The past year has been a long grind and while it’s not January yet, admit it, the thoughts of creative ways you can reinvent yourself in the new year have probably already started. You have probably been extremely busy these past twelve months, but, as you know, being busy does not mean you are being productive.
If you are a rockstar founder or CEO though, you may have already met with your team to gather internal feedback, discuss a rough plan, and chart the corporate course for the next 365 days. One example of how awesome teams do annual planning for the coming year; comes from our Founder Institute team offsite a few weeks ago in Lake Tahoe. As, Founder Institute CEO Adeo Ressi writes: “If you do not know what you want and where you are going, then you will never reach your potential.” Here is the 5 step process that we use at Founder Institute for our annual planning:
So this got me thinking. What if individuals planned for the next year with the same thoughtfulness and designed precision that companies do. Like most people, I juggle many things; I run Founder Institute New York, host the Ambition Today podcast, helped start the NYC Innovation Collective non profit, and have a personal life, etc. The first and non obvious answer is I have help and amazing teammates. Never take those around you for granted and make sure you have help. The second answer is that I view all of these as aligned to my personal core mission statement. I have a north star that guides my career choices day in and day out. It helps determine, at a high level, what I should say yes and no to.
This long term planning can be vital. It is the foundation upon which you manage your daily routine or drive monthly traction for your company. This tweetstorm from Julien Smith, CEO of Breather, does a great job stating how important it can be to stay focused on your north star. And more importantly how the effects of your long term grind start to manifest in your life. I recommend reading the whole tweetstorm, but here are two highlights:
So what things should you keep in mind as you plan your future and what you want achieve in the next 8,765 hours.
One: Aligning Yourself
First you need to digest your own thoughts. You need to step out of your normal day to day routine to take a step back. Schedule time to reflect, sans technology device. Just you and your thoughts. Even if is just for a cup of coffee one morning a week, or during a run. Go to a museum or visit a bookstore. Read a self help book. Watch an inspiring movie. Keep an open mind. Do whatever you need to in order to break out of your normal headspace. The clarity this will provide you will be very important.
Second, you need to gather raw and honest feedback from those you most respect and admire. Find someone whose actions or lifestyle you want to emulate and see what they do. Ask them what their routines are like and how they have accomplished similar goals in their own lives. Get an understanding of the blueprint, so you can start to build it for yourself.
Two: Define Your North Star
If you know where you want to go in life, you want to try formalize it into one sentence. Be sure you take the time to workshop it. It might go through many iterations, until it is something you love and feel passionate about. Consider it your personal mission statement. For example, my personal mission statement is to “Help Founders Improve The Lives Of One Billion People”.
If you don’t have a “north star” or a long term goal yet, that is fine. I assure you that you are not alone. And the answer for you is to go back to step one and aim to get as many new experiences as possible in the coming year. You need to test drive new places and people. Join an extracurricular team or activity in the evenings. Go volunteer somewhere. When you find something that feels right, I promise you, you will know.
Three: Establish Measurable Goals
Now that you know what you want to accomplish, it is time to define what goals will determine success for you. Try to only have a handful of primary goals. Above five and it will be harder to accomplish them in only a few months. These goals are the steps that take you closer to achieving your core mission.
Make sure you quantify the goals. If your goals are health related you could set goals around a specific desired weight, business milestones, daily food consumption, weekly number of workouts, average heart rate, etc. If accomplishing one of these goals will require the help of another person, for example a significant other, then you should discuss the goals with them and involve them in the process.
Four: Create Actionable Plans
Now that you have a mission and list of goals, it is time to determine the plans you will execute to work toward accomplishing them.
I like to start by writing the actionable first step underneath each goal. This way when you read it, you don’t get overwhelmed. You will simply know the next action that needs to be taken. From there you can take some time to expand and to build out a repeatable process. Writing out a great process can be hard at the onset because it takes time, but the long term freedom it affords you can be a game changer.
Five: Develop Tracking Systems
You will need to track your plans in order to measure success, thereby determining if you have accomplished the goals necessary to bring you closer to achieving your mission.
As with all things in life, accomplishing these goals will require time. You should keep a digital calendar. This will allow you to schedule recurring time every week in your schedule to focus on the set goals.
If your goals require other people then create weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly meetings with those people to review them together.
Allow yourself to view your progress. Create a visual space where you can, at a glance, see how you are doing. At Founder Institute we create dashboards using software. I personally use Todoist to track my tasks. But you could use something as simple as a whiteboard, which you take the time to update weekly.
I like to stack order my goals by the things in the next 90 days that will bring in the most revenue. Depending on your life, this can at times be a shifting and moving target. Which is why I re-evaluate it throughout the year.
It will take time to accomplish the five steps, but the result will be a strong annual plan for your life. In the coming months you will accomplish more then ever before. Ensuring that your day to day grind is not just busy work, but meaningful work bringing you closer to the long term vision for your life.
If you want some help and guidance in 2019, be sure to check out two of our Founder Institute NY portfolio company’s which might be able to help! Tenshey is on a mission to advance gender diversity and leadership development through executive coaching. The Lighthouse is a curated community of vetted industry insiders providing tailored career advice and support.
Remember, that the long term grind can be a powerful force. When you work toward your personal mission the long tail rewards will be the most meaningful! You may fail more then once, but keep going. That’s the moment when everyone else quits and you start to become an outlier. That’s when you break away from the pack. Keep the grind going.
I for one am excited for 2019, as major internet milestones are passed. Truth Seekers are pushed to the forefront of society as the Time Person of the Year. Private companies like Space X set records for most flights in a year. As investors leave mobile behind to look for new areas to back, such as blockchain, Artificial Intelligence, quantum computing, and more. I can’t wait to see what tomorrow looks like as we build it together!