Taking extended time for planning can sometimes feel wasteful and indulgent when you have members to respond to, emails to write and events to host. When I do it, there’s always a part of my brain yelling “we can’t tell the future, so what’s the point! You’re wasting time!”
Yet, whenever I don’t spend enough time planning a quarter, I find I get to month 3 unfocused and wondering what I should be doing. As a result, I say yes to doing things I should be saying no to and let outside factors determine my priorities.
Planning ahead, even if the plan changes later, make us more grounded, more confident and more creative.
So as we end this quarter, I hope you’ll give your future self the gift of planning ahead for your next 3 months. Below are some suggestions on how you might do that.
- Think of your planning self as a different person.
We all avoid planning because the reflection required involves facing failure and stating goals that we might not yet know how to accomplish. It’s scary! One way to better deal with that is to temporarily think of yourself as a different person than the one who shows up to do the work every day.
Both Michael Gerber and Ray Dalio have written about separating your roles in the business and being very clear which role you’re playing at which time. In your day-to-day, you’re working inside the machine of your community business. When you’re planning, you’re putting on your machine operator hat and are looking at the business and community as an outside strategist.
By taking this intentional step back, you’re able to better evaluate what’s actually happening and plan from a higher level. During your planning session, think of yourself as your boss.
2. Make your planning time a ritual.
I’ve come to really love planning and this is partially because of the quarterly ritual that has become part of the process. I usually plan a trip to a quiet place different from where I usually work. This month I started my planning ritual at a spa (it was so nice!), I’ve also done this at a cozy cafe in a different neighborhood, a new nook I found in my local park and even from my fire escape.
Blocking out a few hours to go somewhere new for the purpose of reflecting and planning helps me look forward to it. Maybe for you this is a day when you work from a different location, a coffeeshop, a library, a fancy hotel, the backyard. And then maybe you reward yourself with a specific pastry, or a massage, or a random day off after you’re finished. Whatever helps planning feel more like a retreat and less like a chore to you will help get you in the right mindset.
3. Do it alone first.
Community businesses are personal so it’s important to start the planning with your own needs and leadership priorities before involving your team or your community. This is your time to check in with yourself, brainstorm new ideas and imagine new possibilities. Once the direction is feeling good to you, your team and then your community, can help refine and shape the path.
4. Ask yourself the right questions.
Before you get down to the exact projects you’ll be working on, give yourself an opportunity to go broader and reflect on how things are going. Here are some prompts from the seasonal planning process we use in the BACB community to spark ideas and get your planning started for the next season:
- Think of your last 3 months. What’s something that happened in your life/business/community that changed you as a person?
- What’s something you’re celebrating from the last 3 months?
- What’s something you’d like to leave behind in the previous season?
- To achieve the vision you have for the community, who is the leader you have to grow into?
- What changes should you make to your team this quarter? (hiring, firing, training, etc)
- How are you feeling about your own sense of connection and belonging in your relationships, both personal and in the community?
- What parts of your business model still need validating?
- If you haven’t launched yet, what’s a business model you can start with this quarter?
- How do you feel about the members your community is attracting?
- What parts of the community do you love?
- How is it going with your community platform? Can you commit to changing (or not changing anything) this quarter?
- Are there new channels you haven’t explored to reach new members?
- What is your content plan for this quarter (to reach people who aren’t yet members)?
- Do you have a regular check-in time to review and plan? (consider putting weekly and/or monthly reviews on your calendar!)
5. Pick one main focus for the upcoming season.
As you begin to outline the specific projects you’ll tackle in the next 3 months, it can start to feel like you’re creating a massive, unyielding to do list for yourself and your team. So in order to organize, prioritize and see the connections between all the disparate parts of the business, I suggest choosing one large project to focus on per quarter.
What’s the one big thing you’re able to accomplish that will make everything else easier or unnecessary? What’s the big project that gets you ever closer to your ultimate vision for your community business? Then, with that focus in mind you can prioritize all the other projects accordingly.
For many of us, the focus for this upcoming season is planning a launch, relaunch or membership push for September or October. If this may be true for you, we hope you’ll join our free workshop next week to learn a step-by-step process on how to do that.
What do you think? Is there anything above you can integrate into your current process? What’s the best way for you to plan your quarter/season?