Following on from my earlier article ‘Success Habits’ this is a deeper dive into

Habit #1 – Start and End each and every day with your Personal Plan

We all know that Failing to Plan means Planning to Fail, we had it drummed into us at high school if nowhere else, but you may not realise that the amount we use planning in our day to day life can have a major impact on all areas of our life.

Scientists have shown that up to 40% of our daily routines are automatic, meaning they are done on auto-pilot, almost without thinking. These actions or rituals are done using what neuro-marketing researcher, Martin Lindstrom calls our implicit memory, things like tying shoe-laces or riding a bike that took some time to learn at first but are now accomplished without thought.

Have you ever wondered how much of your day is spent doing the same things that you did yesterday?

International motivational speakers like Tony Robbins help people to grow and change in their careers and lives using personal planning techniques that teach you how to visualise where you have come from, where you presently are, and finally where you want to be. Visualisation of goals and targets has been found to be a powerful driving force in achieving those goals in sport, business and life in general.

I like to think of planning like creating a road map. In order to plan correctly, you need to know firstly where you are and secondly where you want to be. Only then can you plot the steps between the two that will get you there. This simple framework underlies all planning processes. Many people who know me, know that I have had an annual planning ritual with my family for years – and I tell everyone how well it works.

How then can you apply Personal Planning each and every day in your life?

Initially, you will need to take some thinking time to create your own Personal Plan. You need to take a helicopter view of your life and decide what is important to you at this time in your life. Remember, this is not fixed. What was important before you had children, is not so important afterwards and this changes again when they grow up and move out of home. Don’t let too much rigidity or structure cloud your ability to see the future you and keep in mind that your image of future-you is allowed to change. We don’t all still want to be astronauts, fighter-pilots, doctors and firemen, or do we?

Your Personal Plan will change as often as you want it to.

Your definition of success in your life is yours alone, it cannot be judged against some universal standard. How successful is Barack Obama on a scale of Oprah to Gandhi? Or Michael Jackson? There is no scale, success is personal.

You already know where you are and when you have your current personal goal or goals, you have all you need to begin your plan. Just start plotting in the milestones along the way. These are the measurable achievements that you pass on the way to your destination. Then between the milestones, you plot the steps you must achieve to make each milestone. You can even break your steps down further into baby-steps or whatever you want to call them. If your goal was around weight loss, it might start out a bit like this –

  • Health & Wellbeing Goal – To weigh no more than 70kgs by this time next year (76 kg now)
  • Milestones – ½ kg loss each month [6kg over 12months]
  • Step – Reduce calorie intake to 2000, 5 days per week; open for 2/7
  • Baby Steps – Plan a 2000 calorie day meal plan
  • Baby Steps – Reduce calorie intake to 2000 each day
  • Step – Reduce calorie intake to 1900, 5/7 and 2000 for 2/7

Once you have this done, the hard part is over.

From here on – you just need to read the plan and follow it.

Each and every morning as part of your morning ritual – read your major goal(s) and visualise achieving it for one full minute. Then look at the step you are at right now and decide what action you are going to take today to achieve that step. This then becomes the first item on your to-do list for the day. After you have checked your diary, emails and project due dates you will, no doubt add many more items to the list but you must keep this item on top and you must write it down.

Each and every evening as part of your evening ritual – review your to-do list for the day and check off what you achieved. As usual, you will transfer unfinished items onto tomorrow’s list – don’t forget to leave the top spot free for tomorrow’s personal plan action. If you achieved your Personal Plan action step for the day, reward yourself in some small way. If you didn’t, don’t provide excuses – acknowledge you failed and forgive yourself but do not reward yourself. Finally read your major goal(s) and visualise achieving it for one full minute before closing off your day.

Taking control of your life direction is liberating.

Having a personal plan provides you with a reason to accept or reject opportunities that are presented to you through comparing their alignment with your plan. Make personal planning an integral part of your daily routine and watch how quickly you start achieving your goals.

Steven Brett is the Director of Manage Smart, a Sydney based consultancy focused on customer experience and customer relationship development. He holds a degree in Applied Management and consults to the Customer Service Institute of Australia. Steven is able to speak at corporate events and functions,when available, on this and other customer centric topics.