Part 0 provided background.
Part 1 discussed the benefits of planning, and outlined the process.
Part 2 focused on your long-term aim: what does it means to live well, and what are the desired effects that you want to achieve?
Now the process becomes more specific.
In Part 2, you identified where you want to be, situationally. You now have to consider what lies between here and there. What obstacles do you have to overcome? What things do you have in your favour? What resources do you require? What limitations are you constrained by? And so on.
You need to consider all the relevant factors, and assess what bearing each has on achieving your aim. The simplest way to do this is to ask yourself, for each factor:
Let me demonstrate.
In responding to one of the comments left by a reader in Part 1, I said that my wife often keeps me grounded by dousing my big ideas with an ice-cold dose of reality. Example: I once had it in my head that I would own a coffeehouse. She pointed out that coffeehouse owners don’t tend to take off on weeklong hiking trips very often, and also said “you know, if you have a customer that irritates you, you can’t just tell them to get the hell out of your cafe”.
I could have avoided that discussion by thinking things through:
Fact: I prioritize my free time over my work, and want the flexibility to take time off on short notice.
So what? I need to be conscious of, and limit, my responsibilities.
So what? Limiting responsibility implies avoiding work that requires my persistent presence.
Deduction: Any course of action I consider must focus on project work, or on work that can be done remotely.
Fact: my temperament has been described as mercurial, and my manner blunt and/or acerbic.
So what? I need to either avoid situations that depend highly on relationships, or deal only with people who can take it.
So what? Customer interface, teamwork, and supervisory roles are not for me.
Deduction: I won’t consider any course of action involving customers, subordinates, or collaborative environments.
See? Had I done my homework, there’s no way I would have considered a coffeehouse.
Now let’s pretend I’m the guy who said, in Part 2, that I’d live well by becoming an organic farmer. As you recall, I temporarily parked the idea of the farm, and determined that what I’m really after is a situation characterized by simplicity, financial independence, and good health.
Here’s a notional conversation I might have with myself, in which I examine some of the relevant factors:
Fact: I seek financial independence, which I define this as not having to rely on others for money.
Analysis: This can be achieved in two ways: self-employment, or the accumulation of wealth such that I don’t have to work anymore. Realistically, my current income won’t permit wealth accumulation soon enough: I’ll literally die trying.
So what? All roads lead to self-employment.
Deduction: I need to research business ideas (one of which will be farming) ASAP. In the meantime I need to keep working my day job.
Analysis: Financial independence will be achieved more quickly if I increase my savings rate. There are two principal ways to do this: maintain my current lifestyle, but work harder; or change my current lifestyle.
So what? There’s no way in hell I’m going to work harder. I need to change my lifestyle in order to reduce costs.
Deduction: one of my immediate tasks is to assess what I’m spending my money on, and slash discretionary spending.
Fact: I currently work 40 hours per week, have a full slate of social engagements, and try to squeeze in several leisure pursuits.
Analysis: This is unsustainable, particularly for someone who seeks simplicity. I have little time for focused leisure, or for researching my future business.
So what? I need to load-shed, and create more time for myself.
So what? I need to determine what’s essential, and stop doing everything else.
Deduction: Effective immediately, I will cut ties with people who don’t add value; I will engage in only those hobbies I truly enjoy (hiking and cycling); I will conduct a scorched earth minimalism campaign among my belongings.
You get the idea. As you go through all the factors relevant to your situation, you’ll arrive at specific deductions, or endpoints in your logic. A clearer picture will emerge as these deductions drive and shape your planning effort. You’ll identify realistic courses of action, and eliminate those that aren’t viable. You’ll shed light on required resources, as well as limitations and constraints. And you’ll have a better understanding of your priorities.
Which factors should you consider? The ones that you deem important, and the ones that are central to the problem. The sky’s the limit, but there’s value in keeping it simple.
In Part 4, we’ll assume that we’ve analyzed all of the relevant factors and identified several viable courses of action (COAs). We’ll look at ways to compare COAs and select the COA on which you’ll base your plan.
See you next week.