‘If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail!’
– Benjamin Franklin
Here’s a scenario you’re probably familiar with:
You have a good idea and you want to do it, but you couldn’t start, working harder didn’t work, or you got overwhelmed and the project failed. The end.
At multiple points in your life, you probably wanted to do something great, but the idea got stuck somewhere along the way and the project ended in failure. It could be due to any number of reasons, but the main factor that you can directly control is how you plan for it.
Whether it’s for building a business, embarking on a new project for your department, or simply planning your next road trip or vacation, these three simple project planning steps can maximize your chances for success.
Project Planning in Three Steps
First Step: Decide What you Want and WHY You want it
David Allen, the author of “Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity” said that haphazard plans likely fail when they have no concrete objectives (I’ve experienced this myself in many company “brainstorming” meetings). You must first pinpoint what you want to accomplish and its intended purpose before building the rest of your plan.
- Do you want to take a vacation overseas? Why? To experience new cultures or to relax and relieve stress?
- Do you want to start a new business project? Why? To have more free time to pursue your hobbies (instead of spending your entire day at a job) or to gain more income?
- Do you want to learn a new skill? Why? For more career advancement, recreation, or health?
When you have a definite idea or purpose, it’s easier to make decisions and get ideas on what you should do, and it also lets you focus your efforts on things that actually help you with your goals:
- For your vacation, if you want to experience other cultures, you could consider Indonesia or Kyoto, Japan. If you just want to relieve stress, then a trip to a nice beach in Hawaii or Palawan, Philippines would be preferable.
- For your business project, if you want more free time, then you’d choose a business that doesn’t need much management and you’d likely hire a manager and secretary to assist you. If you made a business to have more income, then working overtime and on weekends on expansion projects won’t phase you.
- For the new skill you want, if it’s for career advancement then you might want to take a leadership or management seminar. For recreational purposes, you might consider cooking classes or martial arts lessons.
Second Step: Brainstorm for Ideas and Organize Data
Spend a little time brainstorming or coming up with ideas for your project. Record everything that pops into your head, such as things you might need, other extras you might want, the preferred schedule, etc.
What bus or plane should you take for that trip? How many days do you need and when? What should you wear? How much money and clothes should you bring? Are you fine on scrimping in some things or do you want a luxurious experience? Are there other places you want to travel to?
What kind of business do you want to engage in? Do you want to open a restaurant or convenience store? Real estate? Buy and sell products online? How should you register the business? How do you pay taxes and do accounting? Do you need a lot of employees or can you do most of the work yourself?
What kind of skill do you prefer to learn? Do you want to improve in sales? People management? Leadership? Do you like to cook, or do you want to learn skills for emergencies like first aid or martial arts? Is it for your physical health? Where can you take lessons? Should you go on weekends or weekday nights?
Most experts recommend that you ignore any limitations for now as you can always brainstorm solutions and alternatives for them later.
When you start brainstorming, many ideas will come to mind, and each of those will spawn many other ideas and considerations. List down and take note of everything, and ORGANIZE them into the final workable plan.
I personally prefer organizing data a day later (or a few hours minimum). Why? The subconscious mind will usually generate better ideas and organize things automatically when it’s not actively thinking of the plan. It’s like the saying “write in white heat but revise in cold blood.” You’ll have a clearer head when organizing things later.
Pro Tip: Bring a pen and a notebook with you wherever you go to write down and capture new ideas. If you don’t, they’ll be lost forever.
Third Step: Find out what you should do next, schedule it, and START!
Without action, even the best ideas will never become reality. After organizing what you know, the final logical step is planning what you should DO NEXT to start and finish the plan.
You could check the internet for good vacation spots and hotels, read a book about starting a business, talk to the bank to ask about loans, ask a friend about management coaches, book that seminar, etc.
Yes, that includes more research and sometimes more brainstorming and organization, but eventually, you’ll gather enough data to complete the project.
Find out everything you need to do next, and START NOW!
Try it on something simple:
Big or small, you can use those three steps on any plan that you want to do, like a night at the movies, hanging out with friends, a road trip, and more! This type of planning is especially useful, however, on larger-scale ventures.
When you get stuck on a project, it’s best to review everything from the top and apply the project planning method here.
- Decide what you want and Why you want it.
- Brainstorm for ideas and organize data.
- Find out what you should do next, schedule it, and START!
Just try it yourself and see how well it works for you!