The Value of a Plan

The Value of a Plan

I like lists.

I have a whiteboard in my office, and just about every Monday morning I sit down and write a list, of tasks I want to accomplish and scheduled events (meetings and phone calls and webinars and whatever), and any other reminders. Yes, I have a smartphone, and I live in Outlook, but there’s something about writing out that list that imprints it in my brain. Crowded date book

And I take great satisfaction out of stroking items off that list when I’ve completed them. I think when you work alone at home most of the time, you are responsible for recognizing your own achievements on a regular basis – because no one else will if you don’t.

I like maps.

I like road maps that take a certain amount of manual dexterity to fold up, globes on stands that you can spin around, Google maps that I can fly around and see what a place looks like as well as how to get there.

I like to play navigator on road trips. I rarely watch a movie when I’m on an airplane, because I bring my own music and my ebook reader, but I keep the map on the screen on the seat back in front of me and follow along as we fly.

I like instruction manuals.

I’m one of the few people I know who actually reads the instruction manuals for things that I buy. I used to attribute that to having written instructions for a living for a number of years, but it’s more deeply seated than that.  I think IKEA and LEGO manuals are sheer genius, for showing with just pictures how to put something together.

Managing change

Lists and maps and instructions manuals have one thing in common, for me: they allow me to maneuver through change while feeling in control.

I like change. In fact, I think I have a low boredom threshold, because when things stay the same for too long I get a little antsy.

But I don’t like chaos. And too much change, too fast, feels chaotic. Trying to cope with a really big change all at once can cause me to freeze in my tracks and not accomplish anything.

So I need plans. I need lists and maps and instruction manuals. I’m an entrepreneur because I like MY OWN plans and lists and maps and instruction manuals/systems/processes. But I do need them.

When I’m moving in a new direction, though, I don’t have any lists or maps or plans or instruction manuals in place. I do a few things, then, to keep me moving through chaos into manageable change:

I talk to my coach.

While I originally hired her as my business coach, we really spend a whole lot more time on personal development than business development. I’ve learned that my business growth is dependent on my personal growth. It’s really easy for me to live and work in and from my head; Rosemary helps me live and work in and from my heart. When I can do that, through a specific period of change or in a specific direction, I have far better results.

I talk to my peers.

I have two accountability partners, both of whom I am in contact with regularly. Pam and I try to touch base every Monday and Friday by phone; Bonnie and I use Groove, an instant message system of sorts, to chat more briefly but more regularly, almost every day. I can bounce ideas off them, get support as I work through stuff, or just vent if that’s what I need to do that day.

I talk to my husband.

Tom isn’t an entrepreneur, so some of the challenges I face he can’t relate to. But he has terrific people skills and is a natural leader and a good speaker/presenter. When I run into people issues, the occasional and inevitable personality conflict, he’s my go-to guy.

I talk to myself.

Which sounds a little weird, I know – but I find I journal more often and in more depth when I’m working through a change. It’s stream of consciousness writing, a brain dump that gets the junk out of my head and out of my way. I can test how things sound to me before I talk to even Bonnie or Pam or Rosemary about them.

I read.

I read a lot anyway, but when I’m faced with a change and a challenge I’ll go looking for resources (online mostly) and read articles and blog posts and books, to see how others have worked through similar stuff. (I’ll lump watching videos and attending webinars and teleclasses in with reading, here. It’s still looking for ideas from outside sources.)

And I start my lists and plans.

Thinking about big changes can throw me into a space of overwhelm, and I freeze. When I can break the big block into smaller bite-sized bits, I can see through or around them to where I want to go – and start figuring out a plan for getting there.

Plans change. No one knows that better than I do. Believe me when I say that where I am now, and where I think I’m going, is not something I could have anticipated even a couple of years ago.

But having a plan, a list, a map, gives me direction. And then I can take the first step, and the next step, and the next one…  As Valerie Young says, “There is only one next step.” The plan, the list, the map let me see that next step.

It’s up to me to take it.

What do you do?

Are you a planner, a list maker, a lover of maps and instruction manuals?  Where do you go, who do you turn to, for help when you’re stuck?

And how can I help you get to where you want to go?