Issue #6 Planning to Beat Overwhelm
Question(s) of the week: have you ever felt overwhelmed in your business? Do you wish you could get more done? How do you address this?
Let me introduce you to Helmuth von Moltke – he is the guy who famously pointed out that nothing ever goes according to plan.
He worded it differently. As a military man, he observed that no plan ever survives first contact with the enemy. Whatever your plan, the world, the market, the economy, and the “enemy” never seem to play along.
And yet, planning still matters. The reason has to do with buckets, sand, and rocks.
Here is the situation: imagine you have a bucket and are filling it with large rocks and sand. You know the volume of the sand and rocks together is equal to the volume of the bucket.
If you fill the bucket with sand and add the rocks, the rocks won’t fit because the sand will take up all of the space.
The way to get the sand and rocks into the bucket is to put the rocks in first, then add the sand. The sand will drift in between the rocks and fill the gaps so that they all fit neatly.
Now imagine the bucket is your time. The rocks are the important things you need to get done to move your company (or job or life) forward, and the sand is the day-to-day activities – the stuff you have to get done now.
If you don’t plan the strategic rocks, the day-to-day “sand” will overwhelm your time, and you will never get to them.
But just like with a bucket, if you plan the strategic rocks first, then you can fill the gaps in between with the day-to-day. You get more done, and you move closer to your North Star Vision.
So what are your quarterly rocks?
We call “rocks” pillars, but the idea is the same. As we move from one quarter to the next, this is the perfect time to sit back, review last quarter’s pillars, and plan the next quarter.
As Helmuth pointed out, reality will overtake your plans: your plan will be wrong. But the fact that you planned will give you insights into what has changed and make progressing toward your vision more likely.
So, what are the big things you must get done in the next few months to ensure that you progress in your business, your job, or your life?
We recommend four pillars. Develop a plan around them, create some metrics, and plan to get them done.
Thing 1 – Quarterly Planning
Here is a quarterly planning template that you can use to help frame your thoughts. Come back to them regularly, and review them at the end of the quarter to see what you did, what changed, and what you need to focus on in the next quarter.
Thing 2: An Agenda for Quarterly Planning with Your Team
Quarterly planning is a team activity rather than a solitary one, so plan to meet with your team to develop your quarterly plan. As we’ve mentioned before, having structure is the best way to free the mind so try this agenda template.
The key, we’ve found, is to first set the context, then address outstanding hurdles, and finally create a plan. This aligns well with how the brain works (starting wide and ending narrow) and allows you to build a plan within the context of the business and your market.
Give this a try, and let us know how it goes!
And then there is Thing 3: some help
When you are alone or the leader of a small team, this work can seem daunting, which can lead to putting it off, making things worse. With some group accountability, you get more done and feel better about doing it.
You join a team of up to 14 who meet weekly in a structured environment designed to drive real business results. We work together to overcome challenges and build each other’s businesses.
Learn more about our Thrivers program and apply to see if this is the right thing for you.
Bonus Thing – Planning in a Larger Organization
Planning in a larger organization with multiple teams presents a new challenge: how do you enable your team to plan while keeping them aligned with the leadership team’s objectives?
For this, we take a page from Airbnb and Eventbrite, who codified the W framework, which involves setting the context as a leadership team and then turning the context over to the teams to develop their own pillars.
These teams submit back to the leadership team for consolidation, who then returns the modified plans to the team for buy-in. Read more about the model here on First Round.