Business owners love plans the way drowning men love lifeboats. We’re convinced, and I must admit not without reason, that a good plan will save us from a sea of uncertainty, ensuring we will someday, somehow, make it to the shores of profitability and prosperity.
Every business magazine on the planet has regular articles emphasizing the importance of planning. Our teachers and mentors stress how critical business plans are. There’s a non-stop conversation going on, telling entrepreneurs that they’ve got to plan, plan, plan.
But there’s one topic that never comes up. What happens when your plan gets in the way? A disproportionate focus on creating plans can mean that actually implementing those plans, and improving your business, gets delayed.
2 Ways Your Plan Might Be Slowing You Down
The First Scenario
You’ve got a plan – a great, big plan.
In fact, your plan is so big, so comprehensive, so detailed that it becomes overwhelming to work with. Faced with the totality of everything you have to do and the deluge of detail that describes how you’re going to do it, your personal overload button gets tripped, and you wind up doing nothing at all.
The Second Scenario
You also have a plan – in fact, you’ve got lots of plans, and you’re always making new ones.
Every day, every hour, you have an idea, an inspiration, an innovation that will totally transform the way you do business. None of these plans have been written down, leaving you without any clearly identified action steps. As a result, you wind up doing nothing at all.
Cutting the Problem Down To Size
You can have too much of a good thing. Plans that are too big and complex are a problem. So is having a large volume of incomplete plans. The temptation can be to throw out all of your existing plans, and start again from scratch, but that will only slow you down further.
Understand that there are reasons that we become stalled in the planning phase. The fear of making a mistake is huge; also common is a lack of resources or assistance to implement the plan. I would suggest to you that failing to improve your business is a huge mistake – and point out that it’s only by becoming more profitable that your business will gain the resources and help you need to make even more improvements.
At some point, you have to stop planning and take action. This means you’ve got to cut your plans down to size.
Analysis Paralysis Cure: Outcome-Driven Outlines
Choose One of Your Objectives
At this point, it doesn’t even matter which one. The goal is to get you out of the paralysis analysis mode and back where you’re supposed to be – actively engaged in improving your business.
Identify One Task That Will Move Your Company Closer to That Objective
For example, let’s say your objective is to become well-known to your local marketplace. One task that could help you achieve this task is to appear in local media, either in print, on television or online.
Consider How You’re Going to Achieve the Objective
It’s important to stay on task at this point. Don’t worry about everything else you want to accomplish with your business, you can come back to those ideas later. This isn’t the point, for example, to consider changing your business’ signage or revamping your website.
Outline, In Simple Steps
How are you going to accomplish the objective you’ve chosen? Notice that I’ve said outline, not plan. This is not the time for an in-depth, detailed plan. You don’t always need the minutia. For example, an outline for appearing on local media could look like this:
- Step One: Decide why local media would want to talk to you. What story do you have to tell them?
- Step Two: Identify an email address to contact: Local newspaper, local television news show, local news or community website.
- Step Three: Write an email to each of these contacts, letting them know you’re interested in appearing, and what you have to offer.
- Step Four: Send the email.
Implement Your Plan
The objective-driven outline is short and simple. Work your way through the steps. Taking action is the first step in creating a profound psychological change within yourself. It’s the equivalent of getting up off the couch and taking that first tentative jog around the block.
You may not see immediate results, but you’re creating the groundwork for change.
Repeat the Process
Regularly creating and implementing objective-driven outlines is a smart, strategic way to handle an overwhelming detailed plan. If you’re on the other end of the spectrum, and create too many incomplete plans, you’ll find that the use of objective-driven outlines will introduce an element of discipline and rigor into your operation.
Plans have a critical role in every business owner’s life. But if your plans are slowing you down too much, set them to the side temporarily and concentrate on some objective-driven outlines instead.
Taking action leads to accomplishments that will influence your future planning – for the better.
Overwhelmed Photo via Shutterstock
I see this a lot when managing PPC campaigns for companies. They want to bid on “vanity keywords” but want to see ROI at a high level. Their plan is so large and encompassing that it actually generates competing goals.
Planning’s a good thing to do, but it can be a huge distraction and a form of escapism for some people. They stay stuck on it because they’re scared to move forward. Planning makes them feel like they’re doing something (which they are), but really they’re running on the same spot.
Evele – I like the way you summed that up. This article came up because I had a client who kept planning and planning without implementation. As entrepreneurs I feel it is important to plan but we also need to take the leap and see if our plan works.
Totally agree, Jennifer, about leaping – just leaping – as there’s so much planning one can do. I think it also takes keeping it real and being honest with ourselves about what’s really going on. Denial can be an added distraction/blocking mechanism in itself as well as the over-planning.
The key is to stop analyzing and start moving. Once you’re on the move, solutions will pop up along the way. Sure, you may encounter some problems. But it is better to solve the problems once they are there and not only in your mind.
Aira: I think part of the analysing could be down to control – wanting to control things and not being able to let go and let the future play a part in how things pan out. Being at the analysis stage is also safer for some people – because nothing’s happened yet, good or bad.
Well, I’m number 2. I have so many plans in my head – too many that I often lose focus and drown myself in my analysis of things. Not good – so, many thanks for the tips to focus and re-focus.
All plans with no actions is not good. Always include in the plan how and when the actions will be done. Thanks for the great tips here! 🙂
Like the saying goes, ‘If you fail to plan, then you plan to fail.’ Planning is so important in our daily activities from cradle to the grave.