The new year is upon us and if you haven’t already, it’s way past time to get the ball rolling for 2023. In this episode, I uncover my new strategy to keeping my eye on the immediate in my company and how to get more done in less time.
In the episode I cover:
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The new year is upon us and if you haven’t already, it’s way past time to get the ball rolling for 2023. Yes, procrastinators, you heard me; you are behind the curve and the year hasn’t even started yet. I personally have been planning for 2023 since October and have even started executing on some of my initiatives for next year. I don’t say this to brag, but to bring to light something that I have become more and more conscious of lately. We don't have a lot of time.
It’s one of the notions that many entrepreneurs don’t realize. I think it comes from our propensity to frivolously spend our time as a never-ending commodity when we are young. Maybe it’s our ever reaching gaze into the future that distorts our concept of time and how little of it we have.Or is it because we all still think we are going to live forever?
My reasoning is a culmination of all three, but lately, I have been changing my tune. I am not sure how long this feeling has been coming over me, but the thought seems to be surfacing more lately. There is this sense of urgency and it comes from a few different sources. One of which is the fact that I basically started my company over four years ago after a 15 year tear growing a multimillion dollar company. I don’t regret it, but I also don’t want to spend another 15 years creating something just as significant.
Another reason I am feeling more urgency is the fact that I am going to turn 50 in 2023. Yes, 50. I don’t feel as old as I thought I would by this point in my life, which might be a reason I haven’t thought about my lack of time as much as I should, but the number itself defines the odds that I have more years behind me than I do ahead. And that folks is a little scary for me and also gives me a sense of urgency.
See I am driven to put my mark on this world, regardless how insignificant it may be in the grander scheme of the universe. I feel that we only have one chance to make a difference, even if it’s minute. It’s like the butterfly effect. You don’t know how your actions today will affect someone or a group of people sometime in the future. See, we are all making history every day. Some of us, like Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos, are affecting the future a bit more than others, but I don’t look at it as a competition of scale. I think legacies etched on a smaller stage can be just as significant in the long run and I, for whatever reason, feel an obligation to leave one. So with the uncertainty of how long I have to make that mark, I feel a growing sense of urgency.
And the uncertainty of life is probably the most significant factor of urgency. I mean let’s face it, none of us know when our time is going to come up. It could be today on the way to work or maybe 50 years from now as we pass quietly in our sleep. Either way, I don’t want to go into the afterlife without knowing that I took full advantage of the life I had here.
I am not sure who coined it, but there is a saying I like that goes something like, “Our biggest regrets are not for things we have done but for the things we didn’t do.” Now, I have been told that I have lived more life than most people twice my age since I was 35. But that doesn’t curb my appetite to do more. It is an insatiable appetite to create, experience, and impact the world around me. Do any of you have that feeling?
So if you have any hint of my drive, then you should have the same sense of urgency, because, as I said before, you don’t know how much time you have to accomplish all of the things you want in this life. And it is for that reason, I start planning my new year’s objectives in Q4. Which brings me to the point of today’s show. What does 2023 have in store for you? Or better put, what do you have in store for 2023?
Are you ready to finally write a book? Are you launching a new business or maybe launching a new service in your existing business? Whatever you have planned, be sure to write down your objectives and start putting timelines on every single one. It’s time to take control of the when. If you don’t understand the when of your goals in the new year, you will be more likely to be here this time next year writing down the same objectives. And this is where you can use urgency to your advantage.
I like how Elon Musk frames urgency. He’s famous for saying that, "If you give yourself 30 days to clean your home, it will take you 30 days. But if you give yourself 3 hours, it will take 3 hours. The same applies to your goals, ambitions, and potential." I love that! In the context of our 2023 plans, if we give ourselves a year to achieve our goals, we will take at least a year to reach it.
So what if we were to shorten the timeline to say something like 90 days? What would your goals look like if you only gave yourself 90 days to accomplish them? You probably would have more sense of urgency and find ways to get things done much sooner than later. And if you can condense the timeline to 90 days, could you find a way to do the same in 30 days? If you can, why not make it happen?
