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Don’t just ‘Retreat,’ PLAN

Don’t just ‘Retreat,’ PLAN

For the past three days we at Say Leadership Coaching have been on a retreat. ‘Retreat’ is what most businesses traditionally call it, but I don’t care for the word with its’ backpedaling imagery and cowering connotations. I much prefer our Hawaiian one, Ho‘olālā, meaning to ‘make plans.’ To make plans is to prepare for moving forward in the best possible way.

December is our time for Ho‘olālā for the pure seasonal rightness of it. With the New Year arriving in mere weeks, those inevitable resolutions take shape so much more naturally when the ‘business retreat process’ has happened first. When the Ho‘olālā process is good, those New Year’s resolutions become the right resolutions, and the plans to execute them are smart plans.

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I am one of the most deliberative planners you’ll meet, for I believe in the process of planning for the success you strive for, and then plotting the step by step “action traction” which will propel you ever forward. Plans without specific, bold actions are worthless. When Ho‘olālā is held as a planning retreat, everyone walks away from it ready to take on the world; they know exactly what they will do next. They’ve created new energy and achieved synergy in the process, and they strongly believe that when their individual action steps combine they will be a force to be reckoned with. They are a positive force capable of creating a better future both for the company and for themselves. They’re feeling brave and confident.

So what is this Ho‘olālā , this Business Planning process?

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Much of it involves managerial concepts you’ve read from me before, in separate articles here for Lifehack.org. Business Planning should be when you actually use things like Vision, Values, and Mission – they aren’t things which someone made pretty sentences for in framed art on the walls. In Ho‘olālā they line up and are used like this:

  1. First we recommit to a very specific Vision, so everyone is clear on the ultimate objective we are planning FOR. In Ho‘olālā we are only aiming for the immediacy of the coming year.
  2. Second we revisit our Values. We talk about those values which center our company, serving as our very reliable constancy no matter how much change swirls around us.
  3. Third we tackle Mission, when and ONLY when our Vision and our Values are in crystal clear, integrity balanced alignment. Mission is a collection of key initiatives; they are the sub-projects we’ll dedicate our focused effort toward in the year to come, specifically chosen because they will cause our Vision to happen.
  4. Fourth, the Action Traction. Each one of those sub-projects we collectively call Mission are broken down into their first individual action steps, and those actions are assigned and calendared.
  5. Fifth, each person writes their Ho‘ohana, which is a personal and professional individual mission statement connecting their goals to the Vision of the company. Companies aren’t great unless the people within them become great.

You can find more detail on each of these steps on www.managingwithaloha.com today, in Ho‘olālā: The Business Planning Process.

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We work hard during Ho‘olālā; they are not the retreats held during other times of the year where it is mostly team-building, camaraderie and fun. Those things are important too, but they have another time and place. The right people are chosen for Ho‘olālā; they are already a well-functioning team, one which is deeply committed to each other and unconditionally supportive of each other. During Ho‘olālā they celebrate their brilliance, and their passion for the focused work it takes to create lasting legacies.

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Rosa Say

is the author of Managing with Aloha, Bringing Hawaii’s Universal Values to the Art of Business and the Talking Story blog. She is the founder of Say Leadership Coaching, a company dedicated to bringing nobility to the working arts of management and leadership.

More by this author

Rosa Say

Rosa is an author and blogger who dedicates to helping people thrive in the work and live with purpose.

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Last Updated on April 8, 2019

22 Tips for Effective Deadlines

22 Tips for Effective Deadlines

Unless you’re infinitely rich or prepared to rack up major debt, you need to budget your income. Setting limits on how much you are willing to spend helps control expenses. But what about your time? Do you budget your time or spend it carelessly?

