To the long list of ways the pandemic has changed our lives, we must add that planning is more critical than ever for ensuring success. Of course, many businesses had to throw their best-laid plans out the window this year and just do what was necessary to survive. This derailment might suggest that planning is a waste of time. But, as the old saying goes, “if you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” Let’s take a look at why planning is more important than ever — especially when the future is so unpredictable.
The Law of the Vacuum
The Law of the Vacuum states that the universe expands to fill available space — and the same is true in our lives. For example, if you substantially increase your income, you would think that increase would be noticeable in your everyday life. Spending habits also tend to expand concomitantly, however, and life absorbs the extra money without your even realizing it. Unless you have intentionally made a plan to save it or put it toward a specific purpose, you never feel the impact of the extra money.
To avoid frittering away the income, you need a good plan. Let’s back up and say you anticipated the additional income and predetermined where it would go. If you allocate this money for specific purposes, you’ll have a much more satisfying experience. You’ll see what you accomplished with the cash rather than allowing it to get absorbed by the Law of the Vacuum, later wondering where it went.
The same is true with your time — it also gets absorbed by life. Maybe a meeting gets canceled, but at the end of the day, you’re not sure where that extra time went. Likewise, COVID-19 canceled several of your plans, yet you still feel just as busy as ever, though not necessarily any more productive. Again, this is the Law of the Vacuum working against you as your life (or work) expands to fill any free time.
To avoid this, make a plan for your future time the same way you make a plan for your future money. The more intentional you are about how you spend your time, the less likely it is to get sucked into the vacuum by day-to-day busywork. If you like to travel, schedule time off well in advance, or it won’t happen. If there’s a big project in your business that you never seem to have time for, block out some time on your calendar to get it started. If you have a plan and follow through with it, you’ll recapture time that otherwise might’ve been lost.
Do You Need a Bigger BHAG?
Although the first example dealt with more personal items like your time and money, this principle holds true for businesses as well. Planning, of course, is essential for all businesses to thrive. But are you thinking big enough or just operating with a short-term focus? Perhaps your company needs a BHAG.
A BHAG is a Big Hairy Audacious Goal. A goal so big you don’t yet know how you’ll accomplish it. It gives your team direction and purpose and challenges the company to become great in the pursuit of it. It could take 10 to 25 years to achieve it, with many smaller goals being achieved along the way.
When I ask businesses what their BHAG is, however, most of the time they respond with a one-to-three year goal that, frankly, is less than inspiring. Their answer might be about completing a big project or hitting a revenue goal. Let’s face it, though. Your employees probably aren’t really motivated to get up and go to work if their life’s mission is just making you more money. Extra profits are a byproduct of the BHAG, for sure, but the BHAG itself must be purpose-driven and something everyone can get behind. A classic example is the Big Hairy Audacious Goal that John F. Kennedy gave NASA in 1961: to land a man on the moon and return him safely to Earth by the end of the decade. It was inspiring because it offered everyone a big goal to get on board with.
Why does your company need to think so big, especially right now? A BHAG is the north star that pulls everyone together toward a common purpose. The fact that it has not been 100 percent figured out challenges your team to grow, to innovate and to work through the obstacles toward the goal. Everyone, regardless of their role in the company, should be a part of building this solution together.
Now more than ever, companies need a solid foundation that includes a Big Hairy Audacious Goal to unify the team and keep them focused on something more purposeful than the day-to-day grind. Over the past several months, there has probably been some uncertainty in your company, and perhaps roles have shifted as priorities or working conditions have changed. Your employees need to stabilize and have a beacon in the distance to aim toward.
Is your vision big enough, and are your goals inspiring to the whole team? If so, your company plans will become a lot more focused and meaningful to the team.
Aim High, Plan Now
Planning is crucial for success in life and business, even if your plans sometimes get rerouted. As Dwight D. Eisenhower said, “Plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.” In other words, the value is in the process. The act of making plans, setting big goals and being intentional with your resources will keep you and your company on the path to success — no matter how many course-corrections are needed along the way.