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B094: How to create a strategic plan for the year ahead

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Ready to create a strategic plan for the year ahead? Now, my focus in today’s talk is primarily on your business, but honestly, the principles ring true if you want to put a simple plan together for your personal life, as well.

Earlier this week, I spoke to Dr. Daniel all about how to improve your gut health and it really inspired me. He reminded us that when it comes to your health, you don’t necessarily need to make big, sweeping changes like throwing the baby out with the bath water. (Guilty, as charged… I find that’s my knee-jerk reaction, as well.) But rather it all comes down to the 80/20 rule. Keep the 80% that’s working, refine the 20%.

And I find that when I’ve got a plan in place that maps out (in broad brushstrokes) where I’m headed each month, it’s like having a steady north star for the journey ahead.

So, let’s talk about the 5 things to consider while mapping out your plan for the year ahead. It all boils down to:

  • 12 months, 12 challenges, 12 sprints
  • Laser focus in HIGH
  • Set a clear financial and non-financial goal
  • Track your results
  • 3 weeks on, 1 week off to reflect

Let’s simplify that…

Here’s how to create a strategic plan for the year ahead – 5 simple steps:

1. 12 months, 12 challenges, 12 sprints – 

Recently, I took part in a month-long challenge run by my friend and health coach, Kelly Treadway called Planksgiving and you guessed it, we did planks every single day during the Thanksgiving holiday season. Just one plank, every single day, that’s it. And what I loved about that simple (yet, gradually more and more challenging) task was that I was singularly focused, committed to showing up daily, and made incredible progress with my strength in a short amount of time.

So, what if as you’re mapping out your strategic plan for the year ahead, you break it down into smaller, bite-size challengesthink of it as a sprint! Keeping in mind the crystal-clear vision of where you’d like to be on December 31st (a year from now), what challenges could you set for yourself each month that paves the way there? 

  • TIP: Download our free 12-month strategic plan template to begin mapping it all out without having to start from scratch. Here, you’ll find each month as a separate row to help you define what your monthly challenge will be and what the desired outcome will be when you narrow it down this way. Think of each month’s challenge like a sprint so you don’t get bored or inevitably fall off the wagon, like most humans do with anything in life. 
  • BONUS POINTS for those who create challenges that also mirror what your clients and audience are truly needing in that month as well. 
    • For example, you might know that your clients are super busy with summer vacations in the month of June, so your challenge that month is to sell support packages to them in May that help alleviate a little stress for them in the month ahead. Get clear on what your people need most and will gladly pay you money for… and work backwards from there to set your monthly focus and sales campaigns. 

2. Laser focus in HIGH – 

I know you know this, but in case you’re new around these parts… there are two types of tasks, in my mind: higher yielding tasks and lower yielding tasks. That’s it. Everything on your to-do list falls into one of those two buckets. So now that you’ve got your monthly sprints defined, the next step is to start identifying the key tasks or brand messaging talking points that you MUST deliver in that particular month that will provide value to your clients and followers and help you achieve your monthly end goal. Sure, you could do 80 billion things, but that’s not the point.

The point is to DO LESS, focusing your greatest time and energy towards your highest yielding tasks that will deliver the greatest return. 

  • TIP: Who can you delegate the lower yielding tasks, whether it’s to a virtual assistant or co-worker on your team? Can you delay certain tasks to a different month, so you and the team can truly laser focus in during this sprint? Can you remove a heavy rock (of responsibility) from your shoulders to help lighten the load by either ditching it (for now) or delaying it to later? If yes, #dothething. If no, give it a 2nd look.

3. Set a clear financial and non-financial goal – 

This is the next logical step in fleshing out your monthly sprint challenges. What are you working towards that by the last day of the month you can definitively say, “HECK YEAH, we hit that goal!” So, set a very clear financial goal for the entire month. Make it a gross revenue goal (as in, before taxes and expenses, how much in sales is coming in the door this month?) or make it a net income goal (as in, once everyone has gotten paid, including you, this is the net profit goal for the entire month).

  • TIP: Tap into your historical figures in your bookkeeping system. What did January bring last year? Are there any dips or spikes to consider that are clear signs of your clients’ buying patterns? As in, everyone is broke in January after the holidays, so sell the most affordable offer then.
  • In addition, set one non-financial goal per month that you and the team are working towards as well, such as a specific number of people signed up for your email list or booking a specific number of discovery calls with new prospective clients. Set it, discuss it with your team and aim to stretch yourself (slightly) outside of your comfort zone with defined, enticing rewards if you hit them.

4. Track your results – 

Seems silly to point out something so simple, but that’s my job… you have to track your results every single week. This is what will keep you on-track with doing the higher yielding tasks while you’re on the job. When we don’t track our results, that’s when we fall into the trap of doing unproductive, busy work. Scrolling on Instagram, reorganizing our junk drawer at the office, and watching another cat video. No shame, I find myself doing it too when I’ve hit the proverbial big red F-it button in the sky. And most times, we do it unconsciously. That’s self-sabotage, that’s fear. Don’t sweat it, just do something about it.

