3 Reasons Why Your 6 Month Plan was DOA

“Help! I never got any of my stuff from my 6 month plan done, and I’m caught in a shame spiral.”

Lordy, I have been there. Can I get an AMEN?

Actually, this is a fairly common response from the people who bought Your Next 6 Months (Forever) when I released it this time last year. But it’s totally okay. Here’s why:

Reason #1

This is a new skill.

A brand new skill with a fair number of moving parts. You can get a new skill off the ground and running smoothly, but you have to be able to devote a lot of attention to it. And sometimes you’re just not able to.

Some things also need practice, like deconstructing your initiatives into discrete steps. This small CyberMonday campaign of mine has over 20 sub-projects, and it’s not particularly complex. It’s not the first time I’ve done a sale, but I’ve still messed up a lot on how much time I think things will take. Almost everyone thinks they’ll be able to do more than they are actually able. It only seems like a dismal failure because you don’t have more experience with a longer-term strategy. (Read: This always happens. Don’t take it personally.)

Reason #2

“Ugh, I’m so ashamed! I just found my 6 Month Plan from January. The [service offering] I said was my top priority still isn’t done!”

This is another common mistake. Sometimes, you think you know what the next step for your business is, so you build your 6 Month Plan around that. But when you go to begin, you find there are things that you forgot about, projects that need to be done before you begin on top of the typical Life curveballs. And that’s how, 10 months later, you can only just be launching the service offering you thought you’d be offering in March.

The good news? You’re going to be in business for a long time. In the grand scheme of things, it won’t matter if you launched your SuperDuperService in 2013 or 2014.

Plus, when you have a backlog of unexecuted goals because you haven’t done any long-term planning before, you’re going to think you can knock them out, one by one, like bowling pins. But that’s simply because your enthusiasm hasn’t met reality yet.

You can handle this one of two ways: you can try to be really concrete in your planning– i.e., What has to happen first? Then what? And after that?– and really hammer it out in the 6 Month Plan. Or you can resign yourself that you’re just going to have to adjust your targets as you tackle each project individually. In other words, just accept the fact that you’re going to overreach and go with it.

Reason #3

This reason rarely shows up without the other two along for the ride, but I thought I’d mention it anyway.

Sometimes the reason the plan doesn’t work is because you haven’t looked at it since you wrote it. The monthly planning you were supposed to schedule for yourself didn’t happen. Or the quarterly. Where did you save that document again? It’s around here somewhere.

I’m guilty of this myself. In a fit of optimism, I think “I know exactly what I need to do. No need to consult the plan.” But then, little by little, I lose focus. I get diverted. I lose my momentum.

Then, everything goes off the rails. I tackle the crisis head-on, ignoring non-essentials. And when I surface again… plan? What plan?

I’m getting better at convincing myself to actually dig up the plan, and read it. It only takes about a day of meandering between reddit and twitter for me to remember that There Is More To Life Than This. But then, when I reread the plan, and realize how far behind I am, how much stuff I’m going to have to rejigger– well, let’s just say denial is not just a river in Egypt. “I’ll catch up!” and “It’ll be fine. I just have to do this, this, this, and these three other things.”

Sound familiar?

Your choices are now: Rejigger everything (essentially doing a Quarterly Plan) or just rejigger the project you’re on, leaving all the rest until your next scheduled Quarterly Planning Session (or, alternatively, the aftermath of your next crisis.)

Move to Plan B

The option in response to any setback is always to rework your plans and your expectations.
Neither one is all that big of a deal. The plans are not Royal Proclamations. It’s not like launching a spacecraft towards Neptune in a window that only comes around every 400 years

Oh, but it can be demoralizing. I know that. Such high hopes! All that income! The bragging rights of launching three products in one year! But such is life. And neither life, nor business, should be run as a sprint. It’s an ultramarathon. Even incremental steps in the right direction will get you where you’re going.

[ From now until Wednesday, 11:59PM EST, there is a CyberMonday special for Your Next 6 Months (Forever). Check it out.]

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5 thoughts on “3 Reasons Why Your 6 Month Plan was DOA”

  1. I really feel as if you’ve written this article directly for me. I am a proud owner of Your Next 6 Months Forever, and find the material to be fantastic. Yet, last time I went through the planning process, something died after I completed the 1 year vision and I never created my 6 month plan. Rather than shaming myself (too much). I am re-planning more realistically and am turning to friends to help provide the accountability for me to finish my plan!

  2. Sometimes I think Reason #3 is actually the cause of Reasons #1 and #2. We make this big plan, then we tuck it away. It can be the ugliest thing in your office, stuck up there in front of you, but how else are you going to remember it? Hmm.. I’m working on this one. How do you create the master plan then keep it fresh (and visible) as things change? I think that’s a skill everyone needs, especially me.

  3. David Delp I kept mine favorited in Evernote, but even that wasn’t obvious enough. Now it’s shortcutted on my desktop (which I keep very bare) and I printed off a copy. I’m not sure how long before the paper copy goes awol, but the shortcut will always be there!

  4. +1 to all the things here. Like ethanwaldman, I feel like this post is for me. It’s scarily easy to make beautiful and inspiring plans that then get forgotten, derailed, changed, or otherwise “ruined.” I have been working on being ok with that. There’s a surprisingly fine line between clinging desperately to a plan and saying “Screw it!!” and throwing the whole thing out the window 🙂

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