Deadlines are the chronological equivalent of a budget. By setting aside a portion of time to complete a task, goal or project in advance you avoid over-spending. Deadlines can be helpful but they can also be a source of frustration if set improperly. Here are some tips for making deadlines work:

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  1. Use Parkinson’s Law – Parkinson’s Law states that tasks expand to fill the time given to them. By setting a strict deadline in advance you can cut off this expansion and focus on what is most important.
  2. Timebox – Set small deadlines of 60-90 minutes to work on a specific task. After the time is up you finish. This cuts procrastinating and forces you to use your time wisely.
  3. 80/20 – The Pareto Principle suggests that 80% of the value is contained in 20% of the input. Apply this rule to projects to focus on that critical 20% first and fill out the other 80% if you still have time.
  4. Project VS Deadline – The more flexible your project, the stricter your deadline. If a task has relatively little flexibility in completion a softer deadline will keep you sane. If the task can grow easily, keep a tight deadline to prevent waste.
  5. Break it Down – Any deadline over one day should be broken down into smaller units. Long deadlines fail to motivate if they aren’t applied to manageable units.
  6. Hofstadter’s Law – Basically this law states that it always takes longer than you think. A rule I’ve heard in software development is to double the time you think you need. Then add six months. Be patient and give yourself ample time for complex projects.
  7. Backwards Planning – Set the deadline first and then decide how you will achieve it. This approach is great when choices are abundant and projects could go on indefinitely.
  8. Prototype – If you are attempting something new, test out smaller versions of a project to help you decide on a final deadline. Write a 10 page e-book before your 300 page novel or try to increase your income by 10% before aiming to double it.
  9. Find the Weak Link – Figure out what could ruin your plans and accomplish it first. Knowing the unknown can help you format your deadlines.
  10. No Robot Deadlines – Robots can work without sleep, relaxation or distractions. You aren’t a robot. Don’t schedule your deadline with the expectation you can work sixteen hour days to complete it. Deathmarches aren’t healthy.
  11. Get Feedback – Get a realistic picture from people working with you. Giving impossible deadlines to contractors or employees will only build resentment.
  12. Continuous Planning – If you use a backwards planning model, you need to constantly be updating plans to fit your deadline. This means making cuts, additions or refinements so the project will fit into the expected timeframe.
  13. Mark Excess Baggage – Identify areas of a task or project that will be ignored if time grows short. What e-mails will you have to delete if it takes too long to empty your inbox? What features will your product lack if you need a rapid finish?
  14. Review – For deadlines over a month long take a weekly review to track your progress. This will help you identify methods you can use to speed up work and help you plan more efficiently for the future.
  15. Find Shortcuts – Almost any task or project has shortcuts you can use to save time. Is there a premade library you can use instead of building your own functions? An autoresponder to answer similar e-mails? An expert you can call to help solve a problem?
  16. Churn then Polish – Set a strict deadline for basic completion and then set a more comfortable deadline to enhance and polish afterwards. Often churning out the basics of a task quickly will require no more polishing afterwards than doing it slowly.
  17. Reminders – Post reminders of your deadlines everywhere. Creating a sense of urgency with your deadlines is necessary to keep them from getting pushed aside by distractions.
  18. Forward Planning – Not mutually exclusive with backwards planning, this involves planning the details of a project out before setting a deadline. Great for achieving clarity about what you are trying to accomplish before making arbitrary time limits.
  19. Set a Timer – Get one that beeps. Somehow the countdown of a timer appears more realistic for a ninety minute timebox than just glancing at your clock.
  20. Write them Down – Any deadline over a few hours needs to be written down. Otherwise it is an inclination not a goal. Having written deadlines makes them more tangible than internal decisions alone.
  21. Cheap/Fast/Good – Ben Casnocha in My Start Up Life mentions that you can have only have two of the three. Pick two of the cheap/fast/good dimensions before starting a project to help you prioritize.
  22. Be Patient – Using a deadline may seem to be the complete opposite of patience. But being patient with inflexible tasks is necessary to focus on their completion. The paradox is that the more patient you are, the more you can focus. The more you can focus the quicker the results will come!

Featured photo credit: Estée Janssens via unsplash.com

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