All right, folks! You’ve stuck with me through this series of posts about creating a Strategic Plan for your life as a writer. We started out by discussing how to create a Mission Statement (a concrete, specific statement about what we want from our writing career, including balancing that career with our personal lives.) Next, we discussed setting specific goals to achieve that mission. Then we developed concrete strategies to obtain those goals.
So now we arrive at the last stage of drafting our strategic plan: reducing our strategies to specific, measurable actions.
We all know what actions are; in fact, most of us started drafting our strategic plan by thinking about actions: I’ll wake up at 5:00 each morning. I’ll write 1000 words over my lunch hour each work day. I’ll read one draft chapter of my novel to my kids every weeknight, so that they share in the writing life with me.
At each step of this exercise, I urged you to think in more abstract ways, to focus on strategies. Finally, at last, just when you thought I was never going to, I’m urging you to focus on tactics.
In prior months, I’ve used the example goal of losing weight. To accomplish that goal, I identified multiple strategies. Now, it’s time to reduce those strategies to actions. As an example, let’s use the last of my strategies: “I will exercise more.”
So? What does “exercise” mean? What does “more” mean? What exactly am I going to do each and every day/week/month to achieve my goal?
I might enumerate the following actions:
- I will attend the Zumba class at my gym every Tuesday and Thursday morning at 7:30.
- I will walk a minimum of three miles on three days of the week that I do not attend Zumba class.
- I will walk up all escalators in the subway system, regardless of length, whether they are running, etc.
Note that each action is expressed in concrete details. Which class will I attend? Zumba. When will I attend? Tuesdays and Thursdays. Which session? 7:30 a.m.
Actions are expressed with great specificity so that we can judge our performance. If I attend the Restful Stretching class at the gym, I’m less likely to meet my goal. If I walk three miles one day and eat bonbons on the couch (how I love bonbons!) all the other days, I’m less likely to meet my goal. If I only walk the really short elevator, the one between the mezzanine and the platform, but I ride the three story escalator that goes from ground level to the mezzanine, I’m less likely to meet my goal.
Yeah. It isn’t rocket science.
But it is a checklist for us to use, when we evaluate our progress. My goal was: “I will lose thirty-seven pounds, thereby lowering my blood pressure to at least 120/80 and my total cholesterol to less than 200 within one year.” If one quarter of the year is gone, and I’ve lost two pounds, then I’m not on track. I need to re-evaluate my strategies, and I need to fine-tune my actions.
Standard “Strategic Plan” theory wraps up here. In my personal strategic plan, though, I add one more layer to the analysis. I call that layer “Super-Actions”; they’re the last action that I list for each strategy. Super-Actions are the “what will I do if I’ve been unable to follow through on the other actions, either from lack of will-power, illness, lack of interest, or whatever.”
My Super-Action for exercise might be: “If I have not lost a minimum of ten pounds by April 21, I will hire Personal Trainer Joe Torture, for two sessions a week.” I don’t want to spend the money on a trainer. I am terrified of Joe Torture. But if I can’t follow through on my actions on my own, I need to get some outside help.
So. There we are. A professional Strategic Plan, with a mission statement, goals, strategies, and actions. Does this system work for you? If so, how are you modifying it, to meet your needs? What questions do you have that would be useful to hash out here in public? And are these “business skills” type posts a waste of your time?
(I’ll be on the road (again!) when this posts, but I’ll check in to read your comments as soon as the Computer Gods allow me to do so!)