Today, Oct. 17, is the 290th day of the year.
Put another way: There are 75 days remaining in 2021. That’s slightly over 20% of the year. Yikes!
This 75-day window includes a few holidays. Probably some travel. Maybe even an actual vacation.
In other words: 2022 will be here before we know it. So it’s not too soon to review this year’s progress and plan for next year.
We’re going to address planning in more detail in the near future. But for now, as I ring the 75-day warning alarm, I want to offer you a simple, three-step challenge. It’s something you can complete in about 45 minutes that will lend focus to the rest of your year.
Ready? Here we go.
STEP ONE: REVIEW
A thorough, top-to-bottom analysis of all the factors that contributed to this year’s outcomes is undeniably valuable.
It’s also beyond the scope of this quick challenge.
Here’s a quick way to review your year:
- Refer to the top objectives you established for 2021. “Top” means there should be no more than three, and you should be able to rank them in declining order of importance.
- Analyze how you’re tracking on each of these three key objectives. Are you at least 80% to your target for each? Can you realistically expect to achieve each objective in the next 75 days?
You should be able to describe each of your top three objectives by one of the following five descriptors:
A. Already there
B. Not there but very likely to achieve
C. Not there but somewhat likely to achieve
D. Not there and somewhat unlikely to achieve
E. Not there and very unlikely to achieve
Quick review: No more than three key objectives, each with one of five descriptors assigned to it. Fast & easy.
STEP TWO: DIAGNOSIS
As a guy who makes his living as a strategist, believe me when I say:
Diagnosis is the most overlooked aspect of strategy.
People usually want to jump right into the tactics, the execution, the tangible stuff. (Maybe you’ve had clients like this?)
But when you take time for diagnosis, you’re identifying underlying causes and drivers. You’re asking what happened and why. Only then can you identify the best next steps to take. Better diagnosis leads to better plans.
You’ve probably heard the term “post-mortem” in project management. It’s a valuable (but often overlooked) step in which we review the project to identify what worked and didn’t work.
So think of this step as an “early post-mortem.” No matter which of the five descriptors you assigned to your three goals, take a few minutes to jot down some Whys and Whats:
- Why did I hit or miss this objective? What are the underlying factors that contributed to this result?
- If I missed (or believe I will miss) my objective, was the objective unreasonable, or was my approach to it unsuccessful?
- If I hit (or believe I will hit) my objective, was the objective too safe, or was my approach to it particularly successful?
- What went well? These are good things to double down on.
- What didn’t work? These are good things to fix, reduce or eliminate.
STEP THREE: COMMITMENT
This is the core of the challenge.
Think of the following two questions as individual doors. You can only choose one door, as a matter of focus:
- In the next 75 days, what is one thing I can focus on to finish 2021 strong?
- In the next 75 days, what is one thing I can focus on to set myself up for a strong 2022?
If you’re close to your targets, you’ll probably be inclined to choose Door 1. If you’re way ahead or way behind, you’ll probably be inclined to choose Door 2.
Your “one thing’ could be literally any initiative that moves your business ahead, and it will hinge entirely on your Review and Diagnosis. Make it measurable and time-bound whenever possible.
- Establish a plan for keeping in touch with past clients, colleagues, employers and partners. Create a master list of names by Oct. 22. After this, send five messages every Monday to reconnect.
- Create a list of definitive blog topics in your area of expertise. Publish at least two by the end of the year – one by mid-November, one by mid-December.
- Conduct a “deep-dive” on mastering a social media platform that would be beneficial to your business by Nov. 1. Develop a step-by-step plan for that platform by Nov. 8. Begin executing Nov. 9.
Put your “one thing” at the center of your planning program, your morning reflection, or whatever tool you use. You may find it helps to give it a name; for example, the first example above could be called “Project Connect.” (Most of my own initiatives have similarly terrible names; but, hey, they’re for my eyes only.)
The goal is to focus on your most important thing – to give it the attention and priority it deserves. Better to do one thing well than five things poorly.
Here’s to a strong finish to your ’21 and a strong start to your ’22!
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Copyright 2021 – Matthew Fenton. All Rights Reserved.