Are you constantly busy, but feel like you’re not getting anywhere?  Wishing you were getting more results, faster?

Ask anyone at the end of a quarter if they met their goals, and unless those goals are imposed on them via sales targets, most people won’t have an answer.  It might be because they never set goals in the first place, or alternatively they did set the goals, but lost track of them a long time ago.

And if foregoing results isn’t bad enough, recognising your progress is one of the main ingredients in the recipe for fulfilment, so a lack of planning stops you from cooking up a big batch of happy.

Leaders, it’s time to get practical.

It’s time to plan.

First give up the excuses

If you’ve been avoiding planning, I hear you.  I used to trot out all the excuses, too.  I don’t have time to plan.  Situations are changing so fast that my plan will be out of date before I finish it. And my personal favourite (which still gets airtime on occasion):  I like winging it.

But my excuses existed because I hadn’t discovered a way of planning that works.

I hadn’t discovered 90-day plans.

Here’s how to write a 4-page 90-day plan that simultaneously pulls you into the future while providing you a weekly plan you can rely on to get you there, one day at a time. (Due to popular demand, we’ve created worksheets to make this process even easier for you.  You can still do this process on 4 blank pages, or you can now download our worksheet  and print it out as a template.)

Page One – 90-Day Outcomes and Actions

(Warning:  this is manual labour.  You’ll need four sheets of paper and a writing implement of some sort.)

Take your first sheet of paper.  At the top of the page write “Top 5 Outcomes or Goals for the Next 90 Days.”

Choose 5 key goals for the quarter.  Remember, these are goals.  Don’t write down actions.  Write down results.  Your results might include profit targets, things you plan to produce or create, or big changes you want to implement, as an example.  (If you have targets given to you, such as sales targets, include these as one of your goals.)

Now that you have written down your top 5 outcomes, identify at least 5 actions you need to take in order to achieve each one.  Write them down on your page.

Page Two – 30-Day Outcomes

Take a second sheet of paper and at the top of the page write “Outcomes for the Next 30 Days.”

Break each of your five 90-day outcomes into three monthly outcomes or goals to achieve in the next 30 days.  Remember, you’re only planning the next month right now, so these are goals are to be achieved within the next 30 days.  This is NOT about you trying to achieve your quarterly goals all at once.  It’s about breaking bigger goals down into manageable sub-goals that are reasonable for a single month.

Page Three – 30-Day Actions

You’ve now written 15 outcomes or goals for the next 30 days.

Brainstorm the actions or steps you’ll need to take in order to achieve those 15 outcomes.  Who do you need to involve?  What do you need to produce?  What resources do you need to get your hands on?

You’ll need both sides of page three for this one.

Page Four – Weekly Outcomes

Draw a line down the centre of the fourth sheet of paper.  At the top of the left-hand column write “Week One Outcomes” and at the top of the right-hand column, write “Week Two Outcomes.”

Turn the page over and repeat the process for “Week Three Outcomes” and “Week Four Outcomes.”

For each of your 30-day outcomes, identify weekly outcomes or goals, spread across the four weeks.  Record these outcomes in the appropriate weeks.

Work the plan every day

Page Four is the key to your actions for the next 30 days.

Each day, take 10 minutes to look at your Page Four outcomes for this week and identify what specific actions you’ll take today towards those goals.  Write them down.

And get cracking.

At the end of week four

As you approach day 30, it’s time to plan the next 30 days.

Pull out Page One – your 90-day outcomes – to remind you where you’re headed.

Set new 30-day outcomes, brainstorm your 30 day actions, and create your weekly goals for the new month.

And then feel free to bask in the glory of a) having gotten so much done, b) knowing what you have achieved, and c) having that satisfying feeling of knowing how your actions fit into your overall plan.

All because of four pieces of paper.