Failure to plan is a plan to fail.
I have heard that a lot recently. Most importantly, I have listened to the words and their meaning, and have taken action to avoid this common pitfall. It is very easy to ignore the obvious and fail miserably. No doubt I have, and will, fail again at something. It is inevitable. the difference is how you react to that failure, and how you plan differently to avoid the same mistakes.
1. Know what you are trying to accomplish.
For me, knowing what I want as the end result is the first part of the plan. Some may think this is contradictory, or leaping ahead, but it is really the first step in devising your plan. For example, when you are going to buy a car, do you buy a car because of a sleek ad that shiny stuff on it? Or do you think about what the car needs to achieve as a result of your purchase? If you bought based on the former, then you might end up with a Ferrari in lipstick red that goes 722 miles per hour in .06 seconds, but costs you your life savings, marriage, and you can't afford the insurance. Eventually you lost the car because you couldn't afford it and now you're walking to work. Instead, you need to buy a fuel conscious small SUV to take the kids to games and use on the snowy roads around your home. The plan should have been to write down all of your needs (YOUR NEEDS ASSESSMENT) and then target the cars that fit those needs.
2. Thoroughly develop the plan
Spend time with it, and ask others that have insight about what they might consider. Don't try and do it all alone as others have already made the mistakes that you might overlook, and that can be an enormous gain. Don't rush to a conclusion, rather, let it simmer for a while so that you can adequately gauge its performance, and that it is achievable. (PLAN INCUBATION) research is key, so spend time performing it!
3. Make your plan achievable
Too often we all shoot for the stars. I think the moon might be far enough to call it a success! Is the end game a reality, or far out of reach? An important question to ask, and an even tougher one to answer sometimes. If you have ever read Malcolm Gladwell's 'BLINK', you know that your gut might tell you what is right or wrong most of the time. Not that this is a scientific process, this gut check, but it is often a very ominous way of making a decision, and often times accurate. If you develop a plan that is so complex, so unmanageable, you will most likely fail. TOO MUCH PLAN, NOT ENOUGH ACTION)
4. Stick to the plan, man
That shiny vehicle just drove by again, and guess what, you're distracted. You lost sight of the original goal, and the plan became derailed. Now you're driving down the wrong side of the street, banking on luck and karma to bail you out. Good luck with that. Sticking to it can be difficult, and opinions are like noses - everybody's got one. Stick to what is working and move ahead. Minor tweaks are normal, but switching course midstream often ends up with a capsized boat.
5. Accept little failure, understand successes
You will make mistakes in your planning stages. When I write a 5 year plan, often times the assumptions I make are off, and you have to accept that. If I could go to Trina the crystal ball reader and know the future, well then I would be doing something else right now, and you wouldn't be half asleep reading this, because I would have known all the answers. When things work in the plan, give praise and be thankful, and when things are off, realize that you are human and can't win them all. Just make the adjustment, learn from your mistakes, and move forward.
All in all, a simplified plan always works best for us. We try not to complicate things, we make sure that every goal is attainable, but not necessarily easy, and we follow through with the plans and review against them to measure success. If you follow some basic principles like I have suggested, I am sure you will find some success, however big or small. Overall, without it, you do set yourself up for failure and disappointment.