Simplified Quarterly Planning: A Cheat Sheet for Effectual Reasoning
Entrepreneurs plan things 12 weeks at a time (i.e., quarterly – every 90 days). This time frame is ideal for setting goals that are just within reach, then focusing on them for 90 days and ignoring the rest. Longer goals — such as yearly or 3-year goals — tend to miss the mark.
Recently, I’ve implemented this process of quarterly goal setting. In a nutshell, you:
1. Identify a big, super long-term goal (“25 year goal”)
2. Identify what resources you have
3. Based on those resources, set 90-day goals
4. Prioritize your means then go for it, reassessing every 90 days
The process works great, really.
When I first started seriously implementing this process, my revenue went from freelancer pittance (~2k/mo) to more than $150,000 in 2016. I owe it to this process.
That said, I like to keep things simple. So simple in fact that I carry all of my possessions in one small North Face backpack.
So it occurred to me that the existing template I use for quarterly planning is too cumbersome and jumbled. Here’s my simplified, step-by-step version:
Simplified quarterly planning, step by step
Part One: What do I want?
1. Read: Top 5 Regrets of the Dying and Ray Dalio Principles Part 1
2. Review the last 90-days. What has changed?
At this step, review any notes over the past 90 days and review the big initiatives doc created for the last quarter. It’s very easy to get caught here, so put a timer on this step. I set a timer for 20 minutes and just write as much as possible in that time.
3. Review your general operating principles (mine are here).
There is so much meaning attached to my principles that I found myself getting caught at this step. A good frame to come from is: “what have a learned in the past quarter — read: answers to #2 — that can be added?” Make this time bound as well: 15 minutes.
4. (Re)-write your “Aspirational Vision For Your Life”
Think huge, like pick things that seem just laughable and you might never achieve, but would like to if you could in some alternate reality.
5. Answer: “What would you do in [business/health/relationships] if you knew for certain you were capable of doing it?”
6. Review and update your perfect day
Answer these questions:
Where would you live?
What would your house look like?
What would it smell like?
What time in the morning would you wake up?
What would you do in the morning?
What would you think about in the morning?
What would you have for breakfast?
Where would you go for the first part of the day?
What would you have for lunch?
Who would you eat with?
Who would your friends be?
What kind of conversations would you have with your friends?
What are your friends like?
What would you do for personal fulfillment?
What life purpose would you strive towards?
What would your business be?
What time would you start work?
What would you do in your business each day?
What are your clients like?
What’s your relationship like with your spouse and your family?
What would you do for family time?
What would you eat for dinner?
What would you talk about at dinner?
What would you do at night?
Who would you spend your time with?
What would your thoughts be as you went to sleep?
7. Using your answers for 4-6, write a 25-year vision document for each Business/Health/Relationships
For each, write exactly What You Want (how does it look and feel?) and Why You Want It (what’s the importance? Why do I want to be in that role?)
8. Using your answers from 4-6, write out your ideal day for each Business/Health/Relationships
PAUSE: at this point, you should have a clear idea of what you want (over the very long term). Next step, identify the means you have to get there.
Part Two: What resources do I have now to get what I want?
9. Do a Personal SWOT Analysis for Business/Health/Relationships
This shows your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.
Bescude “finding your strengths” is tantamount to “identifying your means,” this step is fundamental to 90-day goal selection
10. Do an 80/20 Analysis of the previous quarter’s big intiatives
Answer the following questions:
What went well?
What are the 20% of things I’m doing that are driving 80% of results?’
What went badly?
What were the biggest mistakes I made?
Why didn’t I achieve what I set out to achieve?
What are the three least-valuable things I’m doing?
What are the 80% of things I’m doing achieving 20% of the results?
What am I doing to avoid The Resistance? If you get stuck on this one, think of someone that is three to five years ahead of you in your field. What do you do that they don’t? Stop doing that.
11. Based on What You Want (#7 and #8), and Your Personal Strengths (#9), clearly Define A Goal
Anewer these questions:
What’s the one thing that makes everything else easier or unnecessary?
If I’m reading this in a year, what has to have happened for me to feel satisfied with my progress?
12. Visualize yourself having completed the goal
“On an average day, someone who has achieved this goal…”
13. Count the costs
Write all the things you will have to give up and sacrifice to get there and make sure it’s worth it.
14. Choose KPIs for The Goal
Note: the goal must be falsiable (yes/no) and have KPIs that allow you to quantify your progress.
15. Based on the above, create your Big Initiatives Document
This document is a summary of everything covered in this planning doc.