How I made peace with planning and went from "winging it" to getting ready for winning in the year ahead

2023 is almost here. I’m not completely done with 2022, but I’m further ahead than I was at this time last year. Here’s what’s made the difference in my 2023 planning.

I don’t actually like to plan very much. I like losing traction and getting lost even less, so I’ve learned to make peace with it. If I’m drifting without a plan, I don’t end up in a place I want to be. Around 2004 I started realizing that my lack of planning was a real liability. 

I started working with a coach soon after that. He persuaded me to look not just at goals but “key results” – a few key things that would make the next year really worthwhile and successful.  By 2010 I developed my own process for planning and I called it The Year Ahead.

Plot twist

In the online world, this is where I write an amazing story about how I crushed it and produced mind-boggling results in the last 12 years.

That’s not how it actually happened, though. The real story involved a move to Shanghai, China for a couple of years, relocating to Houston, Texas and working on a book with my wife, which led to two more books of my own in the next year. 

I planned the year ahead, but things didn’t always go according to plan. I stepped out of the business world for a few years to teach at a private school where my boys were attending. I worked on another book (a science fiction novel–unfinished!), and then re-booted my consulting business.

By answering the 12 questions in The Year Ahead, I took time to review the previous year, ask myself soul-searching questions about the present and then lay out a plan for the next year. That’s the essence of this approach to 2023 planning. 

The idea is to write your own story instead of living out of someone else’s script. You don’t start at the beginning because we’re all in the middle of something.

That’s okay.

You don’t have to write the whole book of your life’s story. Just finish the chapter you’ve lived and write what the next chapter is going to look like. This process is also called self-authoring. You are literally the author of your  own life story.

What's Next?

Self-authoring is a way to make sure that 2023 isn’t just a repeat of 2022 (unless that’s exactly what you want!). Too often, we drag the incomplete baggage of the past with us into the presence rather than taking a hard look at it and deciding what to do with it.

I look back on 2022 and there are some things I can celebrate and feel good about. The truth is, there are also disappointments from the past year. 

What I used to do is cut-and-paste the things I didn’t get done in the previous year and add them to the new year. Sometimes they got done (at last!). But I noticed something.

There were also things that I repeated one, two three or more years and never got done! I had to ask myself, “Am I ever going to do that?” Do I even know why it’s so important, or am I just on repeat…mindlessly?!

The Year Ahead is also a mindfulness exercise. You need to up your level of awareness and be willing to tell yourself the truth.

One lesson I learned from doing The Year Ahead over multiple years is that working alone is 10x harder than working with someone else. When I hired that coach years ago, I made more progress than I did in the years before. When I join a a group or cohort that is working on the same thing, I tend to get more done.

Maybe you’re ready for that too. You can do The Year Ahead by yourself. You’ll probably make better progress, though, if you join others in a group process.

Want to know more about getting ahead faster? Check this out.