The Creative Planning Method In Action

Avish Parashar

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Imagine that someone came to you and said, ‘I will give you a step-by-step plan for achieving all of your dreams. ’ Would you like to see that plan? Of course you would!

Recently, I took a five day personal/professional mini-retreat. I stayed in a hotel room about 3 hours away from home, with intention to create a step-by-step plan that I believed would lead to increased business success. I was going to use my creativity to come up with a master plan.

By applying the method to myself, I came up with quite a plan, but also realized a few things that might be holding some people back when it comes to planning and goal setting. By sharing my process, I hope that you may learn some ideas to apply to your own goal setting.

Here's how it went:

Step 1
I created a big list of everything I wanted to accomplish. My head had been filled with tons of ideas, and lots of projects, and quite a few things I kept feeling that I ‘should’ be working on. So I wrote them all down. I didn’t care at this point about the level of detail. I was just as happy writing down a single action item as I was writing down a huge project.

Step 2
I went back through that list and created a second list of just projects. For example, my second list could now contain things such as ‘write a new e-book, ’ ‘put on a great December presentation, ’ and ‘update my web site. ’ The key is to not get caught up on the word ‘project. ’ For these purposes, a project is anything that involves a series of steps to accomplish.

Challenge #1: Resist the urge to group unrelated things to keep the total number of projects down! I have four new books I want to work on. It seemed reasonable to combine all of these into one project titled, ‘write new books. ’ Bad idea! In order to be successful at future steps, you must make each project one, self-encapsulated thing. So, in this case, I should have four separate projects. If your final list ends up with 30 projects on it that's ok. It's a big list, but this is your life we are talking about, so be willing to follow through to the end.

Step 3
For each project, I created a huge list of everything that needed to be done to complete it. The key here is that every item had to be one single-stepped item that I could do in one sitting. You must determine what ‘one sitting is for you. ’ For me it meant that each item had to be something I felt I could do in one hour or less. Some people like to work in three-hour chunks. Others like to work 15 minutes at a time.

Challenge #2: Resist the urge to leave items in vague or large terms. It is immensely difficult to drill down to this level of detail, especially if you have many large projects. It is very possible that some of your projects will have 100 or more steps.

For example, when it came to working on my next book, I was sorely tempted to write as one action item, ‘write the book. ’ There's no way that would happen in one sitting. Realistically, I think I could write 1000 words a day. That means, if I wanted to write a 25,000 word book, I would need 25 action items, each one being, ‘write 1000 words on your book. '

This takes a great deal of perseverance and tenacity, but I am sure that this is the stage where people who are not good at planning or following through on their plans fail! If you take the time now to get to this level of detail, you will be setting yourself up for a spectacular future.

Your goal at the end of this is for each of your projects to have a complete list of items with each one being a single step. You should be able to look at the list and say two things to yourself: 1) Yes, I can do this and 2) yes, if I do this I will succeed in completing this project.

Step 4
Now you have to merge all of your project lists into one master plan. This is step where I almost lost it and gave up. You need to decide which projects take priorities over the other, and which ones you will work on when. Even beyond that, you need to determine which action items need to take priority over other action items.

Only you can decide for yourself. You will obviously have some short term urgent things that need immediate priority. The challenge will be fitting in the long term projects that will take steady work.

It may take multiple passes to do this. Don't stress at first about what is exactly right. Get all of your items into one giant list, and then go back through it and make sure that it all makes sense to you.

This is where your dedication in breaking things down to individual, one-sitting, action items will be invaluable. It would have been impossible for me to fit ‘write the book’ into a plan like this. However, I can easily slip ‘write 1000 words’ into 25 different points in the plan.

As with each individual project, your goal here is to have one master list that you again can look at and say 1) yes, I can do this, and 2) if I do this, I will achieve my dreams and goals. Do not move on from this step until you are comfortable with the prioritized list of items you have.

This will not be easy, nor will it be quick. There are going to be some hard decisions to make. For example, my top priority was a presentation I had that was two weeks away. A lower and more long-term priority was revamping some of my marketing materials. I knew that if I tried to get everything else done before attacking the marketing, I would fall short. So I had to intersperse marketing work in and around my high priority presentation prep work.

Stay at it, do your best, and follow through. Again, your dedication and persistence here will pay off huge down the line.

Step 5
Schedule it. Once I had the master list, I created a calendar and scheduled on what day I would do each action item. This is vital, and very different from many other planning methods. In the past, I would write in deadline dates for completing projects, as opposed to scheduling days when I would work on and finish each action item.

Once again, this is why it is important to a) make sure you have every single step listed out and b) make each step a single sitting event. By doing it this way, you can really plot out your schedule and make sure you move steadily down your list.

Now, I'm not obsessive. Life has ways of throwing curveballs at us, so while I will do my darndest to stay 100% on schedule, I realize that if I am unable to, I can adjust on the fly. Because the list is detailed and prioritized, I always know what comes next and I can always see how far ahead or behind I am.

I have also scheduled in time once a week to look over my plan, make sure I am on track, and make sure my plan still suits my needs.

So that's it. It actually takes a lot of persistence and effort, but boy, are the results worth it.

So once again, imagine that someone came to you and said, ‘I will give you a step-by-step plan for achieving all of your dreams. ’ Would you like to see that plan? Of course you would! Now all you need to do is believe that you can come up with that plan and set aside the time to do it!

Good luck!


Avish Parashar is a dynamic professional speaker who shows organizations and individuals how to get what they want using the Art and Science of improv comedy. He weaves together humorous stories, witty observations, and interactive exercises from improvisational comedy to get people laughing, learning, and motivated!

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