Why Planning Doesn’t Get Things Done (Lessons Learned from a New Entrepreneur)

The alarm rang at 5AM... 

I leaped out of bed I was so excited!  After 14 years as an employee, it was the first day of the rest of my life, and the beginning of my new life as an entrepreneur!  I almost sprinted to my computer, ready to get cranking on my brand new, shiny business that was just waiting for me to dig my successful hands into it.  

Today was my day to finally put out that incredibly, mind-blowingly productive work I'd been dreaming about!  

I knew I was prepared; I’d been preparing for the last four years for this day.  I had soaked up the data from all the entrepreneurship books I could get my hands on, I’d participated in training programs, met with mentors, and put together a 40-page business plan that I sent out and reviewed personally, with multiple people I admire and trust.

I had all the foundation for killing it on my first day as an entrepreneur!

So why was I staring aimlessly at my computer?

Planning Doesn’t Get Things Done

I love to plan.  I’m a certified Project Management Professional and I’ve been planning my entire career, so why couldn’t I get it together? 

Well, there’s a few things I’ve learned about myself after two quarters of being my own boss this year that I'd be remiss not to share...

The first thing I learned is that planning is my personal form of “creative avoidance.”  It gives me the illusion that I’m moving my business forward and making progress, when in reality, I’m either scared or being lazy.

It’s fundamental to have a business plan and execute tasks in accordance with that plan, but the business plan doesn’t make decisions for me - it doesn’t get the work done either.

It won’t tell me how I’m going to spend the first five minutes of my day, of the next four hours, when I’m living in each moment of each day.  The plan gives me a clear view on what it is I want to accomplish after the first quarter, revenue targets, execution strategies and the like, but when it comes to the day-to-day decision making it falls short.

I had compiled a 40-page business plan with absolutely no idea what to do next…epic failure.

How to Get Back to Basics

As an employee I was able to execute relatively flawlessly.  Each and every day I knew exactly what it was I needed to work on, who to contact, which meetings to attend, which to blow off, how to motivate my team, and what needed to move forward. 

I had a system for execution that I’d been refining for the better part of 10 years.  I’d been performing like a well-oiled productivity machine on autopilot!

I created a process and developed a system for my job.  I executed on that system and I knew how to make decisions based on both the goals of the Company, and where I envisioned my career in the future.

Yet, as I stared at my blank computer screen, the sobering reality set in. 

I had made a critically flawed assumption that I my personal system as an employee, could easily double for my system as an entrepreneur. 

I was dead wrong.  I needed to get back to basics.  

1 - Decision Making Basics

The craving for freedom was one of the primary drivers for starting my own business, and I received the LARGEST dose of freedom I could have ever imagined that first day.  All at once, my mind started racing with a million choices for what I could work on first...

and it was ALL up to me.

I’ve found one of the biggest differentiators as an entrepreneur in comparison to a full-time, professional employee, is the increased number of decisions I had to make each day. 

Quite frankly, I wasn’t prepared for such a myriad of available options. 

I was used to making decisions all the time as an employee, but knowing what the right decision to make as was so much easier than it is as a business owner.  As an employee, my decisions were based solely on the company’s mission and my boss’s agenda. 

As an entrepreneur, it’s my call. 

This was a lot more difficult of a transition than I anticipated.  To add insult to injury, even after I decide what to work on, I then had to decide how long to work on each item. 

The cycle NEVER stops.

Going back to basics for me, was an exercise of deconstructing my business plan and asking myself tough questions.  After about two weeks of breaking my plan into it’s component parts and creating quarterly goals, monthly and weekly targets, etc., the tasks didn’t seem to line up as I had envisioned.

Some of the work I had to do on a daily basis didn’t line up with what I wanted to do with my business, or my LIFE for that matter! 

I quickly discovered that although I may be good at asking myself questions, I’m poor at receiving honest feedback.  So, I found a coach to help me through the process. 

My coach asked the questions for me, and I was comfortable being truthful with my responses. There’s just something about using someone as a sounding board that can quickly get to the crux of what we’re trying to accomplish.

Once I better aligned my personal vision and my purpose to how I would manage my business, everything started to fall in place and decisions became much easier.  

The problem for me was that I wasn’t sold on my own business plan!  I had to get back to the basics of what I wanted to do and think hard about my core values. 

My purpose and values then served as my daily sounding board for making tough decisions:

  • Is this work aligned or not?
  • Which task is most aligned?
  • Which will drive me closer to my vision the fastest?

2 - Accountability Basics

Even after all decision-making is complete and the day is adequately planned out and plugged into on my calendar, there’s still one key thing that needs to happen…it needs to GET DONE!!!

In the spirit of staying true to the title this blog post, planning, be it creating a business plan OR a daily plan doesn’t get things done! 

EXECUTION of the plan does...

and execution requires discipline and accountability.

I tell you what, it’s incredibly hard to hold yourself accountable when no one else cares.

Learning the hard way, I figured out how necessary it was to develop creative systems for holding myself accountable.  I found it way too easy to set a date on my calendar and ignore it; or a reoccurring meeting, or (sometimes) a real meeting!  

It drilled back down to the fact that I was the only one accountable to myself, and I was lousy at keeping my own commitments...

so I stopped.

Any time I had a creative idea and I felt like there was a high risk I wouldn’t follow-through, I made my idea public. I usually did this via Facebook and I hardly received any responses because again, I’m really the only one who cares when it comes right down to it!

Yet, for me there was something about publicly putting my intentions out there that made me follow through. The stakes really got high when I made it a stretch goal and put money on it!

I used Stickk.com when I found myself really floundering.  Stickk allows you to set a goal, put money on the goal, and hire a referee to confirm you actually finished the goal.  It’s a brilliant concept that if I wouldn’t have taken advantage of, you wouldn’t be reading this blog post because I would have continued to procrastinate the completion of MakeItSnappyShow.com!

Start Doing

  • Are you overthinking your plans? 
  • What’s stopping you from executing? 

Please leave a comment below and let me know what you’re doing to make better decisions and fulfill your commitments to yourself.  

I’ll do my best to help you through your hot points!