Planning, Executing And Adaptability
I hit a Happy New Year goal on January 1st. (Not really.) I crossed 500 Twitter followers which means I’m practically a celebrity now.
Twitter isn’t really something I use all that effectively. That might change in the near future. Not because it’s a goal, but because readers repeatedly tell me to use my social media stuff more effectively.
In the meantime though, I wrote a bit of a throwaway tweet this morning. If you were following me, you’d have seen this piece of gnomic wisdom. So, you should probably head over and follow me.
For those of you who hate Twitter, here’s what I wrote:
Executing a plan should always be easy.
If you don’t know where to plant your feet, then you haven’t done enough planning.
(Time Out: If you’re enjoying this article, then you should probably sign up to my mailing list, where I give out ideas and business tricks that I don’t share publicly. Click here, fill out your details and get yourself on the list! You won’t leave this page.
Now Back To The Regular Programming Schedule…)
— Jamie McSloy (@JamieMcSloy) 3 January 2018
Naturally, we can’t encapsulate an entire thought process within a two sentence tweet. The nature of the Twitter beast is that while we all know this, everyone’ll jump in to prove the general rule wrong with exceptions to the rule or more detail. (I’m pretty guilty of this, so no offence taken.)
This happened with the Tweet above too.
That brings us to the subject of the day – which is not about Twitter.
It’s about how you set and execute a plan, and what to do when things don’t go according to plan.
Most Problems Are More Fixed Than You Think
The first rebuttal to the rule, “Always plan for stuff before you do it” was, “Things aren’t static.”
That’s absolutely true. The best laid plans get broken, so on and so forth.
However in most cases your goals are static and the process you use to get them is static.
As a general rule, you don’t have to plan for upsets and rule changes as much as you think.
It’s New Year’s Resolution season, so let’s take some examples:
- “I want to get fitter”
- “I want to make more money”
- “This is the year I find a super-hot wife who wants to worship me”
The whole, “You can’t plan for these goals in advance because life isn’t static!” isn’t as helpful as planning in advance for at least two out of those three.
If you set a diet plan and exercise schedule this week and follow them for the rest of the year, you’ll hit your fitness goal – assuming two things:
- The plan will get you to your goal
- Your goal is reasonable
For the first, if you plan to do endless cardio to look like Arnold Schwarzenegger then your plan is bad. For the second, if you think you’re going to look like Arnold after a year (without chemical assistance) then your goal is bad. But if you have a plan and stick to it… you’ll get there. And that’s the point.
“But life isn’t static!”
It is if fitness is your goal. What’s really going to change about basic biological planning within the next year?
If you lose calories, then you’ll lose weight. If you lift heavy weights, you’ll get stronger.
You might get injured… but you can adjust your plan (or plan for it.)
What you don’t want to do is the opposite of that.
Don’t Be A Reactionary
People who don’t plan end up reacting to whatever life throws at them. This is bad unless your life goal is to be in a table-tennis match where you’re the ball.
“Yeah… but you can’t plan in advance because life is not static.”
If you don’t have a plan then you’re the ball. When you get smacked by that racquet, you don’t know where you’ll end up and you can’t prepare beforehand because you don’t know when you’re going to get hit.
In real terms, this limits the amount of choice you have and it limits the power you hold.
If you wait for the next big boom to make money… then when the boom happens you’ll have little capital and thus won’t be able to capitalise on it.
If you wait for the perfect partner to come along and sweep you off your feet, then your dating pool gets limited over time.
In any case, if you’re waiting for stuff to happen, you can only work with the opportunities and resources that present themselves to you. You don’t want this to be the case.
You want to plan ahead so that you are deliberately exposing yourself to opportunities and creating them.
But of course, you don’t have all the information and your plan can’t be optimal when you start. So what do you do?
Stick To The Plan: For Everything Else, Use OODA
The second reply I got was about adapting your plan as you go along.
Some people assume that a plan is a fixed document that you sign in your blood and vow never to change on your kitten’s life.
This isn’t true.
Think of every plan as a loop or system. Of course you can update the plan as you go along.
Let’s say you want to hunt a bear. Not planning would be to open your front door and blindly start shooting into the open air. That’s bad.
Your initial plan might be as simple as, “Go to the woods.”
This is already better than the guy without a plan, because you’re using the best data you have, (i.e. bears live in the woods.)
When you get to the woods, you might find a bear cave. You might amend your plan to sit and wait for the bear to come back. Does this alter your plan? Yes. Does it mean that the original plan was wrong or a waste of time? Obviously not.
This is basic strategy. A useful strategy tool is what’s called the OODA loop.
Observe, Orient, Decide, Act.
Even when plans change, you are never reacting. You are observing reality, looking for flaws. Then you say, “Here’s the new information… how do we apply this or change course?” Then you make the decision from the options that present themselves. Finally, you put yourself into action.
This is the way to update your plans.
For most situations, you can set a plan far in advance. Usually this is the best course of action, because you have more to test yourself against over time.
In many situations, you will have to improvise. But it shouldn’t be your goal to improvise. You should try and anticipate – and have practiced – as much as you can before you need to act.
In no situation should you be caught unaware and respond based on emotion or whim. If you do this, you weaken your position and potentially all future positions as a consequence.
Luckily other people have already discovered this, and have come up with things like the OODA loop which allow for both planning and adaptation when necessary.
Take advantage of their ideas, plan for success and have a successful New Year.