Dwight D. Eisenhower famously drew a distinction between a plan and planning:
I tell this story to illustrate the truth of the statement I heard long ago in the Army: Plans are worthless, but planning is everything. There is a very great distinction because when you are planning for an emergency you must start with this one thing: the very definition of “emergency” is that it is unexpected, therefore it is not going to happen the way you are planning.
The unexpected (everything doesn’t go according to plan) is one reason that plans fail to produce the desired outcome. According to Brian Moran, author of The 12 Week Year, there’s another, more prevalent reason:
We just don’t do what we say we’re going to do.
That’s right. Over 60% of our plans fail because we don’t stick to the plan. We create a plan, then we improvise. We wing it. We get lazy. We change course at the first sign of resistance.
The solution? Create a scorecard for the week. You’ll use this to measure how well you’re executing your plan.
For each item in your plan, track whether you’ve done it. Daily items work best. These might be an element of your daily rituals or a daily habit goal. Keep the chains moving.
At the end of the week, you have a score that reflects how well you executed your plan. This doesn’t reflect the results you’ve achieved this week. Your plan might be flawed. The only way to know whether or not your plan works is to actually execute the plan. Then you assess how well your activities produced your desired outcome.
|Burn 500 active calories||✔||✔||✔||✔||67%|
|Eat 120g protein||✔||✔||✔||✔||✔||83%|
|Read for 15 min||✔||✔||✔||✔||✔||83%|
If you score 85% or better, you worked your plan. Congratulations! Now take a look at the results you got. Did you make the progress you wanted to this week? Either stick to your plan or make a better plan for next week.
Didn’t make 85%? Don’t give up.
Even with a weekly score of 65 to 70 percent you will do well if you stay in the game. You won’t accomplish what you are capable of, but you will do well. It’s important to remember that the process is not about being perfect, but rather about getting better and better.
Brian Moran, author, The 12 Week Year
Measure leading indicators. If you want to lose weight, don’t track your weight. Track the number of calories you eat and the number of minutes of exercise you get. If you want to be a better golfer, don’t track your handicap; track the hours you spend practicing your short game.
Lagging indicators look to the past. There’s nothing you can do about them. Leading indicators look to the future. You can act on them.
There are two reasons a plan can fail: it turned out to be a bad plan, or you didn’t do what you said you were going to do. Without an objective look at what you did, there’s no way to tell why your plan didn’t work.
A weekly scorecard will give you that objective look. If you followed through on your plan, you can assess the results and decide whether to keep the plan for next week or come up with a better one. If you didn’t follow your plan, that’s actionable feedback, too.