I'm not really a big fan of planning. But this year I found an approach to planning to makes much more sense for where my business is. In this post, I'll walk you through it.
It’s the beginning of the year, and for most online entrepreneurs, that means planning how they want the rest of their year to go. But is all this planning really worth your time? Let’s talk about it.
Now, if you know me, you know that I don’t get excited about planning. But this year, I took a different approach, and I discovered that planning isn’t so bad.
The problem was that in the past, I tried to get way too detailed too early in the planning process. That was a mistake.
But after lots of trial and error, I developed a process that works for my business and might just work for you too.
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Take A Big Picture Of The New Calendar Year
This year, we took a much more flexible approach to planning.
One of the mistakes I made in planning for 2020 was getting too detailed. Long story short, we got overly granular and mapped out everything, including goals for each quarter, tasks, and milestones. We mapped out the entire year in a 40-page document.
That was overkill. Because our businesses are so fluid, trying to plan that far in advance is a mistake. My plan certainly didn’t account for something like the pandemic.
Most businesses aren’t yet to a point where they have enough history and data to comfortably say what their next year is going to look like. At times, we’ll have to pivot and try different things.
The problem was that by doing an entire year’s worth of planning, we set ourselves up to feel like we failed when we had to throw the plan out.
So now we’re not doing that. We’re not planning detailed tasks beyond early Q1.
Instead, we’re taking a big picture view and zooming out. We put together a skeleton of the plan for the year and will fill in the details as we get closer. Here’s what that looks like in practice.
Add The Immovable Things You Know Are Going To Happen
We started by adding the immovable things that we know are going to happen. It’s not just that we know these things are going to happen, but we also need to plan them now because people outside of our team need to put them on their calendars.
For instance, with BOM Live, we know we’re going to do a virtual event next year. It will be sometime in the late November/early December timeframe. There’s no solid date yet, but we know it’s in that timeframe.
From there, we stepped back and picked dates for the three boot camps for our group coaching program. We need to be able to tell the folks in our group coaching program as far in advance as possible to reserve these three-day weekends in March, June, and September.
There’s one other big event that we put on our calendar for next year: my book launch for Email Marketing That Doesn’t Suck. We have a launch plan and some fun things associated with that in May, so we know it’s happening then. We put it on the calendar now because it’s a big deal and a significant part of what we’ll do next year.
From there, we moved to promos. We don’t do traditional launches in my business, so we didn’t have to figure those out. But we did have to figure out when we’re going to promote our legal templates. We’ve gotten to this point where now we have a flow for these promos.
We wanted to lock these promo dates down in advance because we have affiliates and want to create a promotion schedule that our affiliates can use. Then they can decide if they want to be an active participant during one, two, or all three of these promos next year. It gives them more flexibility.
Identify What To Do During Q1
After you plan the timeline for your major events, you can determine what the focus of the team will be during the first quarter.
For us, this is a time where different things are going on. I’ll be working on the BOM membership, our fulfillment side, and our customer experience. My content team will be working through content.
The big team-based project that we have during the first quarter will be the rollout of BOMU 2.0.
Previously, I rolled out this concept of the phases of building an online business and explained why we’re building a membership. We’re going to roll out an improved version of BOMU as part of that process.
The other change is that BOMU, the Membership, and Coaching will all be evergreen. BOMU will help people get to the point of joining the membership. The membership will help prepare people for coaching. Then they can join when they’re at the right stage.
So during the first quarter, we’ll put this entire funnel in place. When I say “funnel,” it’s not really a regimented funnel. But there will be touchpoints about awareness and content and getting people there.
There will be touchpoints for getting people into BOMU and keeping them engaged to make sure they’re going through it. And then from there, we’ll invite them to join the membership.
We’re putting all of this together to get people to the right place and get the support they need based on where they are in their business journey.
Start The More Granular Planning
While we had a big picture vision for the year, we waited until our live event was over to start planning the details. That way we could really focus on delivering the event.
Once the event was over, we dove into the details. That’s when we did our granular planning for Q1.
Figure Out How to Account for Your Time
If you have a team, a big part of what you need to plan for and figure out is how to account for your time.
For example, my time is the biggest constraint on the team. Keeping me focused and ensuring that I’m doing the work that needs to get done is the biggest piece for planning. So, we’ve carved out time and created a plan that splits my time between the projects that require me.
For the first quarter, this will be the BOM Membership and BOMU course creation.
We’ll look at my project time again later in the quarter and assess if we should still be working on BOMU stuff or focus on something else.
Our goal is to maintain a cycle of me having two-week blocks of time every month where I can do the deep work without other stuff getting put on my schedule.
The rest of the time is when I will do the other stuff, like content creation, drafting emails, and batching.
That’s how we have carved out what my time will look like in the new year.
This is the process we used to plan the year. I’ve walked through it at a high level, and I want you to understand that’s the level to which we have a plan now.
It’s possible that my plan is way more set in stone than yours is depending on where you are in your business. And that’s because we have a lot of things that don’t change.
We know the big picture of what’s happening during the year. Then, throughout the year, we’ll step back and reassess after we finish a project.
That’s how we’re approaching it. If you’ve struggled with planning in the past, this approach might be a good fit for you as well.
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