In this blog post, we are going to look at how to avoid getting drawn into the planning panic a new year brings.  I share my advice on how to create a plan that is not only easy to create but inspires you to take regular actions to move your business forward so that you can create the life you want. 

As this year (and this decade) draws to a close and we prepare to welcome the next chapter in our lives and businesses lots of balloon business owners are starting to stress because they feel that they are not prepared enough for the new year. December is, as always, a hotbed of planning frenzy.  I feel like I am constantly being stalked by sponsored posts and ads trying to sell me, planners, diaries and courses, promising me growth in my business and life, or certain doom if I don’t get sorted with my plans and vision for the next 10 years!  

Whilst I absolutely advocate that you do have a plan to steer your business in the right direction, there is no law that says it has to be ready for the 1st of January.  Hopefully the run-up to Christmas and the New Year has been really busy and prosperous for you. Like me, you may have been trying to juggle work, family, and all the other commitments you have as well as fit in some well earned downtime to enjoy the festivities yourself.  Likely you have been working flat out to make the most of the potential earnings available and haven’t even had time to think about planning for your business.

If this is the case, I am here to tell you that is absolutely fine!  You are not behind! And it’s totally cool! When you are frazzled and worn out you are not mentally in the best place to plan the future of your business (or your life) and it is important that you have some time to recharge your batteries before you sit down to decide what is important for you, your family and your business moving forward.  Planning isn’t something you should do once a year and then again the following year, it should be a continual part of running your business so don’t put pressure on yourself to figure it out right now if you are not ready to.

That’s not to say you don’t need a plan at all… of course you do… I love a plan and without it my business goes around in circles but equally when I am recovering from a busy holiday season it’s essential I take the time to get mentally in the right place ready to steer my business forward.  For many of us, January is a quieter month and so lends itself perfectly for taking the time to plan and figure out what you need to grow your business. Once your family members have returned to work (and school) and you have time for headspace and clarity of thinking you can get to grips with deciding what you want your future to look like and what you need to do to achieve it. 

Here are my top tips for getting to grips with planning:

1. There are no rules when it comes to planning

There are no rules when it comes to planning… It should be about what works for you… Decades of writing plans have shown me the best way to create plans which I then action, and drive me towards my goals,  is to keep it as simple as possible and to go with my creative flow… I believe in the power of the pen but equally like to mind map digitally or plot projects out in Milanote or Trello. I also love to visually imagine my future with pictures and visualisation.  I don’t follow any set rules… As a creative person I just go with whatever feels right at the time… Whether you decide to use planning tools, mindset techniques or paper and pen it doesn’t matter. The important thing is that you are comfortable with it. It’s easy to do and the plan gets created and followed.  It’s not how you go about it that matters it’s making sure you come up with a plan that is going to motivate, inspire and drive you to take the right actions to achieve your goals.

2. It doesn’t matter if you don’t have it all worked out.

Whilst its good to have a long term vision, it doesn’t matter if you don’t have it totally worked out for the future right now.  Sometimes I have absolute clarity of what I want to achieve and by when. Other times the future looks cloudy to me and it’s only as I start to walk down a certain pathway in life that my desires for the future become clear.  Work with whatever it is that makes sense right now to you. Short term goals for the next few months are fine whilst you work out what the long term future looks like. It’s better to aim for something rather than wait until you have it worked out and lose ground in the meantime. 

3. You need to take action.

Plans are a bit like recipes for your life.  You have the image of the life you want to create… your final destination… The plan enables you to work out what ingredients and equipment you need and most importantly the steps you need to take to make it happen.  They only work though if you follow the steps to create the recipe, otherwise they just sit like lonely forgotten ingredients in the fridge and you end up eating beans on toast! If you want to create the life you want from the image in your mind, then you have to follow the steps in the recipe!.  Once you have created your plan you need to come back to it regularly, update it, tick off actions and plan into your diary what you need to do to move on to the next step.

4. Don’t micro plan too far into the future.

Don’t micro plan too far into the future.  If you come from the corporate world, like I did before starting my business, you will know that big companies with lots of employees have to project plan for years in advance to make things become a reality.  The joy of being a small business owner is that you are able to try things out and change plans as necessary. You can see what works in your business and if, after giving it sufficient time to find out if something will yield the results you want, you find it’s not producing the desired outcomes you can rewrite the plan as many times as needed.  You can also easily and quickly respond to changes in the marketplace or change your vision as your family and personal life changes.  

