Part 0 provided background.
Part 1 discussed the benefits of planning.
Part 2 established your long-term aim: what does it means to live well?
Part 3 showed you how to analyze the relevant aspects of your situation.
Part 4 presented ways to compare potential courses of action.
And here we are. The final post!
So…your overarching aim is to live well. You’ve identified what you want that to look like. And, having thought long and hard, you’ve decided upon the best course of action for getting from here to there.
Surely that’s it…
There’s one more step to complete in order to achieve escapological planning nirvana: you need to actually articulate your action plan. How–in terms of resource allocation, sequencing, and prioritization–are you going to carry out your selected course of action? Think of this as your mission statement, a manifesto-style declaration.
The Elements of a Plan
Borrowing from Part 1, here’s an example of how such a declaration might read:
My aim is to live well through simplicity, self-sufficiency and community involvement. I will achieve this by embarking upon an ambitious plan to become an organic farmer, as follows:
Phase 1: I’ll optimize my finances by maintaining my current job, by embracing scorched-earth minimalism, and by focusing only on core leisure activities.
Phase 2: I’ll quit my job, I’ll move to a place conducive to my long-term goal of self-sufficiency, and I’ll find interim work that pays the bills. No later than July 1, 2017 I’ll purchase a small parcel of land.
Phase 3: I’ll develop an organic farm and I’ll turn my attention to being a productive member of my local community.
Common to all phases is the maintenance of my fitness and my close relationships, because without those things, I am nothing.
My main effort is the accumulation of savings for the purpose of buying land.
My desired end state is to produce 50% of my family’s food consumption on my farm, and to be a positive force within my circle of influence.
You’ll note the following characteristics, which I consider essential to any plan:
1. A statement of your overarching aim and the enduring effects that you want to achieve.
2. A clear statement of your selected course of action.
3. Broad sequencing of events, or phasing, with dates if possible. Does one thing have to happen before another? Does one aspect of your plan depend on the completion of another? Are there important aspects of your plan that are common to all phases? State them.
4. Prioritization in the form of a stated main effort. This is what you’ll focus your attention and effort on when you have to prioritize among competing activities. It’s likely the lynchpin to your whole plan: fail at this portion of your plan, and the rest cannot happen.
5. A clear and measurable end state. This is the performance metric by which you’ll judge your success. [The end state above is lacking, somewhat, in that “positive force within my circle of influence” is not measurable.]
6. Every aspect of the plan should be there for a reason. After all the analysis you’ve done, there should be nothing in your plan for which there isn’t an explanation, and a trail of bread crumbs leading back to earlier steps in the process.
7. Most importantly, it needs to be a bold statement of intent. When the going gets tough (and it usually does at some point) you want this to be something you can refer back to. “Where am I going? Ah, right. Back on track.”
The Planning Cycle
No plan is forever, and no plan survives contact with reality (as they say). If your analysis was sound, your plan will be robust. It will withstand a certain degree of change. But…but…life happens, and from time to time, you will be confronted with what is known as a significant change to the situation (“honey, I’m pregnant” or “man…farming actually sucks!”). This will, of course, require a plan revision. Which is okay, because you’ll be starting from a position of strength and knowledge.
Even in the absence of significant change, you should review and revalidate your plan on a regular basis. Maybe tweak things a bit. Are you assumptions still valid? Do you have new information? Are things as you thought they were? My wife and I actually take time to formally review our plan on a quarterly basis. Wine and spreadsheets…a winning combination.
It is not that we have a short time to live, but that we waste a lot of it. (Seneca)
I think it’s important that we take time to think about life. Sooner, rather than later. We all have this inner dialogue running in the background, about what’s important, what we want out of life, where we are, and where we want to go. We should strive to bring that conversation forward, and to actually have it with ourselves and with our loved ones, deliberately and proactively. That’s what this series has been about. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading it as much as I’ve enjoyed writing it.