Is planning an art or a science? I worked as a software project manager for close to a decade before becoming a writer/entrepreneur and my answer has always been: a little bit of both.
Whether you’re launching a blog or business or a piece of software, it’s the same combination of factors. There are the predicable aspects, and the unknown issues that will pop-up.
By definition it is impossible to create the perfect project plan. Things change. Things are unknown. Some things can only be seen in hindsight.
So is annual project planning worth it? Yes, but perhaps not for the reasons you might expect:
1. Clarity. In reality, the project plan is a communication tool. It lets everyone on the team visualize an idealized version of how the project will unfold. It puts you into the future and lets you look around. For your blog, you might have a vague sense of what you want to write about, but once you dig into the planning process you’re forced to begin making some decisions. It’s much more efficient to make those decisions on paper, rather to write 10 posts and then change directions.
2. Motivation. I’d estimate that 75% of my private coaching clients are struggling most with clarity. They all complain of the same things: they don’t know where to start, they feel a little lost, and they are not sure if this is the right thing. Creating a plan lets you test-drive and gut check your creative plan. It allows you to step into that future reality and make sure it’s a fit for you. It’s no substitute for actually doing the work, but it does get you clarity, comfort and reassurance. Once you have those three things, motivation issues disappear on their own.
3. You will make more money. After years of being a creative entrepreneur, I know one simple truth: you can not wish your way to monetization, you have to cook it into your plans from the beginning. It’s like baking a cake – it’s extremely hard to adjust the recipe once it’s in the oven. Monetizing, whether it comes now or in a year from now, will always be easier if you plan for it, and put the right systems in place from the beginning.
4. Prevents self-sabotage. The number one reason why bloggers don’t succeed is self-sabotage. It’s the same reason many writers fail too. It’s hard to emotionally withstand uncertainty. It’s hard to take mini-failures or the lack of praise or luke warm responses when you’re not totally confident in your work. And surprise, most creatives are never 100% confident in their work. So the people who survive? They are able to live and work under the duress of just not-knowing. If you crack, you end up dropping the blog or other forms of self-sabotage. Doing a yearly plan gives you a sense of control, purpose and direction. It’s insurance against the most dangerous of creative pitfalls.
I do once at least once a year, but often twice. It’s how I came to understand I needed to shift my blog from single author to multi-author after 8 years of blogging. It’s how I talked myself into doing a print magazine. I worked through the plan, the logistics and the strategy. I thought about positioning, message and editorial calendars. I wrote (to myself) about my ideal reader. I spent time mulling things over and breaking it all down.
Need some help on getting started? This year I put together a huge Planning Guide for Bloggers – complete with additional resources – it’s free to sign up, so what are you waiting for? I’ll also be talking about this in our Hello, Creative Genius FB group.