In this article, I walked you through how to create a Level 10 vision, recommended you identify your current reality through scoring, and hopefully you now have 1 to 3 life areas you want to work on in the near future. Now what? It’s time to start taking action towards your vision.
I prefer to take action according to a plan. I’ve tried working without a plan before and I feel it’s a miserable and directionless way to live. Obviously, not everyone comes to the same conclusion. If you’re a devout non-planner and you feel it works for you – that’s fantastic and this article’s definitely not for you.
But if your non-planning attempts have only run you into the ground and progress seems few and far between, why not give the planning approach a try? You can always go back. The “no-plan-is-the-best-plan” will still be around to welcome your return with open arms.
If you’re new to the planning camp (or haven’t explored it much), there’s a plethora of techniques and systems out there for you to try and make your own. And if you’re one of those obsessive over-planners like I am, you’ve probably tried most of them already. When you start enthusiastically devouring books on planning, you know you’ve got a problem. 🙃
The rest of this article details my current planning process for 2018. I truly believe working from a plan is the most valuable step you can take towards your vision. My hope is that by outlining my process you might learn something to add to your own system or perhaps you’ll only come away knowing for sure what you don’t want to do.
Either way – there’s a lot of ground to cover so I’m just going to dive right in.
My planning system underwent a huge change after reading the 12 Week Year by Brian Moran and Michael Lennington. There are a lot of great concepts in this book and I highly recommend it if you’re even remotely interested in the topic of planning. Below are three takeaways I’ve personally implemented that form the backbone to my current planning process:
Moran and Lennington make a very convincing argument to toss out the annual plan and adopt a shorter time-frame of 12 weeks. Within this new mindset, every 12 weeks is now a new year. Every week now represents a month and every day is now a week. Talk about time crunch!
Perceiving time in this manner creates a greater sense of urgency to maximize each and every single moment. Too often we get rather lazy with taking action – especially from an annual plan perspective – because we think we have all this time. We keep putting things off because we can just work on it tomorrow or next week or next month or next year. Yet, the sad truth is time is short and we’re running out of it.
A shorter timeframe means we also have to be more picky about what we want to actually accomplish. Logistically, we can’t do in 12 weeks all the things we’d like to do in a traditional year. Instead, we’re forced to prioritize according to what we really want to focus on and what could potentially have the most impact.
According to Moran and Lennington, an effective plan includes both lead and lag indicators. Lead indictors represent the most important actions or tactics you’re going to take (e.g. go to the gym 3X a week). Lag indicators are the end results you’re trying to achieve (e.g. lose 10 lbs).
Lead indicators or tactics are absolutely critical because they specifically address what you’re actually going to do. It’s great you want to lose weight or get out of debt or write a novel, but how are you going to get there? What are the key actions you’re going to take on a regular basis that will get you closer to where you want to go? It’s our actions we have the most control over. And our results are directly tied to what we do consistently.
In addition, by identifying your lead indicators in advance, you know exactly what you need to focus on every single day. You’re more likely to complete the “right” things and less likely to be influenced by all the distractions popping up around you demanding your immediate attention. Granted, some of these distractions do in fact need your immediate attention, but the vast majority are simply low-value items that can be ignored.
Perhaps the most significant and powerful lead indicator Moran and Lennington suggest implementing is to score yourself on your execution.
For example, let’s say you want to be healthier and have chosen three tactics to complete every week – run on Monday, Wednesday and Friday; strength train on Tuesday and Thursday; and eat a salad every day for lunch. When it’s time to review your execution for the past week, you only went for a run on Monday and Friday (2/3), completed all of your planned strength training exercises (2/2) and ate a salad for 4 out of the 7 days (4/7). Your weekly score would be 67% (8/12).
The purpose of scoring yourself is to directly confront your own lack of consistent execution. There’s no place to hide when you track what you actually get done. You either completed your tactics or your didn’t. Moran and Lennington suggest aiming for an overall score of 85%. They’ve identified you only need to be effective 85% of the time in order to achieve excellence. A score of 85% is an A grade?? I’ll take it!
Scoring yourself is also important because if you aren’t achieving the results you desire, you need to figure out why. Is it because you’re not consistently executing on your tactics? If so, then that’s the area you need to keep working on. But what if you’ve actually been consistent in your execution? Well, then perhaps the problem is with your plan and it needs to change.
Now I’m going to walk you through how I created my next 12 week plan using my physical body account as an example.
Obviously, for this next step you’ll want to know what life areas or accounts you’ll primarily be focusing on. If you’re not sure, I walk you through here in this article how I identified mine.
1. What aspects of your life account vision are you working towards?
Your Level 10 vision for each life account probably has a lot of moving parts. Mine certainly does. So, what specifically do you want to work on over the next 12 weeks?
I previously mentioned that my physical body life account includes sleep, movement, eating, grooming, posture, self-care and personal presentation.
My overall Level 10 vision for this area includes such things as consistently following a low-sugar, low-carb paleo/vegan (aka pegan) diet, minimizing my exposure to electronics in the evening, reducing the amount of time I sit during the day, and living an active lifestyle to name just a few.
I know from personal experience that I can’t work on every single thing in my Level 10 vision over the next 12 weeks – it’s just too much to do all at once. So, for the next 12 weeks, I narrowed my focus down to my diet and living an active lifestyle.
