By DJ Edgerton (@wiltonbound)
Its the fourth quarter of the year, and we know what that means. Youre up to your eyeballs in Planning Documents and Forecasting Spreadsheets and Long-Range This and Near-Term That and youre going to spend three solid months imagining what the next year or five years or ten years will have in them.
Ive got a radical suggestion for you: Stop.
You know, “live in the now is a cliche, but maybe its a cliche for a reason. Maybe you need to look at how much time youre spending planning, and how much time youre spending DOING.
No, you cant run a business by the seat of your pants, and yes, of course you need to have a game plan. But have you put so much stock in long-range planning that thats what youre spending your time with, instead of getting any real results in the last quarter of the year? Does your actual output nosedive while you try to imagine what youll want to be doing in the years ahead for your business and for your clients?
If it does, youre not alone. This has become commonplace, and in doing so, seems to be growing every year. Annual planning doesnt just happen in December anymore. We have clients who begin in August. Its like Christmas decorations in department stores. Whenever they were up last year, theyll be up two weeks earlier this year.
It doesnt always work well for the holiday decorations – leaving you burned out by the actual celebration – and it really doesnt work well for a business model, either. These rough financial times have taught us that youve got to be nimble and prepared to turn on a dime. You cant do that if youre so hung up in spreadsheets of the future that youre not actually paying any attention to whats going on today. Are you tracking your planning time separately from the time you spend on true project activity and execution? If not, give it a try: youll probably be shocked at how much of your work week is being siphoned off for what is, essentially, imagining.
What would happen if a client walked in December 31 and offered you giant bags full of money to solve his or her problems? I doubt youd say, “Oh, Im terribly sorry, but we havent created a plan for you, and we cant just start executing on your needs unless we spend the next three months planning. Im guessing that youd figure out what they needed and start getting it done in pretty short order.
This fall, rethink your planning strategy. Trust your professional acumen. Leave the forecasting to the meteorologists, and go get some great stuff done with all that time instead.