5. 90 day plans are perfect to achieve projects to move your business forward.

Start with the end vision and roughly plan how you think you will get there but only micro plan for the next 90 days. 90 days has been scientifically proven to be the perfect amount of time for micro-planning. It’s long enough to get your teeth stuck into a project and achieve some pretty impressive results but not too long that you become bored, overwhelmed or lose interest in following the plan.

6. Schedule time in your diary to use your time wisely.

Channel time in your diary to revisit your overarching plan at least monthly but make sure you are adding actions to your diary for the week. Time moves by so quickly.  You blink and a week, a month, a year and a whole decade has gone by. Taking time to revisit your plan and set your intentions enables you to ensure your time is used wisely and productively.  I set time aside in my diary every Monday to look at the direction of my business. I call it my CEO time. By checking in weekly I am able to keep my business on track and take the actions to move forward in the limited time I have available to me.  

Business planning advice for small businesses.  How to Grow your balloon business.  Starting a balloon business.
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7. Break planning down into bitesize chunks.

 Breaking planning down into bite-sized chunks, it not only makes it manageable it makes it actionable and this is the most important part of creating any plan for your business. In my business, I set a yearly vision (which is not set in stone but gives me a direction to set off in).  I then spend a little time every quarter working on my 90-day plan and checking in as to whether my yearly vision is still relevant. I set 1 or 2 projects I will achieve in the next 90 days. Then each month I have goals which drive me towards achieving the projects. As I sit down on a Monday morning I schedule the actions into my week that are going to ensure I get there.  Finally, every day I have my to-do list and at the top I have a section where I write down the one thing I am going to do today which will help me move one step closer to my goals.  

8. Build planning into your regular schedule.

Planning doesn’t need to take a long time when you build it into your regular schedule.  Planning is a bit like housework, if you do a little regularly the dust and dirt doesn’t build up and it only takes a few minutes to keep your house ship-shape. Avoid it and you find you become slowed down by the dirt and the clutter.  You waste time because you can’t find things and cleaning becomes a deep clean needing lots of elbow grease, sweat and toil. Planning is a bit like housekeeping for your business (and the direction of your life because after all your business should help you design the life you want!). 

Spending a couple of hours a quarter setting your projects for the next 90 days, an hour a month setting your goals and themes for the month and then 30 minutes scheduling your week and 10 minutes planning your day will save you wasted weeks, months and years in achieving what you want for your business and your life.

9. Planning is a skill that gets easier and better the more you do it.

Planning is just like every other business skill you learn.  It gets easier and quicker to do with practice. If at first it seems overwhelming keep it simple start with short term plans like setting a goal for the month in which you break down into weekly targets and then schedule actions into your diary for the week. 

10. Celebrate every achievement you make no matter how small.

Don’t become disillusioned if you don’t hit your goals and targets all the time.  Having a plan, you action, WILL move your business forward but life is real, it will throw obstacles, hurdles and challenges at you constantly which may take you off course.  When you sit down to review where you are it’s important to look first at how much you have achieved. Congratulate yourself for every tiny step you have taken because when you are managing a business every tiny step IS a major achievement.  If you don’t the temptation will be to give up on planning because it ends up feeling like a stick you beat yourself up with each time rather than a tool to get you where you want to go. My Nan used to say to me “Sonia aim for the moon but don’t be sad if you don’t get there because look at all the stars you will collect on the way.” Your plan may not get you to the moon in the timeframe you were hoping (or at all) but not having a plan often means you don’t even leave the launch pad. So keep using planning in your business and celebrate every achievement, just accept that planning is fluid, visions change, circumstances change and plans enable you to keep taking the steps, one in front of the other along the path towards the destination you desire.

I would love to hear what you would like to achieve in your business (and your life) moving forward!  Saying it out loud or sharing it with someone else takes it from a thought into an intention that you are more likely to action.  If you feel you don’t have anyone to share this with feel free to drop me a line so I can cheer you on from the sidelines!

🎈Until next time… Stay amazing🎈

Sonia x

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