Creating Your 2016 Personal Strategic Plan

I think for all of us this time of year is really busy — wrapping up business while also wrapping up plans, and presents, for the holidays. It’s easy to get caught up in all the activity, the must-do’s and the should-do’s. When things slow down and you’re able to focus on you, I recommend finding some quiet, uninterrupted time to do your own personal strategic plan for 2016. To begin, you need to review your 2015 so you can use this info to inform your 2016. I like doing this right before New Year’s, when I’ve had a little time away from work and I’m rested and able to look at my past, present, and future big picture. This is when I seem to have the most clarity about what I want to leave behind from the old year and what I want to take forward with me into the new year.

At work, you may have already done some preliminary planning re: reviewing your year (perhaps required for your year-end performance review), and if so, that’s a good place to start, but you’ll want to dig deeper and wider. Think back on the whole year, not just work, but in the other key parts of your life, including short- and long-term career goals, your health and other self-care, your key relationships, your finances, and any other things you care about. Overall, how did the year go for you? What were your biggest accomplishments? What gave you the most joy and satisfaction? Where did you fall short in meeting your expectations and goals? And, what do you want to leave behind in 2015?

Now let’s look ahead: What do you want to take forward with you into 2016? It could be your new exercise habits, or your commitment to building a stronger professional network, or seeking more public speaking opportunities. How would you like your life to be different, realistically and specifically, in the new year? Again, go deep and wide, considering all parts of your life. What would you like your biggest wins to be in 2016? Again, be specific and think broadly.

Once you’ve done this work, it’s time to define your goals and identify the action steps you’ll take to get there. Goals can be broad (i.e., grow your career), but action steps need to be specific and time-lined (i.e. get a promotion 3rdQ 2016). Using the life areas you identify as most important to you (i.e. career, health and other self-care, key relationships, learning, finance, etc), identify your 2016 goal/s in each specific life area. Next determine action steps you’ll take to achieve your goal/s and then create a timeline for the steps. Finally, for each life area identify where you are right now in relation to the goal/s and determine what you need to start and stop doing to achieve it.

Once you’ve got your plan, the key to success is working it! Your plan is only valuable if you consistently anchor back to it and refine it as you move through the year. You may want to enlist an accountability partner to help you keep on track, perhaps a good friend or colleague.

What I’ve noticed about those who are most successful in leveraging their personal strategic plans is:

  • they plan and focus on what is within their control, as opposed to focusing on things they cannot control, such as the economy or what their boss does or does not do;
  • they highlight the positive outcomes change will bring, as opposed to looking at what they will be giving up, such as moving towards good health versus losing weight;
  • they reduce their plans rather than over-commit, and take daily actions, even if they are small, to make things happen.

Creating a personal strategic plan can be transformative. The key is to be patient with yourself and know you are moving in the right direction. Some changes happen quickly, while other habits take a whole lot longer to stick.

Cheers for a wonderful, intentionally successful 2016!

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