The Story of 90-Day Planning

planning doodleEarly in my career I had a boss, Richard, who drummed into me the importance of planning and goal setting. Richard would inform me of the importance of planning by telling me the ‘seven p’s’: Proper prior planning prevents piss poor performance ‘(I found out later this is referred to as the six p’s by the army – I think the insertion of piss was Richard’s own idea). Richard also informed be that if you ‘fail to plan, you plan to fail’, amongst other bits of wisdom.

I’m grateful to Richard as this enabled me to understand both the importance of planning and the benefits it bestows to achieving goals. I think a lot of us do. I also believe that for many of us the act of planning isn’t actually too difficult a challenge in and of itself. What is a challenge, one that I experience, and I also know this is also true for many of my friends and peers, is in taking that plan and being able to execute upon it. Making the plan real; more than just a document, more than words on a page, and actually running with it to the finish line. Using the plan as a tool to transform their business, themselves, their lives.

Later in my career, I received another piece of really good advice, this time from a board member. Shortly before, I had launched my company and we were in discussion how one constructs plans for the crazy chaotic world that is part and parcel of being part of an early-stage company. Is there any best practice that I can use for planning our strategy, specifically how to take all of the ideas we wanted to do and how to make that reality? I was told that if I were to make plans annually it is simply too long a timeframe for anyone, me included as leader of the company, or my team, to stay focused. Too many things can and will (and did!) happen and the plan, as important as it may seem on day one, will be all but forgotten by day 200. In order to plan like a CEO, he suggested that I use quarterly planning or 90-day plans.

Where did the 90-day planning approach come from?

This concept of 90-day planning was first used by Olympic athletes and it allowed them to focus on learning one new skill at a time, gaining mastery in that skill before moving onto something else. I thought that if it’s good enough for Gold medal winners then it’s certainly good enough for me.

What is so special about 90-day planning?

This approach has been absolutely game changing. Many of us, lead ‘full’ lives. Whether that’s work and family, running a business, competing in sport, launching a side hustle or ‘hack’, or just simply ‘life admin’ it is easy to run around from morning to night without moving the dial on your bucket list of important objectives. This quarterly, 90-day approach to planning automatically acknowledges this, puts in guard rails to mitigate you from failure so you can easily incorporate learning a new task by constraining your focus to prioritise what’s important.

What's the ultimate benefit of a 90-day plan?

The secret is that you continue on with your full life but will be able to easily manage the incorporation of a new strategy, initiative or learning a new skill. If you do this every 90 days by the end of year you or your company will be entirely transformed.


Intrigued? Find out more about our 90-day planner The Main Thing here: 


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