Maybe it’s time for us to stop thinking about annual goals and start focusing on monthly and quarterly goals. Yes, you have the overall annual metrics to measure in December next year, but what if you kept everything right in front of you in 90 day sprints? What kind of urgency would you have if your next set of goals were only 90 days away? I think your goals would become more pointed and meaningful; possibly more measurable.
And that’s why I have been starting my annual planning in Q4 this year. And I am only planning for Q1. I haven’t planned anything past Q1 so we can focus exclusively on Q1’s objectives. Of course, I have a list of things I would like to accomplish over the next twelve months, but none of those things matter if I don’t achieve what I set out to do in the first three months. Besides, there might be something like a pandemic or huge recession hit between now and April, so why would I spend too much time planning beyond March?
Keeping your goals within 90 days reach, keeps a sense of urgency at the forefront of your mind and helps you keep your team on point as well. Then at the end of each quarter, assess your progress and create the next 90 day plan armed with the impact current events have on you at that time. This approach will give you a few advantages.
The first advantage is that a condensed timeline gives less contingencies to worry about. You don’t have to plan as many variables because you reduce the amount of fortune telling required to plan twelve months into the future.
Second advantage is the reduction of time you will spend planning. With only about 60 working days to plan for, then there’s less to document because there is only so much you can do in 60 days. Yes, you end up planning four times a year, but in contrast, you actually spend less time planning because of two things. One, with a fully fledged out annual plan, you end up reassessing everything each quarter anyways. In the process you must adjust to new contingencies affecting your progress. Changing existing plans takes more time than creating new ones on the go because you have to dismantle what you already have in order to make the changes required to move forward.
The third advantage is that you reduce the amount of resources you need for the year. Let’s say you have a new program you want to launch. Your first goal is to figure out if the program is even viable to bring to market right? So the first goal is really to figure out if you should launch the program rather than how. So you set a goal to figure out if the program is viable in the next 90 days. If it turns out to be a bad idea, then you just saved yourself all the time and resources you would have spent planning out the entire program launch.
There are more advantages I don’t have time to cover here, but one last one is satisfaction. Recently, I read the book Atomic Habits by James Clear. In the book, James talks about immediate gratification. He says we are in a society predicated on delayed gratification when our frontal cortex is hardwired for immediate gratification. One of the processes he shares is creating immediate gratification by creating rewards for immediate action. If we apply this to goal setting, 90 days is less than a quarter of the time as 365, right. So if you pause to celebrate your wins every 90 days, the entire team gets stimulated on a more frequent basis and therefore will be more engaged, more productive, and more likely to stay with you.
Now, I know some of you have heard of 90 day sprints in project management before, and yes, I am borrowing from this concept. But I am not saying to utilize 90 day sprints to segment the efforts of a larger plan or annual goal. Instead, I am challenging you to pop your head up at the beginning of the year, point yourself in the general direction of where you want to go and then look back down and see where you are standing. From there, look just past where you are and make a plan to get there in the next 90 days. 90 days from now, look just ahead of where you are then and make a new plan for the following 90 days. At no point do I want you to pop your head back up to look at the horizon until December 1 of next year. At that time, take note of where you are, pick a new point if needed, but then back to wrapping up Q4 and staying focused on the road immediately ahead of you.
If you have already laid out all of your plans for 2023, congratulations. Now I want you to put a pin in anything you have planned past Q2 and solely focus on Q1. At the end of March, I challenge you not to pick up your Q2 plans and instead, make plans from where you see yourself heading at that point. See what you come up with. Then compare it to what you already documented and see the differences. I bet you dollars to donuts that your new Q2 plan more accurately represents what your next thing is better than the tarot cards used to create the annual plan.
So let's head into 2023 with a sense of urgency. Let’s stay focused on the road immediately ahead of us and navigate the year as it comes. If the last few years are any indication of how volatile a time we live in, I feel we who are taking life 90 days at a time will be much better off than those investing their time focused on the horizon.