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Make Personal Planning a Good Habit that Leads to a New You.

Women sitting on a yoga matt

This week I have used some downtime to review both my personal and business aspirations, outcomes and plans for this calendar year.

Every year, fresh with post-break energy and clarity I take out a few days for Personal Planning. This is a good time in the year to reflect. To think deeply about how I want to lead my work-life in the coming year and what changes or improvements I would like to see on the previous.

Many people are surprised when I share my method of Personal Planning because it's not too dissimilar from how I plan for my business.

Most importantly - it's not just something I do at the start or a few times per year. Personal planning has become a habit. And that's why it works.

Personal Planning is ...Personal!

 Firstly, Personal Planning need not be hard work! I've designed a routine that fits my personal situation and type of work and refined it over several years.

Doesn't mean it's right for everyone, but I thought I'd share what I learnt along the way, in the event it helps someone else achieve their aspirations and outcomes.

Here's how I embrace my inner planning nerd for my personal and work life, trying to achieve the balance in both that works.

As a Scaling Up coach that facilitates Annual and Quarterly planning with ambitious leadership teams of start-ups and scale-ups, I do enjoy applying the methods I’ve learnt over years of lived experience as a tech-founder, blue-chip corporate General Manager and now, Scaling Up Coach, to my own life and business.

Here we go!

1. A process helps

Use a process and methods. You don't need to invent the wheel here. Take something you've read or seen and adapt it. It will help you get a better outcome and inspire new thinking.  

As an example, the process I like to follow for my own business related aspirations involves:

Step 1 Set a BHAG for myself (Big Hairy Audacious Goal).

This may relate to anything in my personal or work life that I feel can move me / my family forward in a positive direction. I usually work in 2-3 year horizons on this, but you could push this out to 5-10 depending how big your BHAG is.

Step 2 Brainstorm all the things that could speed me up or slow me down/derail me from achieving the BHAG.

For example, constraints like time or resources or capability can slow me down or derail, while new opportunities or relationships could speed me up.

Then working through a method known as the Sailing Boat process (thanks to fellow Scaling Up mentor and coach Nikolai Ladanyi for sharing this process!) to determine the most high impact actions I can take this year to achieve the BHAG.

2. Design for Balance

Next I work through a version of the Scaling Up One Page Personal Plan to think about other important aspirations or outcomes I hope to achieve this year. For me this includes:

  • Health & Fitness

  • People & Relationships including Family and Friends

  • Personal Growth

  • Travel & experiences

  • Financial

  • Career & Work

Here is a complimentary sample of the Scaling Up OPPP for you to try out yourself.

3. Change is a certainty

Whichever framework or method you prefer, reflecting on what you learnt from the previous period and what is likely to change or be different in the next is an important part of any planning process.

Research shows companies that can absorb new impulses and knowledge, and act on them, potentially changing to take advantage of these, will grow and endure beyond disruption (called Dynamic Capabilities). 

I think the same goes for Personal Planning.

If you have an elderly parent that may need more of your support this year, or increasing financial pressure from cost of living or a child entering high school - all these things may impact your ability (e.g. time) and/or motivation (e.g. energy) to achieve your plans for the year. So factor in these "trends" or changes when planning how you intend to achieve your life and/or work aspirations and outcomes.

4. Get in a room with your “team”

Your "team" is absolutely critical to your ability to achieve you personal and work aspirations. Anyone who has founded or ran their own business knows how important the support of their spouse, friends and family is. (So very grateful for mine!)

Even if you don't run your own business, discussing you aspirations and target outcomes with your partner, bringing them along the"process", is helpful to get on the same page regarding priorities and commitments for the year.

Many “teams” fail to achieve their goals and outcomes not because they fail to plan or don't have the right people (these things definitely do help) but because they lack the ability to execute.

Verne Harnish, author of Scaling Up writes Execution is about two things:

1. Focus and

2. Discipline

And focus starts with getting on the same page with your "team" regarding what is most important this year. What's more they may bring some diverse thinking so consider bringing them into the process!

5. Habits Eat Motivation for Breakfast!

Cheekily borrowing from the famous management guru, Peter Drucker, "Culture eats Strategy for Breakfast". When it comes to EXECUTING a plan, you'll need more than ability and motivation. You'll need to form good habits.

I am not saying it's not possible to achieve goals and outcomes in life and work through sheer grit and motivation. (Way to go if this is you!) It's just very hard to do this consistently because motivation is fickle and we can't all be god at everything. According to BJ Fogg, author and academic on behavioural science (check out his book Tiny Habits), motivation goes up and down in us humans throughout the year and can’t be relied on consistently. 

Think about your motivation to eat healthy and get fit in January versus December?

Fogg says people will be most likely to do what is easy (ability) and what they are highly motivated to do (enjoy/have energy for). Whether it's good for you (e.g. being productive or exercising 3 times a week) or bad (e.g. scrolling social media in bed or doing your expenses)

So what’s your insurance policy for a lapse in motivation? 

Habit building!

For example, Personal Planning has become a healthy habit I deploy on a 12:2:2 routine:

12 months: From the 12 month goals and outcomes I create a more granular plan of actions, tasks and outcomes for the coming two months. (So Jan-Feb) This covers the Personal Planning areas I mentioned above, including regular habits or weekly routines I want to keep. So Jan-Feb, Mar-Apr, May-Jun etc...

2 months:  I review the 2-month plan every week on a Monday morning, flagging those that potentially off track as orange or incomplete as red, giving them additional focus. Each task or outcome has a due date, status (red, orange, green) and completion field.

2 weeks: Next I create a two-week sprint of "actions" (you can do this as a paper list if you prefer old school!). Prioritise the list (A, B, Cs etc...) and schedule time each week to cover the actions. I'll try to schedule 1.5 times I think it will take and try not to schedule more than 3 small things per day (as I learnt it is easy to be overly ambitious.) and 3 big things a week.

This helps allocate time for new things that are likely to crop up unexpectedly.It's a routine and rhythm that works for me but may not for everyone so try a few different rhythms to build your own personal planning habit.

5. ABL and Known Unknowns

Stands for Always Be Learning. This is just as easily applied to your business as it is to your personal life.

Thinking about your BHAG or Personal aspirations this year. What skill or knowledge do you wish you had for certain that could help you achieve them?

What new knowledge, tools, habits, advisors could help you accelerate to achieve your goals? Is there a way you can bite off something smaller first or design a "test and learn" experiment to reduce the number of unknowns? e.g. I could do a builders course or engage a few hours of time with an expert or talk with friends who have completed something like this and ask for their process and advise? Or I could start with something small like renovating the spare room first.

Key Takeaways

  • Achieving New Year aspirations or any change is possible with Personal Planning.

  • Personal Planning need not be hard work if you make it a regular habit.

  • Use a process and tools (e.g. Scaling Up's One Page Personal Plan, SWT tool) like those I mentioned above, and adapt them to what works for you.

  • What ever change you seek this year, it's likely achievable if you can design a habit around it. Habits (good and bad) are more consistent and reliable than motivation. Design a habit around the change you seek (See BJ Foggs framework for example)

  • Start small, keep at it and celebrate each win 🎉 


Tiny Habits by B.J Fogg is a good read on habit building.

Scaling Up One Page Personal Plan above.

Feel free to contact me on or Book A Call for any questions on the process, tools and resources.


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