Feb 24

Fail to Plan, Plan to Fail


Planning: you either love it or hate it. Some live by the calendar while others die by it. In fact, according to DHM Research, 67% of Americans don’t have a plan for their life. Of those who do have a written life plan, 35% say it helps them set goals and gauge progress. Of those who do not have a written life plan, 48% believe it would be valuable.

I learned my first real-world lesson about planning during my time as a member of a local factory’s maintenance department. My main objective was to paint the outside of two large manufacturing facilities by the end of the summer.

After a week of painting, I realized there was much more to the project than I accounted for – and there were many elements I had failed to plan for. I didn’t plan how many sections of the wall I needed to complete a day, how much paint I needed to order and prepare each week and how I was going to access a few tricky spots that the scissor lift couldn’t reach. After running into these roadblocks, I realized I needed a proper plan.

For some, planning is the tedious, boring first step that restricts you from getting to the fun parts of a project. It’s common to get an exciting new project you can’t wait to get your hands on – but taking a step back to set aside time for planning is the key to success.

Here are a few points on planning and why it’s so beneficial.

Creating a plan

Plans begin with identifying a goal or end result you want to reach. A goal can be determined by a deadline or a measurable amount, such as sales, engagements or sign-ups. Once your goal is determined, it’s important to identify every tactic in a plan. An effective plan clearly defines who is completing each tactic, when they must be completed by and how they are going to be completed. I’ve found that sticking to a solid, thought-out plan avoids missed deadlines and goals.

Planning every project

It’s important to plan for every project – large or small – to create the best results and avoid last-minute panics. Every successful project, campaign or event begins with a solid plan that lays out every detail from start to finish. Every job requires planning, but if you’re in a communications-related field, you know planning is a big part of the position.

At SPR, everything we touch begins with a plan. From multi-media campaigns and events to brochures and newsletters, we don’t move forward on any tactic without putting our heads together to layout a roadmap. For example, a quarterly newsletter we create for a local municipality is driven by a predetermined plan. The plan lays out when writing, editing, designing and printing need to be completed by to ensure the newsletter arrives in mailboxes on time.

Having a plan creates synergy between teams and clients and ensures everyone is on the same page from day one.

Finding the right planning tools

Everyone has his or her own way of planning. Some fill email calendars with constant reminders and others enjoy the sticky note on the computer monitor approach. Here are a few common ways of planning I’ve experienced so far:

  • Excel spreadsheet – This is my personal favorite for planning communications tactics. I find Excel to be the easiest, most accessible way to plan out weeks at a time. In addition, it’s a commonly used program that most clients are familiar with.
  • Project management apps – There are dozens of apps available that help with planning. Out of the apps I’ve tried so far, Asana has been my favorite. Asana lets you assign tasks to teams, update their progress and send reminders when they are due.
  • Outlook calendar ­– I used to work with a team member who planned out his entire year using an Outlook calendar. There wasn’t a single minute on his calendar that wasn’t part of an event. Phone calls, car washes, haircuts – you name it. I’ve found setting Outlook calendar reminders is a great way to stick to a plan due to the fact that I’m always checking for emails.

Planning for the unexpected

With all that being said, sometimes things don’t go according to plan. That’s why it’s important to always plan for the unexpected, whether that be a crisis, event or social media plan.

In a previous position, I was in charge of all event planning. During a golf outing, I was forced to test out my event plan due to the course forgetting to make breakfast for our attendees. Luckily, I had included the nearest grocery store’s location in my event plan and was able to quickly sneak out to grab some coffee and donuts before the golfers noticed.

What are some of your favorite ways to plan?

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