“I can only write when I feel inspired. I can’t just sit down and write something good.”
“Having a schedule that’s overly structured will make my life boring.”
“If I set specific goals, then I’m unlikely to surpass them.”
Entrepreneurs hate being put in boxes. It’s why you gave up that whole 9-5, working-for-someone-else thing in the first place, isn’t it? Creativity and freedom are your raisons d’etre, and all this planning and process just isn’t you.
But what if… what if... those “boxes”, schedules, plans, and to-do lists were not, in fact, constraints? What if they were actually the hammers, screwdrivers, and picks that unlocked your freedom?
Stay with us.
What if you could let go of the boring, necessary parts of your business, but still feel confident that they were getting done?
What if other people just “got it” - if they understood the vision you are creating, and their role in getting you to where you want to go?
What if you never developed writer’s block? What if all your ideas flowed freely and the path to making them reality could be started almost immediately?
The tools that will get you there? Processes, a written plan, a schedule that flows with the rhythms of your energy levels, and a team that is working to their strengths are just some of the key tools all entrepreneurs need as part of their arsenal.
How to Get Excited about Planning and Goals
Plans Are Not Prisons
You do not have to follow your plan *perfectly*. Your plan isn’t a structured, cut-and-dry assembly line where you must complete mindless tasks on time and in order. Your plan is a map for your journey.
You know what happens on journeys? Things change. Sea monsters arise from the depths, roads become closed, an amazing little restaurant stops you in your tracks, and new friends are made who divert you to that incredible show you would never have found on your own. Plans are useful guides that help you navigate that which is known… or even that which is guessed.
The unexpected will always come along. Your plan is simply the foundation for figuring out how to get from here to there. The bit in the middle, when you’re actually traveling that path, that’s where you’ll find creativity, change, and passion.
To ensure you have the time and the energy for all that unexpectedness, you’ll need to have both rest and entertainment in your plan. You could plan a straight shot drive from Vancouver to Halifax, with no breaks along the way. You’d get there faster… but you would miss so much. Most importantly, you’d miss the point of the journey.
When you plan effectively, you can better enjoy the downtime that you need, like vacations. Planning your holidays and your long weekends and your children’s birthday parties before you plot out your work stuff is like planning your stops in Calgary and Montreal around your driving times. They’re going to happen - you should make room for them first.
Goals are not a Ceiling… or a Floor
Many people will set sky-high goals and then later beat themselves up when they’re not achieved. Others will set incredibly low goals, knowing that this, at least, is attainable.
Both of those are a different kind of prison.
The minimum goal will never get you to the places you want. You’ll be fine, I guess, but will you be GREAT?
You need that sky-high goal, you really do. You just need to be reasonable about the fact that it is a sky-high goal. Maybe it won’t come in the time frame that you’ve set out exactly, but c’mon. You’re a creative entrepreneur. If everything worked out perfectly all the time you wouldn’t even be here in the first place.
Set the sky-high goals. Set the low goals. Know what “okay” looks like, while at the same time seeking “great”. We call those stretch goals and minimum goals. Give yourself and your team rewards whenever you hit them - that’ll drive you even further towards those crazy, amazing ones.
Don’t forget to reset and adjust your goals as more data arrives. When the sea monsters raise their ugly heads and that super cool secret show at a venue you never even imagined comes to pass - you’ll need to factor those into what you planned previously. Maybe that means the goal is a little further out, maybe it’s a little closer, or maybe it’s changed entirely. Adjustments are necessary - and expected.
How to Get Excited About Process
Ugh, process. (I imagine you sliding off your chair, landing on the floor, arms and legs askew). But process is so boring, so time consuming. Well yeah, geez, only if you’re doing it wrong.
Processes are not Prisons
The process is just how the plan actually comes to pass - plans are useless without implementation. Just like your plans, processes should be dynamic and adjustable.
When you set out on your journey, you probably had to know how to drive a car (or how to hire someone to drive that car for you). That’s a process. It became something you stopped thinking about eventually - and it became something that you’ve adjusted and changed over time, as you learned new things and as you became better at it.
When you started your road trip, perhaps you thought that you could drive for four hours straight. But then you learned that you need bathroom breaks pretty frequently, or that this just isn’t happening without regular caffeine. You adjusted your schedule. You adjusted your process.
You’ll keep doing it. You’ll become an expert. You will be a Road Trip Warrior.
Or, you may discover that you are an Airplanes and 4-Star Hotels Warrior.
Both are awesome, and you discovered those things about yourself without crashing and burning by having plans and process.
Processes are for your Team
Yes, you will need a team if you want to be outrageously successful.
On your imaginary journey across Canada, your team may include your passengers, a travel agent, a gas station attendant, a server in a restaurant, an Airbnb host or hotel manager, that auto repair shop you didn’t plan on needing, the road crew fixing those potholes, and even your mobile phone provider. You are not in this alone. Even if you thought you were.
New team members will be more effective, faster, and less disappointing with a process. Things that are obvious to you are NOT obvious to new people. Giving them a map provides them with the foundation from which they can learn, grow, and become a core resource on your journey.
Hate training? Hate repeating your instructions? Forget what you said the last time?
Process solves all of that. Output quality increases. Errors are reduced. Your confidence that the stuff is getting done while you go do the fun thing grows exponentially. When your team goes on vacation, or leaves you (yes, that happens to everyone), a new person can step into their role with minimal disruption.
Your team is more accountable, and is less likely to think that you’re impossible to work with. They understand what is expected of them, and strive to meet those expectations. They have a place from which to grow, which only increases the value of your business.
You Don’t Have to Manage it
For some entrepreneurs, managing is the worst. You might be a person who is great at creating the thing but not particularly good at maintaining or improving the thing. For a lot of business owners, maintenance is the epitome of boring.
You know what? Managing processes doesn’t have to be your job. It probably shouldn't be. Your team’s role can be - needs to be - documenting what they are doing and how they are doing it. Yes, you have to pay for that and yes, it’s worth it. A little upfront cost gets you a whole lot of long-term benefits.
Have your team create a resource centre in a shared location - your Google Drive, Dropbox, etc. - where they can find not only the goals and plans you created but also the process documents they’re constantly creating and improving. It becomes like a little machine that works on its own.
You? You’ll be back on your journey. You’ll be battling those sea monsters and trying out unexplored roads and experiencing new restaurants and music and art. You’ll have a direction to point whatever creative vehicle you’ve chosen, and all the tools you need to get there on time and on budget, without missing any of the fun.