Success results from a solid strategy. Even the greatest ideas are of little value unless they are backed up by a practical and workable plan of action. The word strategy comes from an ancient Greek term which literally means to be a general, leading troops into battle. Setting up a good strategic plan involves five steps:
The first step is to translate your vision into measurable and achievable goals.
You decide specifically what you want to accomplish during the next five to ten years - those are your long range goals. Next, you break those goals down into intermediate goals - things you wish to accomplish during the next six months or year. Then you break them down further into short term goals covering the next month or six weeks.
The second step is to break your goals down into achievable objectives.
Dr. Robert Schuller says, "Yard by yard life is hard, inch by inch it's a cinch." Working by objectives helps you concentrate on what's important, instead of spinning your wheels on those things that seem urgent, but don't lead to your long term goals. Objectives add purpose and direction to all your activities.
The third step is to set up your strategies for accomplishing your objectives.
Strategies are the specific ways you will go about achieving your objectives. The more clearly thought out they are, the more effective they will be.
Fourth, you choose each task you must complete each day to achieve your goals.
This is where most planning breaks down. We tend to leave it vague - thinking that, as long as we are working hard all the time, we are achieving our goals. Most people I talk with are extremely busy - and most of them are working hard to do things right. The problem is they are not doing enough of the right things - the things that will help them achieve their goals. It is not enough to merely list each task you need to do; you need to build it into your schedule. So many hours every day you are working on specific actions that will lead to accomplishing your definite objectives.
And, finally, build in the monitoring mechanisms that will help you keep track of your progress toward implementing your plan.
It's one thing to have a "gut level feeling" that you must be doing something right because you are always working hard. But it is far better to design simple mechanisms to let you know precisely how much progress you are making.
Look for a few key indicators that will help you stay on track, and monitor those like a doctor would monitor the vital signs of a patient. It doesn't matter how much activity is going on. What matters is how well you are doing at achieving your objectives. One good example would be that you would target to contact three people each day to generate new business. At the end of the day, you'd know whether you have achieved that goal. Your plan is not complete until it has been communicated satisfactorily to every person in your organization who must help to implement it.