  • TIP: In The Simplifiers strategic plan template, you’ll make a note on how you are going to track your results per sprint, whether it’s updating your cash flow forecast every two weeks or filling out a simple spreadsheet to track your email list’s number of subscribers.
  • Remember, who can you delegate this task off to and can they create these simple reports to present at your weekly team meetings, so everyone is clear on the progress you’re making? When you track the data, you know quickly when it’s time to take action or pivot. And that’s how you dispel the fear and #dothething.

5. 3 weeks on, 1 week off to reflect – 

The last tip is certainly one that is inspired by a recent conversation I had with Kate Northrup. That was episode 059 where she simplified how to reclaim your time & energy. I’ve been testing her theory that you could align your work tasks with the various phases of your monthly menstrual cycle and how powerful that wisdom truly is.

Look, if you’re a woman running a business, you know how ON FIRE you are during certain weeks and other weeks, you’re simply hanging on for dear life. So, here’s my crazy thought for you, in order to simplify, refine, and turn up the juice 20% on your new strategic plan…

  • TIP: Aim to work on your monthly goal with a ‘3 weeks on, 1 week off to reflect’ mentality. The one week off from driving towards your monthly goal is going to be the week you bleed. Instead of grinding it out, listen to your body and ask her what she needs. Use that week to reflect on how your efforts went that month, maybe also organizing things to set yourself up for your next sprint, as well. Now, I’m not talking about sitting in front of Netflix that entire week (I mean, unless that’s your thing and your job is being a movie critic) but rather giving yourself permission to pull the foot off the gas pedal and take the time to journal out what worked, what didn’t work and your lessons learned. That way, when next month’s sprint begins, you’re ready to hit the ground running refreshed, replenished, and ready to rock-n-roll.

This is your chance to really step into the driver’s seat in the new year ahead. When you put together a simple strategic plan like this, your team know exactly why they are working on what they’re doing each and every week. Better yet, if they help you map out the monthly focus, they’ll have greater ownership when the going gets tough and the busy season kicks into overdrive.

Give yourself the gift of self-assurance.

It’s not meant to map out every single moment of the year ahead, but a great strategic plan helps as a guiding light in future decision making, what types of clients you decide to go after and which ones you sign on to work with. This could change everything and could be the simple solution you’ve been looking for to re-energize you in your work.

One final whisper

If this last year left you feeling battered and (a bit) bruised, girl, I feel you. Whether it was BIG change that sideswiped you or the industry took a left when you took a hard right, there’s no time like the present to get your ship back on track. 

I hope you find this exercise one full of hope and opportunity. 

Think about what you want to focus on each month. Consider which months you want to take a vacation. Really look at your own energy levels and what you truly can handle and when, to avoid burnout. 

You might find that you need to nurture your existing audience in January, delivering value and loving on them in rich, authentic ways. And then, February is a month of tapping that network to introduce you to other like-minded people, who could one day be future clients. And after that, maybe March or April is another big sales push for this newly expanded audience. Keep in mind the big tasks that must work in sequential order… and what things are more flexible or maybe more locked in specifically to a holiday or key date in the calendar.

And remember what my business mentor has taught me… at the end of the day, you’ve got to tap into your Core Desired Feelings

How do you want to feel as a business owner and as you begin to do the work of executing this strategic plan? 

Start here first. 

Fill in the blanks to this statement: 

I want to feel ______, _______, and ________. 

This is the very first step before you define what your monthly focus is, your monthly call to action and more importantly, what you’re going to do in order to feel the way you want to feel.

Every day, you are getting stronger and stronger. You’re feeling more and more confident as a business owner and a Simplifier. You’re learning how to do less, in order to accomplish more. You’re saying NO to the noise!

And as you create this strategic plan for the year ahead, you are committed to:

  • 12 months, 12 challenges that equate to 12 sprints
  • Laser focusing in on the HIGHER yielding tasks
  • Setting a clear financial and non-financial goal
  • Tracking your results
  • …and you’re going to test the ‘3 weeks on, 1 week off to reflect’ mentality to see if it works for you.

I’m so proud of you. Build an imperfect first draft of this plan. Simmer on it. Run it by your team for feedback. And then come January 1st, make it happen.

You can do this, I believe in you.

It’s time to SIMPLIFY.

If this thought of the day inspired you…

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Thank you!

Show credits: Suzen Marie, our Podcast Editor. Jeffrey Lynn, our Video Editor. Lyden Yardley, our Show Notes Editor, Kristin Castillo, our resident Superhero, and Manminder Athwal, our Blogger. Aubri Nowowiejski, Chris Justice and George Mills, our advisory board. And I’m your host, Mary Baird-Wilcock. Thank you so much for joining us.

As always friends, keep things simple.

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