In Days 1 and 2 you set up your goal and priorities, in Day 3 you started to take a look at the bigger picture. Now, in Day 4, we are tackling the action. For every major goal in life, you must have a plan of action to make it happen.
If you don’t have a plan, it’s just a wish.
Your battle plan is your strategy. It’s what keeps you going when you don’t want to do it, can’t do it, or otherwise start slipping off your path to making your dreams and goals happen. And this is done with two very simple concepts:
- Breaking the big goal into smaller goals with deadlines.
- Finding ways to work around the obstacles to stay on track.
This is done by taking the components you identified in Day 2 and turning them into actionables with deadlines. Let’s use the popular example of eliminating debt for this step since it’s straightforward, but can have an unexpected twist. Most of us would start at the top, figure out how much you have, how much you have to pay to get out of debt by a certain time, and then start paying it. Right? Well, there are other steps you need to walk yourself through the entire process. You have to gather your bills so you calculate the final number. You have to look at the numbers to figure out which one would be best to pay off first, of if you’re better off paying them all at the same time.
The first step to making your plan is to get your steps (also called milestones by some), and put them into an order that makes sense. It doesn’t matter if you need to alter it slightly later, the point is you will have a starting point so you can get started. The smaller you make the actionables, the better you’ll be able to check off progress to getting it done, and this makes our brain chemicals happy.
Start with writing down 5 milestones that will get you to where you want to be. For example, I would like to pay off one of my student loans this year. My milestones would be:
- Get a grand total on the bill I want to tackle this year. (Due date: Saturday, 10.Jan.2015)
- Figure out how much to pay to pay it off by the end of this year. (Due date: Saturday, 10.Jan.2015)
- Rework the budget to make this number work. (Due date: Saturday, 10.Jan.2015)
- Call the loan holder to make arrangements (Due date: Monday, 12.Jan.2015)
- Readjust goal as necessary. (Due date: Monday, 12.Jan.2015)
Keeping with the financial example, I will have to pay off ECSI, and the total is $8000. To pay it off by December (I want the whole of December free so I can spend on Christmas), I would need to pay $727 on it every month. At this point in time I realise this is utterly unattainable on my income, so I am going to make it a 2 year goal. Hey, that’s the reality of it, and you might not be able to meet your goal, but at least you can redefine it at this stage. Thus, I’ll change it to saying, “I want to pay HALF my ECSI bill off”, then work toward that.
Once you get to this point, you can make coarse milestones to make sure you’re on track. The goal is to push yourself just a bit out of your comfort zone to obtain the goal marks, but not to make it so difficult you’d break yourself.
Still taking with this example, I would need to pay off $4000 of the bill, or $351 (using a this loan calculator). This is way more attainable. It’ll push me out of my comfort zone by requiring me to work a little more, raise my rates a little, and cut back on some extraneous things that I don’t necessarily need.
Thus, my milestones marking the amount left of the $4,000 would be something like:
- End of Q1 (Quarter 1/March): $2,947
- End of Q2: $1,894
- End of Q3: $841
- End of November: 0
My favourite tool for working through this exercise is the Buttoned Up Goal List. It’s free, but more importantly, it helps you work through the action defining process that will help your goals become attainable — whether they are financial, losing weight, getting organise, or anything else you can dream up. Write down these milestones and hang it in a prominent location so you can check your progress regularly. The key of this step is to take that dream and make it more than just blowing out candles and making a wish. It’s about making it happen one step at a time.
Tomorrow we’re going to talk about how to work around obstacles, but for now, here’s your checklist. If you have questions and need to tap into the brains of this community, ask away in the comments. We’re here for you. You got this.