Planning that works

Updated: Aug 12, 2019

Sick of the sound of deadlines passing you by? Some days so are we ;) Here's a few top tips from over a decade of managing very large projects that we have learned the hard way.

Break it down and keep it real

Remember that old adage - "How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time". You should have a series of different plans that explain your short, medium and long term steps. Plans should be as simple as you can make them - it's not just creating the plans, it's about how you'll keep them up to date over time.

Work with intention. Every. Damn. Day.

Sometimes it can be hard to stay focused. Suddenly it seems very critical to declutter your bathroom or make more some more kombucha. Firstly, you should commit to just getting started - just do one 'block' of work that you have been putting off and then 'reward' yourself with something special. And you can always pay someone to do the other stuff... we recommend Re-Leaf Decluttering!

Many side hustlers and small business owners (including us!) find it very easy to get wrapped up in what we do. I can easily spent hours researching the small details for customers without working on the big ones. I work in 45 min blocks throughout the day, each with a set goal, so that I can get the right level of quality for what I am doing.

I love my MiGoals Get_It Done journal for planning out my blocks.

Don't lose sight of where you are headed! Strategic planning isn't a one-off activity

Your business plan shouldn't be just for your bank, your investors or your door-stop that you wrote when you started your business. It's a living document that reflects on what your business is, where you want to be, where you compete and how you compete to make money.

It's easy to lose sight of the big picture, particularly trends over time, when you are busy just trying to keep things going. Ignitzee's Business model health check is a great way to reflect on how your business is structured, who you compete against and what makes you different.

Build a bridge between the short term and the long term

Whether you work in quarters, cycles or blocks, it's good to have a way to translate your big picture vision into bite-sized pieces. This could be a series of themes that you have for each quarter, product roadmaps, "epics" that you group your sprints into or a huge mural. For us, we want to move quickly with what our beta testers are telling us so we keep our medium term plan as a diagram front and centre in our office that we can scribble on, change and re-prioritise as we need.

Get the right 'short-term' planning horizon

Each business has a different cycle - do things happen in terms of days, weeks, months, years or decades in your business? Here at Ignitzee, we break our product development into two-week blocks (sprints) as we've found that it's roughly about the amount of time that we need to pull together something meaningful. We use post-it notes for each task so that we can be responsive - it helps us stay focused on what our goals are for each two-week sprint rather than the detail of each task.

Track how you are going

There's something really fulfilling about checking things off as 'done'. ***shhh*** I'll admit that sometimes I add things to lists that I've already done just so I can check them off... The MiGoals HC Diary is a pretty handy way to do this - great for anyone with a stationary obsession out there. For those already with a Microsoft subscription, Planner is a very simple and cost-effective way to keep on you on task.

Be kind to yourself

There'll be days, or weeks, or months where you don't hit your goals. That's OK. Reflect on why your estimates were out, learn from it and apply it to your next plan. You'll get more accurate at estimating over time.

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