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The master plans

Time after time, situation after situation, job after job, there’s always a plan. A detailed plan. Not just some “do this, then that, then that, then that”, but a “do this by this date, if XYZ happens then we pivot to so and so, all the while watching ABC for changes to our course, then complete this by this date”. Plans are my life and why I get anything and everything done.

The real secret to success

Take all those books like The Secret, or any of those get wealth books, or anything similar. All baloney in my opinion. All things need a plan. You won’t get anything by being positive, a single stroke of luck, or anything of the sort. Success is a series of positive actions you build on, one after another. If you planned and put them in the right order, you’ll get to where you’re going.

Plans are the stairs to success. 

Instant gratification

Plans are hard. They take time. They may not work. People hate waiting for stuff. The world we live in is ruled by instant gratification. Instant texting, instant transactions online, instant everything. It seems harder and harder for people to make plans of any sort that have any sort of long-term. Time to break the cycle.

5 tips for making plans

Pick something and let’s make a plan. You’ll be happy you did. Here’s my process for making a plan. It’s general enough that it will more or less work for anything.

1. Choose something and break it down

The first statement is pretty obvious. Choose what you want to do. But choose something big, that you barely think you can accomplish. That’s where the second part kicks in. Take your goal and break it down into pieces. Pieces so small that they start to become more and more easy to accomplish. To the point where it’s just a series of almost menial tasks.

2. Add dates to all the tasks (and assign them)

I’ve always wish for a to-do app that is also a calendar because without deadlines, nothing gets done. Take all the menial tasks you made, and give them all a deadline. While you’re going through and assigning due dates for everything, take account of tasks where you think you might need extra time, and then assign that extra time right from the get go. Often times people try to make their default paths the same as the critical paths of a project. That means that you’re on thin ice the whole time. Give yourself a break, and make time for some slippage from the get go. It’s better to 1) estimate that you need a little more time to get something done, then 2) say you can do something really fast but then everyone waiting because some element of the project got delayed. If you’re on a team, this is the time to delegate as well.

3. Start your plans

The amount of people who I meet that could do something amazing but just haven’t started (and probably never will) is astounding. Once you have a plan, or even a semblance of a plan, just start chipping away at it. The only way to get anyone is to go. It doesn’t matter if the plan isn’t perfect or you’re unsure about something, you can fix those in the next steps, just get started…NOW.

4. Re-evaluate plans constantly

Anyone whom I talk to who is anti-plan always talks about their inflexibility or rigidness. Plans don’t have to be rigid, they’re as fluid as you allow them to be. After I’ve made my plan and started, the last thing I do at the end of every day is revisit the plan. I examine what was finished today and ask questions like “Did I finish everything planned today?”, “Are we on track?”, “Are there any new developments that may delay future tasks?”, and more. If tasks didn’t get finished on time, they get re-assigned to the next day, and then if it seems like there is an unmanageable amount of work the next day, some of those tasks get pushed to the day after. If you ordered a bunch of hardware and made due dates based on expected delivery times, you may want to change your plan if they get in early or you’re notified they may be delivered late. This constant evaluation of your plan is what makes plans successful. Even the best plan will change, and if you embrace the change and take control of it, you’re going to win.

5. Post-mortem

Mistakes will be made and some things you’ll ace unexpectedly even when you re-evalute constantly. While re-evaluating, you’re still deep in the woods, you’re emotionally driven. Post-mortems are higher level, after the goal is achieved, when all the smoke clears and you’re emotionally not in the middle of it. You should examine 1) what went well so you can add more of that, 2) what didn’t go well so can get rid of some of those, and 3) even do some reading on things you can do to heighten the process by leaps and bounds. I think of this in math:

Next performance = (last performance – 1 thing that sucked + 1 thing that rocked) * new process

It’s a pretty simple way of thinking about how to do better next time. Literally if you remove 1 bad thing, and add 1 good thing, you’re already in the black. But the multiply section is what we live for. You should always be hungry to improve the process and hope the improvement is big. In reality, that improvement may be a few percent improvement, and sometimes they may even be negative factors, so you should be cautious on how big the new process is, but it’s always worth trying 1 new process.

Why now?

I recently caught up on some news and read Elon Musk’s master plan, part deux and it just went to prove the importance of plans. If you doubted plans, look at what Elon has been able to do by making a plan and sticking to it.

I possess a deep knowledge in many professional fields from creative arts, technology development, to business strategy, having created solutions for Google, Kanye West, Armani, and more. I'm currently Technical Director of zero11zero, and lead the nVoid division. Yo!

View Comments

  • Nat

    NatNat

    Author Reply

    Love how this was stripped down to bare bones. The formula is genius.


  • Barrington

    BarringtonBarrington

    Author Reply

    elburz, it’s so awesome to see all the stuff you’ve accomplished in 5 years since i knew you at u of t!

    also, this is really helpful and inspirational. and better yet, bullshit free!

    i especially like your point that plans can and should change. and the idea of iteration.

    cheers


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