Archive: Get a plan – January 6, 2006

(This podcast is pulled “from the archives” and presented here as a service to more recent listeners — Douglas)

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The beginning of a New Year is always a time of retrospection, thinking back on all that has occurred — the good, the bad, the indifferent. While reviewing the past can be helpful in some ways, it is by looking out into to the next year that you can develop some dramatic benefits for yourself, your career and your company. Take some time this week to really think about what is coming in the next 12 months. There will be some obvious events to place on this list, but you should dig deeper to discover the projects, and maybe even the crises, that you will be facing this year.

Calendar Items

Start your plans by marking all the upcoming conferences, conventions, training, sales meetings, etc that you might be involved in on the biggest year-at-a-glance calendar you can find to facilitate this process. Since these events usually occur at the same time each year, you probably already have hard dates for each of them. These dates represent certain defined milestones in your year. It is very likely that most of your energy is going towards these specific dates on your calendar. There is absolutely no excuse for letting important deadlines sneak up on you. You already know they are coming.

Next, think of all the important projects that are specific to your company. When does accounting close the books each quarter? When is the end of the fiscal year? When are budgets due? When do new stores open – or the new factory – or the new headquarters building? What promotions are happening when? What holidays stress your systems the most? When are the dead times where you can schedule maintenance and repairs? Get these events into your calendar now because your next job is to think about each item and develop an action plan.

Take Action Now

Now that you have a wide variety of events plugged into your calendar you need to do something with this information. First, look at the largest projects and figure out how much lead-time you will need to prepare for them. Will it take a month to install the new servers you will need? Should you be ordering that equipment today or should you postpone that until you are sure you have a place to store the boxes? Think backwards from these big events and you will start to develop to-do items and other calendar events that relate to these larger projects. Before you know it, your year-at-a-glance calendar will start to fill up with all sorts of important dates and tasks.

Continue breaking down events into smaller and smaller tasks and mini-projects until you feel that you have some basic understanding of what the coming year holds. Then, keep this calendar visible and available to everyone on your staff, in your department and even everyone in your company. Big picture views such as this keep everyone focused on what needs to get done, even if their day-to-day work is chaotic. It is too easy to “forget” about big projects until the last minute when you are buried in the minutia of a typical high-tech job.

Lather, Rinse, Repeat

I consider a year-at-a-glance review as a bare minimum for most businesses that want to get a handle on their work. In reality, though, this should be an on-going process. As one month passes and another begins, you should already be planning for next year. When the fiscal year ends, you should be planning for the same event 12 months out.

If fact, there are additional benefits to doing this. As you engage in each project, you are sure to discover issues and new methods of improving the project. Immediately note these issues and work-arounds on next year’s calendar. Capture this information now, so that you won’t have try to remember how you did it last time. Turn this yearly process in to a rolling planning session, planning next January as soon as this one is completed.

I am applying these concepts of year-end planning to every aspect of my work this year and I hope you will do the same. I am already recognizing some major benefits from the process and expect to see even more as the year continues. Think of your coming year now, keep your head up and watching the horizon and you can do great things in your high-tech career.

Taking a cue from Phil McKinney’s Killer Innovations podcast ( , where he presents a “killer question of the week”, I will be including a “Career-Op” question each week to get you thinking. If you would like to join a discussion of Career-Op questions, visit the Career Opportunities forums at You can also find a complete column archive and the Career-Op podcast at:

Question of the Week: What large issues or projects should you be thinking about today?

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