ON THE FIRST of January our thoughts turn to New Year resolutions and plans for the future. How often does this go by the wayside when January starts, and we get waylaid and distracted?

If you are starting to see your good intentions slip away from you, use our 3-step model to help get back on track for 2015.

Step 1. Work out where you are now

First off, you need to work out where you are now. In the last blog we suggested a process to help you assess what you did last year in our ‘Super Charged Annual Review’. Whether you use this, or have your own version, what’s important is to get that stick in the ground that marks your starting spot.

Trying to plan without knowing where you’re starting from is like trying to give directions to someone who’s lost:

“I can see a roundabout and a big building…”

“OK, are you on Commercial Road?”

“I don’t know. There’s lots of traffic and some shops.”

“What’s the name of the street you’re on?”

“Old Street.”

“Great, you need to walk down to the next junction and turn right.”

“Which direction is that in then?”

Ever had a conversation like this? If so, you’ll know it’s impossible to give someone directions when you don’t know where they are. It’s exactly the same when it comes to planning. If you don’t know where you are, or what direction you want to head in, you can’t plan effectively.

So if you haven’t already done so, get a coffee, and a seat, and work out your end of year coordinates! Apart from our Super Charged Annual Review, there are other tools you can use. A SWOT analysis is also useful. Follow this link to try it out for yourself.

Step 2. Decide where do you want to be this time next year

Once you know where you are, the next step is to figure out where you want to be. Most of us have at least a vague idea of where we want to be in the next 2 to 5 years, so the question is, how far do you think you can move towards that by the end of 2015? By asking that question you can start to identify specific targets and goals for the year ahead.

If your response to the last paragraph was, cripes, I don’t know where I want to be in the next 2 to 5 years, relax, you probably either haven’t thought about it in those terms or you’ve been so busy working towards your goals, that you’ve lost touch with what they are!

Either way, it’s an indication that you need to take some time to get clarify what it is you are working towards. Start with the long term, what’s your dream? Then break that down by asking, “What has to happen for you to achieve that?” Then chunk that down further by taking each answer you got to that question and asking, “What has to happen to achieve that?” Keep going till you start to see goals that you can achieve in the next year.

Another great way to clarify your goals is to create your own vision board. Our recent blog details how to use this tool.

Define your goals as clearly as you can, making sure that they are specific, measureable, achievable, relevant, and timely (SMART). Here is a guide to setting SMART goals.

Once you have your goals, take some time to work out how you will know you have achieved them. What evidence will you use, when will you know you’ve arrived and can move on?

Step 3. Plan how you are going to get there

Now you know where you are going, the last step is getting down to the nitty-gritty, where you have to create your personal 2015 road map. Or in other words, what specifically are you going to have to do to stay on track with your 2015 plan?

Here are some ways to keep your plan on track:

Make sure your plan is appealing to you

You might have literally the ‘best laid plans’, but if the idea of doing it repels you, it’s not going to happen. Your plan should excite you. You should feel connected through it, to your overall career vision. If it doesn’t, and you don’t, you need to go back a step, and rethink your goals.

The moment in our life when we actually achieve our goal is often fairly short lived. We enjoy it and are delighted we got there, then we start to look for our next challenge. So as the majority of our life is probably going to be spent working towards our goals, it’s essential to make sure we enjoy the journey.

Share your plans with friends

Talking through your plans for the year with trusted friends or family is a great way to firm up your commitment because it’s then no longer your ‘secret’ plan, and the people you share it with will likely ask you how it’s progressing.

Sharing plans can lead to constructive brain storming, where the people who know you best, can point out aspects to your plans that you had not previously considered. We all have blind spots, and our friends often know exactly where those are for us.

While this kind of brainstorming can be tough, your plan should emerge from the process more robust, and with increased commitment from you, particularly if you have had to defend parts of it.

Review your progress

In the all important plan-do-review cycle the part that most often gets neglected is the review bit. We are generally happy to make a plan, and most of us are excellent at getting busy doing but, to take time out to review what’s working or not, seems to be a step many of us miss out.

To make your plans effective, it’s vital that you regularly review your progress, see what has gone to plan, consider what you’ve not managed to do, and ask why that happened. Perhaps you’ve managed to do more of something than you expected, how was that achieved?

Once you have tracked your progress, and understood what’s working and what needs to improve, it’s time to consider whether you need to adjust your overall plan. Depending on how changeable your situation is, you should be doing this review at least every month.

Happy New Year!

With your plan all sorted, and your plan to manage your plan in place, all that’s left to do is to have an enjoyable and productive 2015.

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