Medium term planning is such a crucial part of running a business.
Yes it’s important to plan our days and weeks (short term planning) but if these aren’t pulled from a longer term strategy it’s so easy to get distracted by tasks that aren’t actually leading us towards our goals. Similarly, annual plans (long term planning) are fantastic for setting overarching goals for the year ahead and connecting with our longer term vision, but a year is such a long period of time that our goals tend to be too vague and overwhelming to actually practically implement.
The solution is to ensure that we’re doing some medium term planning. This is the stepping stone between our overarching long term goals and the day to day tasks we complete. It’s where we break down our long term goals into practical and achievable milestones, with associated actions that we can actually implement. These then form the basis of our weekly and daily plans, so we know we’re always working towards our desired goals.
Traditionally in business, we’re always encouraged to plan quarterly, and this is what I used to do myself – plan in quarterly or 90 day chunks. However, for the last year or two, on the advice of one of my own coaches, I’ve been planning in 6 week cycles, and for me (and many other ‘Hoodies’ I teach this to – we do 6 Week Planning together every 2 months in The Shutterhood) it works so much better! Technically they are 2 month plans because it’s 6 weeks of focused work on ONE key area followed by a 2 week break – yep, that’s right, a break is built into it – what’s not to love?
If you’re finding yourself struggling to finish and implement quarterly or 90 days plans, consider switching to planning in 6 Week Cycles.
Here are all the reasons why they’re great:
FEWER MEDIUM TERM PLANS – Other than your usual short-term weekly/daily planning, medium-term planning is needed far less frequently. With quarterly planning you do medium term planning 16 times a year (4 x quarterly plans plus 12 x monthly plans). However with 6 Week Cycle planning you only do medium term planning 6 times a year (every 2 months).
LESS OVERWHELM – 90 day planning can feel overwhelming and intimidating – a quarter of a year is still quite a long time and 3 months’ worth of work can be a lot to get your head around in one go. 6 weeks feels much more achievable.
CAPACITY EASIER TO PREDICT – when planning in quarterly chunks, it can be really hard to predict capacity. It’s difficult to know exactly what our availability and working hours will be like 3 months in advance. Many of us are also juggling day jobs, second jobs and/or children and childcare – and unexpected commitments can frequently crop up. As a result, often we don’t end up having the time we’ve factored into our 90 day plan and things unravel part way through.
SIMPLE FOCUS – with quarterly plans, as it’s quite a long period of time, there’s the temptation to set too many and/or overambitious goals, which means we usually don’t then complete them. Our focus is split, and again, overwhelm sets in. Keeping it simpler with just one key goal over 6 weeks means we’re much more focused and far more likely to complete it.
LESS ‘FALLING BEHIND’ – when I planned quarterly, I spent most of the time feeling like I was ‘behind’ and it was really demoralising. If you fall behind early on in that quarter, you often end up feeling ‘behind’ for the next 2-3 months which is a long time to feel that way! Re-setting your plan every 6-8 weeks means this happens much less and it’s much easier to keep and feel on top of things.
LESS DISTRACTION & DISCONNECTION – although 90 days is more focused than annual goals, it’s still quite a long time and it can be easy to lose sight of what your goals are and to disconnect or get distracted. 6-8 week cycles keeps you much more closely connected to your focus.
TRIED & TESTED TIMEFRAME – 6 weeks is commonly used in product development and marketing campaigns – it’s the perfect amount of time to plan and execute an in-depth project, stay focused and complete it. It’s long enough that you can achieve a lot but short enough that you don’t lose momentum or focus – the deadline is always imminent.
SCHOOL HOLIDAY FRIENDLY – the 6-8 week timeframe works really well with most school holidays – great for parents! You can usually time them well so you have your focused work during term time and then your cool down period over the school holidays.
BUILT-IN COOL-DOWN PERIOD – we are humans, not cyborgs, and traditional quarterly plans don’t leave any space in between – you’re jumping from one quarterly plan straight into the next one! Having this 2 weeks built into your plan means you can rest and recuperate, catch up if your plan overspills a bit, take some time to review that 6 week cycle and absorb any wins and learnings, and plan your next 6 week cycle.
Are you sticking with quarterly planning or are you going to give 6 Week Cycle planning a whirl yourself? Let me know how you get on!
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