask. “Knowing what I know now, is there anything that I am doing today that I wouldn’t get into again if I had to do it over?” As Peter Drucker puts it “Planning for tomorrow means sloughing off yesterday; before you can do something new, you have to stop doing something old”. Creating future means leaving the past behind. Keep asking yourself, “What are the activities that I should reduce, discontinue or get out of altogether, based on the situation the way it really is today”
Two, think about the future. Ask yourself, “What business will we be if things continue the way they are today?” “If I do not change, what will I be doing one year, two years, and five years form today?” Is it and intelligent strategy to continue in my current line of business or should I be looking at changing in some ways?” Look at yourself, your talents, your abilities, your potentials, your ambitions, your energies and especially your heart’s desire to determine the business you should be in, the work you should be doing sometimes in future. Don’t forget you have an edge; you have a Living God who is always around to help you. Don’t forget to consult Him.
Three, think about your customers. Customers are kings! You remember? So you need to know who you have to satisfy in order to survive and thrive in your business and in your career. You need to ask yourself, “Who is my customer?” Your primary job at work is to make sure you are satisfying your customer. Your ability to identify and satisfy your customers is critical determinant of your success and your rewards in life.
Four, think of your area of excellence. You will only be truly successful to the degree to which you become absolutely excellent at the most important part of your work. One of your chief responsibilities in life is to select the area of excellence that can have the greatest impact on your career, business and your income, and then throw your whole heart into becoming very, very, good in that one area. Therefore ask yourself “What is that I do especially well?” Know your area of excellence, know your personal competitive advantage relative to the other people in your field and plan around it. And ask yourself what you can do today to develop those additional skills and abilities you need, the competencies you will require to be the best, set them as a goal, make plan and begin working on developing them every day.
Five, Think of your highest value activities. Ask yourself, “What are the tasks I do today that yield the very highest returns and rewards relative to the cost and effort of performing those activities?” “How could I organize my work life so that I am doing more and more of these tasks of higher value?”
Six, Think of removing your key constraint. What are the critical constraints on your ability to achieve your goals? In every work or production process, there are series of steps between where you are today and the result that you want to achieve tomorrow. You therefore need to ask yourself “Why am I not at my goal already?” This will help you to identify your constraints and work on them. You will know what is holding you back and combat them.
Seven, think of the specific actions you need to take. The final question you need to ask yourself is “What specific action or actions am I going to take immediately based on my answers to these questions?” These actions may include: Sharpening your focus; Clarify your values; Have a vision; Set Goals; Increase your knowledge and your skills; Work on your habits; look into your daily activities; take action.
Your ability to think, plan, decide and take action determines the entire course of your life. The quality of your thinking determines the quality of your life. Since there is no limit to how much you can improve the quality of your thinking, there is no real limit to how much you can improve your life. The Law of correspondence says that your outer world will always be a reflection of your inner world. To change anything in your outer world, you must begin by changing what is going on in your inner world.
The greater clarity you have with regard to who you are, what you want and what you have to do to get from where you are to where you want to go, the faster you will move ahead. You will accomplish vastly more and your life will be better in every area.
See you at the top!