What’s your kick-ass plan?

Aaron Hoos Kick Ass Plan
It’s the time of year when we are knee-deep in planning what we want to do for the rest of the year. Stop smoking, lose weight, start eating more cookies, whatever.

Planning is good but by the end of January, there’s a good chance that most of those plans fall apart under the pressure of reality (which is why a lot of year-round gym membership-holders avoid the gym in January to let all the enthusiastic people join and then leave).

Plans don’t always work because their main ingredients are hope and luck. If you want to eliminate hope and luck, try developing a kick-ass plan.

HOW TO CREATE A KICK-ASS PLAN

  1. A kick-ass plan starts with a goal and the steps to achieve that goal but if you stop there, you’ve only done what a lot of people do. You’ll do okay (better than if you just create a goal and no steps) but I’m about to show you a way to take your goal-setting up a notch!
  2. Next, you need to plus your goal. (Add something to your goal to make it really special — to increase its value and importance). Adjust your steps as necessary.
  3. For each step in your plan, identify your capabilities and requirements. Then determine what strengths you have to succeed and what weaknesses you have that could hold you back. Mitigate those weaknesses through investments in automation… or see if there is someone in your network who can help you. (Try tweeting out to your network that you need help in some specific thing and watch what happens. What a great way to see just how much value your network places in you.)
  4. Determine how to start strong. For some of you (especially this time of year), this won’t be a problem. But for some, there might be issues of procrastination or feelings of overwhelmedness that need to be conquered first. Figure out if anything is going to hold you back from starting and then figure out how to jam down on the accelerator very early in the project.
  5. Starting is good but what you really want to is attain critical mass quickly. This gives your project some life of its own because you see success. Figure out how you define critical mass for your particular project and how you can get there as soon as possible.
  6. Next, look for opportunities to maintain momentum. Project inertia ensures that you keep plugging away regardless of the peaks and valleys that you might experience along the way. (Confession: This is another area I’m working on. It’s easy for me to slow down or even stop when the middle-of-the-project doldrums hit). I need to build little motivations into my projects to keep me going. Sometimes it’s as simple as taking a break or rewarding myself with a trip to Starbucks if I get complete a certain number of steps.
  7. Determine your finishing alternatives. We all want to achieve a project well but often that “winning finish” isn’t well defined. We need to define it clearly.
  8. A winning finish is idea… but it doesn’t always happen. We also need to consider some potential contingencies. You don’t need to go overboard here (or else you’ll end up over-planning and you’ll never get to your project) but you can do a simple A-B-C-D contingency planning: (A) is the ideal finish. (B) is a moderate finish in which some of the winning finish characteristics are present and some are not. (C) is a finish but not something you would define as a win. (D) is if the project doesn’t finish. You’re not grading the project, you’re anticipating what could happen to cause these four potential scenarios and deciding what you can do to make sure an idea finish is the most likely outcome. (For more thoughts on contingency planning, read about a time when I accidentally stabbed myself).
  9. If you’re already busy, you’ll need to also do this: Figure out what you’re willing to give up to make it happen. (Note: this is a HUGE area of struggle for me and something I’ve been trying to work on in my own business. I love to do a lot but I’ve started to realize in the past year or two that if I adopt something new, I need to give up something else).
  10. Figure out what habits need to change in order to succeed. Do you need to be more diligent so you can blog every day? Do you need to stop procrastinating? Do you need to screw up your courage to make more sales calls? Maybe you need to get desperate!
  11. Lastly, become an action figure and blaze forward by doing what needs to be done!. (More on that in this blog post: The entrepreneur’s silver bullet).

If you’ve got this far in my blog, you’re probably thinking to yourself: “Isn’t this insanely time consuming? Is Aaron crazy?”

The answer is yes… to both questions (although there’s nothing I can do about the second question so I’ll just address the first question).

This IS time consuming. But it works. It turns your luck-and-hope plans into real, actionable, achievable kick-ass plans.

Besides, you’ll spend far more time working part-way through your plan and fizzling out than you will if you put in some time in advance to go through these steps. An investment of time at the beginning to develop a kick-ass plan will help your project be more successful, and will help you to achieve it faster and with fewer challenges.

5 success principles I’m adopting for 2012

Happy New Year!

I’m a huge goal-setter — I love to list goals, break ’em down into smaller objectives, and rock them out each day and week and month and year. To help me aim for the right things and make better goals, I’ve listed 5 success principles that I want to apply to my life this year. (Some are new for me, some have been in place for a while now). I hope they inspire you, too:

  1. Do the hardest thing first: This is something I really tried to adopt in the last half of 2011 and it made such a HUGE difference to my productivity and how much I enjoyed what I do. I want to make this an even more intentional habit this year.
  2. Persevere without quitting: I always have a million projects on the go — many for clients, many for myself, and many for family and friends. I love being busy but there’s a drawback: It’s easy to get distracted when a project starts to slog. I need to learn to push through in these times. (Confession: This is a HUGE failure of mine… it’s not that I don’t finish things; it’s just that I stop for a while when they going gets really tough and that makes it hard to pick it up again later).
  3. Find a balance: I love to work and I work hard. But sometimes I work too much. There was a while when 7 days a week for months at a time was the norm… and then I’d burn out. I can’t do that. My productivity and my profitability plummet. I find I’m at my best when I take one day off each week. (Obviously I can take more if I want but I need to make sure I take at least one day! That’s a practice I’ve started to become strict about in the past couple of months and that day to recharge really helps my ability to produce good, consistent work.
  4. Add value to every relationship: This is a new one for me. I have clients who I sometimes wonder if they’re just clients because it would be too much trouble to find someone else to write for them. Obviously I don’t want that! I want someone to be my client because they find my contribution to their business to be so invaluable that they would fight tooth and nail to keep me. (I said “every relationship” instead of “every client relationship” because I think this is probably a good thing to do with my friends and family as well).
  5. Go further. There are two components to this fifth success principle. The first “Go further” component is related to accomplishment — I like to think that I work hard but then I hear about people who somehow manage to accomplish so much more than seems humanly possible. They somehow find the time to start several businesses all at once PLUS become champion shot putters… in between the time that they earn a degree and run 2 non-profits. I want that (but I want to do it while achieving the balance of #3). The second component of “Go further” is related to effort — I want to look back on everything I do and see that I went to the limit on my work and then pushed beyond. Did I go further and add something extra to each client project? Did I go further and add something extra to my blog post? Did I go further and add somethign extra to each chapter in my book? I want to be able to answer “yes” every time!

In the comments below, please tell me the success principles that are inspiring you for 2012!

[Image credit: Gareth du Plessis]