I know, I know, I’m late as always… It’s already getting close to the end of January and here I am telling you about planning ahead to achieve your goals.
A bit ironic, isn’t it? 😉 Suffice to say that the year started with a 3-year old who suddenly refused to have a midday nap and a 2-year old with gastroenteritis… Oh well. There are certain things that even meticulous planning cannot avert.
Divide & Conquer
But then there are other things. Things that you CAN plan for. Especially as an online solopreneur, blogger or any kind of entrepreneur or business owner, you NEED to plan ahead.
And even as someone, who does not run some sort of business, you might have other goals that require some long-term planning strategies.
Do you belong to the kind of people who set goals at the beginning of the year? If so, how do you go about achieving those goals?
It’s so easy to get overwhelmed with the amount of work that might be necessary to get to that desired outcome, isn’t it?
The feeling of frustration and confusion when you are not entirely sure how to tackle the amount of work that lies ahead. I totally get that!
So this year I wanted to try a different approach. The principle of the method I’ll be using isn’t new. In fact, “Divide & Conquer” is a method whose origins can be traced back to Babylonian times.
And it’s still used in computer science today. So it’s proven its usefulness throughout centuries. But what does it mean?
In a nutshell, the idea is to break down a huge problem into smaller sub-problems that are easier to manage. Once you have solved all those easier sub-problems, you will automatically have solved the initial huge problem as well.
From Science To Everyday Life
So let’s take that principle out of the math/computer science context and apply it to your specific goal! Let’s say your big goal is to publish a seasonal cookbook by the end of the year. You start at zero.
There are gazillion things to do. Creating recipes, test-cook and tweak them, writing down the actual recipe, food styling and photographing, deciding which desktop publishing program to use, creating a layout for the book, researching how and where to print it…
There might also be tasks on your list that require you to master a new skill. Maybe you decide to use InDesign for setting your book but haven’t used the software yet.
Whatever it is you need to do to get your book printed by the end of the year – write it down. Every little thing. These are your sub-problems. Now, for your project to succeed, you need a manageable action plan! Enter: The master plan for the entire year.
I’m a very visual person. I need to see things written down or drawn to fully internalize them.
Obviously, a planner is a very good idea to go about this. But when I searched for nice planners to use, I wasn’t too pleased with what I found. There were lots of pretty ones, but none of them was what I was looking for.
When I try to plan a big project over the course of an entire year, I don’t need a year-at-a-glance planner. Nor do I need a weekly planner. At least not for the initial master plan.
What I need is a calendar that is big enough to show me the whole year on one page. Unlike the planners I found though, I don’t need exact dates on there. After all, it’s rather unlikely that I know exactly what I’ll be doing on a certain day in December.
I guess the same will be true for you – unless you have deadlines of course. So instead of having the exact dates on there, I’d like enough empty space to write down monthly tasks.
Remember those sub-problems we talked about? You now want to assign them to specific months. Once this is done and you assigned all your sub-problems to a specific month, you should be well on your way to achieving your big goal!
So, for the cookbook example, you could assign the winter months for creating winter recipes, the spring months for spring recipes and so on. Now you only need to tackle those smaller problems each month, which should be far more doable.
Break Problems Down Even Further
I’d suggest breaking those sub-problems down even further at the beginning of each month. Take some time to look at those tasks, divide them into even smaller tasks and assign them to the all the weeks of that month.
Coming back to the cookbook example, this could mean assigning one week for breakfast recipes, the next for lunch recipes, one for dinner recipes and one for drinks.
Yet again, at the beginning of each week, take a look at the task you assigned to this week. Let’s say it’s the week you chose to create breakfast recipes. First off, you could set one day aside to brainstorm your ideas. Choose the recipes you are going to try.
Think about the way you could present the finished meal. Which props do you need to style them? Write shopping lists. The next day, you could do all the shopping and organization. Next day you cook, tweak and write down the recipes.
You also take beautiful pictures. The day after that, you go through your photos, choose the ones you are going to use and edit them. Maybe you can even fit in typing your recipes… You catch my drift. Whatever makes sense for your project and the amount of time at your disposal.
What I especially like about this method is its flexibility. It leaves enough wiggle room to change things around when unexpected events come up. The more strict your plan, the harder coincidence will strike.
As long as you are aware of all the little puzzle pieces you need to successfully finish your project, you can fit them into your schedule however you see fit. Being able to view the whole year at a glance with all those small tasks written down makes it a lot easier to keep all balls in the air.
Now that you have a plan on how to reach your goal, it’s time to think about rewarding yourself as well! How do you keep going once the initial motivation wears off? Don’t wait until you reached your goal, celebrate your achievements along the way!
This could be little things like going for a nice long walk, once you finished your task for the day. Or how about rewarding yourself with a healthy homemade gummy bear treat and a lovely cup of tea?
You could do something bigger whenever you complete the task of the month. I’m sure you’ll find things you are looking forward to.
Writing those down in your master plan calendar will help you summon the motivation you need to solve the small problems. So before you know it, you’ll have achieved the big goal.
As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below! Is this a system you are going to try? Or do you have another wonderful strategy in place for planning your projects? If so, I’d like to hear it! 🙂
Sorry again for posting so late! If you are a busy mum who tries to fit her work into her kids’ nap times and suddenly finds THERE ARE NO MORE NAP TIMES, you’ll understand… 😉
Go on then, divide & conquer!