As year-end approaches, I notice a lot of people anxiously awaiting 2017.  I love change; and I acknowledge the motivational power of a fresh start.  But I also know that the mere changing of time (in and of itself) has no life-altering power.  The most effective catalyst for change is strategy.   

Strategic planning is the vehicle that gets us to our goals.  If the goal is the “what,” the strategic plan is the “how.”  So how are we getting from A to Z?  How are we getting from manuscript to publishing?  How are we increasing our followers from 500 to 5,000?  How are we going to generate an additional $10,000 in sales? 

Here’s how – we take our goals and “walk” backwards- so instead of planning from A to Z, we plan from Z to A.  We establish where we’d like to end up and create a plan based on that exact outcome.  The plan includes general strategies broken down into specific tactics.  I don’t know what your 2017 goals are, but I know that you’ll need a strategic plan to get you there. 

Here are a few tools & tips for drafting a plan to the finish line: 

1.        Write down goals – this may seem painfully obvious, but few actually do this.  In November, one of my goals was to increase that month’s revenue by a certain percentage.  When I initially thought of the goal, it was exciting.  But it wasn’t until writing it down that it became real.  Like ink on a ratified contract, writing down my goals was like signing a contract with myself.  I felt more compelled to take action than when I’d only thought about my goal. 

2.      Write down action items – when you enter your destination in the GPS it provides a map and a detailed list of directions.  Your action items are the detailed steps that will lead you to your goal.  Why is it important to write them down?  Because if not, you’ll have no viable plan!  So, if one of your goals is to increase revenue, a strategy would be to gain additional clientele; a corresponding action item may be to scout clients who may benefit from your service and submit a few proposals. 

3.      Use a planner – in most office settings calendars are required.  For some reason when it comes to personal matters and our own businesses we don’t think its necessary.  Systems facilitate order.  A planner is a system designed to facilitate order in your business.  Purchase one that you will use.  My mom laughs because my planner is like a children’s activity book, complete with stickers, colored ink and other fun inserts.  Make planning (and the idea of opening my planner) fun.  Find a planner, tangible or electronic, that will make planning enjoyable and not daunting.   

4.       There’s an app for that - technology was made for our advantage.  Find an app that will help you do the things your brain needs help with.  There’s an app for whatever you need- from money management for help with savings goals, organizers for simplified planning, habit trackers and anything else you can think of. 

You’ve heard the saying that still holds true….. “If you fail to plan, then you plan to fail.”