Planning is something we do every day and sometimes we don’t even know it. It can be as simple as planning to stay home the entire day and do nothing—if that’s your plan. It can also be as detailed as a trip outside the country, from your flights to your daily itinerary. It doesn’t matter whether you are a stay-at-home parent, a student, an independent contractor working remotely, an entrepreneur, or someone working corporate. Planning is something you have done and will continue to do regularly.
You might as well be good at it and maximize your productivity and efficiency. When you do it right, planning can bring real value to your endeavors (whatever that may be).
In this blog post, you’re going to learn Asian Efficiency’s 5-Step Strategic Planning Process. We will focus on higher-level strategic planning to help make sure that whatever you are doing will take you where you want to be. We will take you through the same process we use for our quarterly goals as well as our annual goals.
What is strategic planning?
Simply put, strategic planning is the WHERE and the HOW. Where you want to go and how to get there. When you plan strategically, you create a roadmap that will take you from point A to point B.
What are the 5 steps to Strategic Planning?
1. Have a vision
This is your point B/destination/goal/outcome. When you create your vision, be specific. Don’t just settle for “I’m going to blog more” or “I want to lose weight”. The more specific you are, the better you can plan and your vision becomes more attainable.
If you want to blog more, what does ‘more’ entail? You can better visualize it and plan for it if you change it to “My plan for the next 3 months is to publish one blog post every month. Then I will increase it to 2 blog posts every month for months 4 to 6 and then starting on month 7 and onwards, I will publish weekly.” You now can see a short term goal as well as a long term goal.
How can we make this better? By adding the why to your vision. For the example above, you can add “Regular writing will enable me to become a better writer which will then help me with my goal for the next 5 years to self-publish the lessons I have learned in my life”. Another long term goal has been added to your vision as well.
If your goal has something to do with your house, it can be phrased along the lines of “Start constructing the house extension by March of next year so that it will be done by May that same year. Once the extension is done, change the tiles of the living room by December of that same year. This way, the cost of the home improvements are spread out and there is a reprieve from the clutter that goes with home-improvement.”
Don’t settle for a one-line vision that can be interpreted in so many ways. Your vision must already be enough to give you direction on what you need to do.
At Asian Efficiency, we have our quarterly goal, annual goal, and then we have our BHAG or our Big Hairy Audacious Goal (our long term goal). We get very specific with our vision and you must too.
2. Do your research
You don’t go to war without proper ammunition—just like you don’t do strategic planning without research. Unfortunately, once the vision has been set, most people directly write down their plan of action or their strategy. We tend to skip out the research process because we don’t think it’s needed. Then when the time for execution comes, we realize it cannot be done and then we’re back to square one. You not only waste your time but also your efforts.
When it comes to research, think about the resources that you might need to reach your vision or your goal. This is also the time for you to think and research for options on how you can reach your goal.
For example, you want to lose 20lbs and lower your blood sugar level. How do you do that? Who do you talk to? Do you speak with your doctor first or a nutritionist? Which gym do you go to? Or would you rather just exercise at home? Do you get a personal trainer? All these questions can be answered when you do your research. Speaking with an expert is also a form of research.
When we don’t know what the right path is, we also consult experts. We use a service called Clarity.fm to speak with experts. Thanh and Brooks also use their networking skills to reach out to people who are experts in their own fields and ask them questions.
This is something that members of the Dojo, Asian Efficiency’s productivity community, do regularly. They ask their fellow members about apps, systems, software, etc before they venture into the unknown. They arm themselves with information based on their research as well as the answers of their fellow Dojo members.
3. Layout your strategy
This is the center of strategic planning. The actual creation of the steps that you need to take to reach your vision and based on the research that you have conducted. This is the time when you prioritize the tasks that need to be done.
When I decided to run a half marathon, my strategy was to go back to the gym, get a personal trainer, go to the gym or run every Monday to Friday. Part of my strategy was to add my training schedule in my calendar, purchase a good pair of running shoes, space out the kilometers I will be running per week. I then added on to my original vision of just running the half-marathon by enrolling in monthly virtual runs. This ensured that I continue to run regularly even after the half marathon. Since the virtual run is paid, I don’t just ‘quit’ in the middle of the month because of the monetary investment that I have made. It has been 15 months since I started executing my vision and still going.
I would say that the strategy step is the most exciting part of strategic planning. This is the time when you are fueled by the desire to succeed. You are excited by the prospect of attaining your vision so it’s understandable that you might just go overboard with your plan. Make sure that you give yourself enough time to properly work on the tasks involved and not overwhelm yourself. Go back to the research you have made to help you decide on what you need to do.
In Asian Efficiency, this is the time that we also create the tasks to be done in Jira, our project management software, and schedule out when we will be doing those tasks. For example, the videos that we will be creating, marketing plan, email plan, etc.
4. Start doing the work
Now the heavy lifting commences. This is the time to work on the strategy that you have laid out for yourself. Plan out contingency action steps in case you encounter any problems or roadblocks. One important step that you need to do during this process is to always check if you are on track. You can do this by simply tracking your progress. Depending on your strategy, you can track your progress daily, weekly, even monthly.
When you are in this step, be ready to get some push back. This push back will most likely be yourself. No time. No energy. No motivation. Be ready to address these. This is one reason why I added my training in my calendar. Since I decided to make time for it and made sure I don’t have any other commitments during the schedule I have allocated, I didn’t have any reason not to train. This calendar was also shared with my accountability partner. Someone knew my plan and someone else would check on my progress too. There were some pitfalls still—for example, I got sick. During those days, I couldn’t train. But I made sure to just hydrate and take care of myself until I got better. I consulted my doctor on what supplements I can take to avoid being sick again while I was training.
When you encounter problems executing your strategy, don’t fret. You will find options and you will find resolutions. Don’t just quit especially since you have already put in the time to do steps 1 to 3.
5. Review what has happened
You now reached your goal. Your vision became a reality. All thanks to your research, strategies, and execution. It’s time for you to review what has happened.
Create a written document and write down what went well, what didn’t go well, and what you could have done better next time. Be very specific so that you can use the lessons you have learned for your next strategic planning session.
At Asian Efficiency, we do our review and retrospective every two weeks and then another review every end of the quarter. We then add whatever we learned to what we call our Learning Day. During our Learning Day, we discuss all the lessons we have learned over the course of a few months and make action items based on those. Over time, we have noticed that we stopped making the same mistakes and have become more efficient.
When is your next strategic planning session?
Now that you know Asian Efficiency’s 5-step process to strategic planning, it’s time for you to schedule yours and work on your vision or make one. If you have already created one, check if you can make it better by adding more details to it.
We recently released a podcast episode about this topic. Gain more insights from Thanh and Brooks by listening to this podcast episode of The Productivity Show.