Last week, I talked about the difference between strategic and tactical to-do lists. If you missed it, you can check it out here. But as a quick recap, that post addressed the power of strategic to-dos and the value of having them drive your tactical to-dos. The benefit of doing so is that you increase your likelihood of focusing on the right things and not misconstruing “busy” for being productive, impactful, and intentional.

Today’s post is an accidental sequel to last week’s.

In addition to to-do lists, another invaluable tool of mine is an erasable yearly wall planner. Because of my speaking schedule, which is often booked months in advance and frequently requires a day or two of travel, it helps to look up from my laptop and take a quick glance to see when/where I’m booked when scheduling other appearances and activities.

Having just ordered my 2013 yearly planner (yes, I’m a bit behind), I thought of another difference that is subtle, frequently overlooked, and also extremely powerful.

Are you really a planner?

You know the adage, “if you fail to plan, you plan to fail,” right? You’ve heard it countless times.

Ok, I have a question to ask you: Are you really a planner? Or, are your to-do lists and the appointments and deadlines on your calendar masquerading as planning?

Almost every aspect of my business requires me to plan; I have plans within a plan! So, it surprised even me when I realized that one of the reasons I am going to greet 12/31/2012 with more business debt than when the year began, is because I mistook plotting out all the activities of a particular event with really strategically planning said event.

Can you relate?

If so, you know the difference is subtle – so subtle, it’s almost imperceptible. The difference also lies in the context of an overarching story. Again, I was doing the work (tactical stuff); but with hindsight, I now realize I hadn’t really nailed down the strategic stuff as tightly as I could have. Had I done so; had I honored the difference between plotting out the activities and really planning the plan, I would have recognized that pulling the plug may have been an event failure but it wouldn’t have been a business or personal failure – it wouldn’t have changed the entire story (only a small piece of it). I still would have lost money on this particular venture, but I wouldn’t have also gone into debt in the process. (Oh, the lessons we learn…) Hence, my question to you:

Are you plotting and planning your year-ahead?

What part, if any, of my story resonates with you? Are you now thinking about your year (perhaps life) and thinking about the times your to-do lists, appointments, and deadlines were masquerading as a viable plan? Are you, too, ending the year with more debt (personal or business) – when your plan was to actually have less of it by now?

Here’s what I’ve learned for sure: True planning is all about the story and storytelling.

Each year of your life is another chapter in your life story – what story do you want to tell in 2013 and how does it fit into the story you’ve told thus far and the overall life story you’re looking to tell? Knowing your story and its elements helps you more clearly see when you need to change gears or directions and make different choices. Knowing and understanding your story helps to ensure you create and follow a relevant and workable plan.

Here’s what else I’ve learned for sure: You need to carve out time to plot and plan out your year (and life)!

If you just cringed at the above statement because you are a creative, free-spirit, multi-passionate person and this kind of planning feels too confining, trust me I understand (because I’m just like you!). I also know the result of plotting and planning is that you actually end up with more room to express your creativity, let your free-spirit fly and explore your multiple passions. Ironies of ironies, eh? 🙂

2013 is just a mere two weeks away. Whether you are one who easily plans or one who struggles with the exercise, make the time to plan for the year ahead…NOW!

If you can spend a full day doing so, perfect. If not, that’s perfect, too — carve out 15-minutes a day and pick one area to focus on (e.g., think about the story you want your life to tell, visualize your overall plan, or map out your strategic and tactical to-dos. etc.). Do all of this with the goal of making certain you don’t succumb to the subtle difference between plotting and planning. It’s one way to ensure your to-do list and deadlines aren’t masquerading as a viable plan; it’s one way to set yourself up for a powerful 2013!

Here are additional ways to kick-off 2013 with all cylinders ready and raring to go:

a) Join me next Tuesday, January 18th at 7:30pm EST for a Celebration Call – I love a party…even a virtual one! So, let’s get together to celebrate. Our only agenda is for each person to share their top three successes and lessons of 2012, in round-robin style. If this sounds good, click here.

And because of my “money is never just about money” mantra, what you share doesn’t have to be confined just to the realm of money.

b) Join me on January 7th for a webinar: “Get Unstuck & Have Less Debt in 2013 (than you do now)” More details to follow, but for now mark your calendar if this sounds like something you’re going to need to set your finances straight in the new year.


p.s. can you please take 60-seconds to complete this quick three-question survey? Thanks a ton!

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