In my Planning workshops, I tell the story of how I brought with me a whole planning process when I joined my husband in his businesses. 

I process I took from my years in Corporate. 

I dragged us through a whole week of analysis, talking, planning, and budget setting. 

At the end of the week, we had goals, we were barely talking to one another, and we had many empty bottles of wine. 

Six months after that planning session, we would be lucky if any of our plans were moving forward.  

As I look back on those early years, I just shake my head at myself.  There are some great things I took with me from my corporate life.  This was not one of them.  

Before I tell you one of the reasons this process didn’t work, let me tell you that we do something very different today. 

Our annual planning event is over two days for three companies and personal objectives.  Our days are only 6 hours long.  They are relaxed and solution-focused.  When we are done, we feel seen, heard, and aligned with our plans.  

I then plan weekly check-ins and quarterly planning days. 

The result is a plan that works, and when they don’t, we know there is something very unconscious running and needs to be examined.  

Back to that old planning process of mine.  

One of the biggest reasons our goals failed is that we put too much on our plate all at once.  It’s like filling your plate with so much food and not being able to eat it all.  Our eyes were bigger than our stomachs.  

Our goals were big.

They were overwhelming.  So overwhelming that we were paralyzed.  Has this happened to you? 

Overwhelm feels like a treat to us.  The threat is scarcity.  Scarcity of time.  The overwhelm has us thinking we don’t have enough time, energy, or even the ability to fit it all.  We go into survival mode.  A survival response is to freeze.  

This is what happened to us each year. 

I see this happening to my accountability group members.  The members who have not attended a planning workshop.  Their plans overwhelm them.  They talk about lack of energy and how tired they are.  They get so overwhelmed, they freeze. 

There is a way around this.  It’s about not just creating goals but creating a plan.  It’s about knowing what the steps are to get you from your end goal to today.  It’s about knowing the next right step. 

In our planning workshop, aided by our planning workshop, we walk you through a whole process that helps you move through the goals to the plan.  We help you see that there are limits to what you can do all at once.  We help you create something doable. 

My current 90-day plan is aggressive but also achievable.  I felt overwhelmed looking at it.  But I didn’t freeze.  I didn’t freeze because I knew what the next steps were for each goal. 

It’s Wednesday as I write this blog, and more than ½ of my tasks are done to move my goals forward this week. 

I’ve had to stay focused.  I still have more to do this week, but I am moving forward because I know what the next step is.

If you are feeling overwhelmed, here are two quick ways to start moving forward.  Pick one. 

  • Take your goals and write down the next right step for each of them.  It might be enough to get you moving and pull you out of the freeze. 
  • Pull out a piece of paper and divide it into quarters.
    •  In each block, assign it a quarter.  Q1/Q2/Q3/Q4.
    • If you have any big plans in a quarter, write it down (i.e., ten-day Mexico vacation, two week Christmas break, week-long course)  
    • Then think about your first goal and “map” the high-level goals into the quarters.  Do this again for each of your goals. 
    • Review it.  Do you have too much in one quarter?  Can you smooth it out?  Maybe one of your goals needs to be broken into smaller goals.  Maybe you need to put an idea/goal into the parking lot to be reviewed in the future.  

I have found that we either just need a nudge to get going (the next step) or a visual of the larger picture.  Seeing that it all doesn’t have to be done today can be what we need to move again. 

We don’t drive to Florida from Toronto without a plan or at least a GPS.  Why do we try to navigate our goals without a plan or a map? 

If you are feeling stuck, frozen, or just overwhelmed.  Stop, listen and plan. 

Small steps can help people make big changes to achieve what they really desire.  That wish isn’t going to go anywhere unless you do something about it.  Every day, just do one thing.  At the end of six months, you’ll be somewhere.”

Marlo Thomas