2. What are your goals or the results you’re wanting to achieve?
Next up is to identify what goal or result you’re trying to achieve in the next 12 weeks. What does a successful 12 weeks look like to you? Try to be as clear and specific as possible. Also, keep in mind this is a much shorter timeframe and adjust your expectations accordingly.
EXAMPLE – DIET:
When it comes to my diet, the end result I’m trying to achieve is to consistently eat a low-sugar, low-carb “pegan” diet.
If this seems like a lot, rest assured I’m not making this change all at once and this isn’t my first rodeo with this type of diet – I’ve simply fallen off the horse and it’s time to get back on it. In January, I’m focusing on the low-sugar portion. In February, I’m focusing on the vegetables and in March I’ll be focusing on the carbs. 😊
EXAMPLE – ACTIVE LIFESTYLE:
As for an active lifestyle, my end goal is to run a 5k without any knee pain. I have knee pain (caused by Illiotibial Band Syndrome or ITBS) I’ve been tackling for several years now. It’s because I’m absolutely horrible at consistently completing my strengthening exercises. I’ll do them for awhile, the knee pain goes away when I run (I’m cured!), I’ll stop doing them and it all goes downhill from there.
Earlier this year I stopped doing them 🤨 and while participating in a 15k event the knee pain came back mid-way through. I was far enough along that I stubbornly didn’t want to just quit. So I tried to relieve the pain by changing my running gait. I did end up completing the 15k. However, I paid a steep price – I ended up injuring my foot 🤦🏼♀️. Afterwards, I couldn’t run for more than a couple minutes before I’d start to feel a sharp pain. I decided to stop running altogether to just let it heal. It’s been several months now and I’m ready to get back into running.
3. What are the lead indicators or tactics you’re going to complete?
Now it’s time to determine what your’e actually going to do and when. I prefer to identify daily (or near daily) tactics, but that’s my personal preference. If you’re not entirely sure what tactics you should focus on, you may want to try brainstorming as many as possible and then go through that list for what you think will have the most value added. The fewer the number of tactics to focus on, the better. And don’t worry about trying to find the perfect tactic or set of tactics – just work with what you know and give it your best shot.
EXAMPLE – DIET:
For my diet, the single biggest tactic throughout the next 12 weeks is to track daily what I actually eat. For each month focus (January = sugar // February = veggies // March = carbs), I’ll be tracking that specific diet component. Tracking keeps this lifestyle change uppermost in my mind and gives me the information I need on where I need to keep improving.
EXAMPLE – ACTIVE LIFESTYLE:
As for my running goal, I’ve got a few tactics setup to achieve this:
For starters, it’s back to the daily strengthening exercises for me. I’m not concerned at this point about doing three or five sets of these exercises a day. Instead, I’m more interested in doing them every day and trying to incorporate this into my daily routine.
I’ve also setup the tactic to run three times a week. Again, I’m not concerned about time or distance here. Even if I run for just a minute – that counts in my book. The last thing I want is to aggravate my knee (or foot) and side-line myself.
My last tactic is to simply track my steps daily. Similar to diet tracking, I’ve found that just simply tracking what I do on a daily basis starts improving my numbers because it’s on my mind.
The final part is to create your overall 12 week plan system. How are you going to track what tactics you need to be working on and when? And how are you going to setup your execution scoring?
Below is how I’ve setup my system for the next 12 weeks to give you an example.
Switching back to paper + creating my own planner
For this next 12 week cycle I’m switching back to a traditional paper planner. In theory, I like the idea of a digitalized planner and task tracking system. Of no longer fearing papercuts, text being searchable, and having everything synched across every device I own. Yet I keep feeling drawn to paper. It’s the same with my journals. I’ve tried digital journals yet it’s the paper journal I keep coming back to and I’ve been the most consistent with it over the years. Since consistency is what I’m ultimately looking for here, it’s time to fully migrate back to paper.
Now there are a lot of planners out there I just don’t like. I recognize they’re designed for a mass-market audience and there’s bound to be things in it that will drive me absolutely bonkers – like certain eye-rolling inspirational quotes that only serve to take up vital writing real estate. I can either live with mass-market creations or create my own.
I decided to create my own. Since I already have a love affair with Leuchturm 1917 dotted journals for my morning journaling, I’m going to utilize a separate one as my planner. I received their gold edition for Christmas for exactly this purpose. And my journal color for 2018 is Berry (I choose a different journal color for each year).
1. The 12 Week Plan Overview
The first thing I’ve created in my planner of golden epicness is an overview of all of my tactics throughout the next 12 weeks. This will serve as my reference guide.
2. The Weekly Plan
The second thing I created was my weekly plan. It lists out all my tactics for that specific week. I’ll be using this throughout the week to help me stay focused on what tactics I need to complete each day.
3. The Weekly Review + Scorecard
The third thing I created was my weekly scorecard. This is where I’ll be scoring my actual execution for the week (a good week = 85%). I’ll also be using this as a time to reflect and evaluate on what went well and what didn’t because I feel I need to do that more often.
There will also be pages to use as a daily planner and I didn’t take any photos of that because, well, it’s a daily planner format. That’s pretty standard and you probably know what that looks like.
If you’ve made it this far in the article I congratulate you! I covered a lot of ground here and tried to be as thorough as possible (maybe too thorough?).
All of this is designed to help me take action. That’s the whole point to planning. Because a plan without action is just a waste of time and energy. My plan isn’t perfect. I’m probably going to have to tweak it. That’s okay. All that matters is I know what I need to focus on and now it’s time to focus on the work.
Thanks for reading and here’s to taking action in 2018!