Monday, March 19, 2012

Second-Quarter Planning

After starting off with great plans for the year, by mid-March, I am grumpy. Too much winter. It’s still cold. There’s ice on the road.

Then I went at a kid party and talked to one of the fathers, and I started to think about how his idea might be a match for for some other people. I started to feel the grumpiness slip away.

Q2 is almost here. Q2 is the best quarter of the year to allow the natural elements direct the energy of work. Let’s say you’ve been bogged down with a project or a sales proposal or you’ve been reaching out to potential customers all winter, but no one is biting. It’s time to shed the bog and get ready for the second quarter. The grass is going to turn green, flowers will bloom, and the grit of winter can be washed off the car.

It's time to focus on exploring possibilities. Slough off winter and look for new audiences, markets, opportunities, projects. Summer isn't here yet, so it's not vacation time, but the warming weather does offer more energy and happier people. 

Open the blinds and let in some sunshine. Even in the winter states, sunshine is beginning to appear more regularly (thankfully because for me, it’s always a close call between needing sunshine and needing an intervention). To explore possibilities, do these things:

Take more walks outside and get some Vitamin D. Download podcats so you can take in some new information. When I can't figure out what to download, I go to Deep Fried Bytes . It's a techie site for sure, but I like to listen to the podcasts that overlap other fields, like "Going Beyond the Obvious in Innovation with Phil McKinney."

Clear out the old. You will not have room for new possibilities as long as old projects are in the way. What is left on your to do list? For each item, do one of these things:

  • Cancel it. Feel powerful and scratch it out.
    Find an expert. Buy an expert. Trade for expertise. Rent an expert. If I really need this item finished, then I find a way to make it happen.
  • Write down the Next Possible Action. Make the next action a tiny step so that moves the project along. Do I need to call someone? Write something?
  • Clear the piles from what I’ve been doing all winter. Get rid of them. File them. I reorganize my workspace or simply shred the old stuff and make way for new possibilities. 
Identify possibilities. Explore options for new business, new connections, and new experiences. To do this, get a spiral notebook (something small-ish and temporary) and divide it into thirds. Put stickies at the beginning of each third. Ignore the first two thirds. Go to the third section. In this section, write down at least 10 "possibilities" to make your life, your family, your job, your business, and your day better. You are not making resolutions, so "exercise more" and "eat less chocolate" are not possibilities. Later on, as you get stuck, return to this section and make a new list of 10.

Next, pick 2-3 of the things that seem feasible and that you really want to pursue and put those in the second section of your notebook, one at the top of each page. Below each possibility, write down the next step or steps that you need to do to further explore the possibility.

Every morning, flip through section 2 and do one of the steps. When the possibility becomes a reality, write it at the top of the first page of your notebook. This section is for the things you have "landed," and now need to service or to maintain.

Avoid allowing this quarter to melt into the next one without a lot of differentiation. If you have a seasonal business, is this your season? Is summer? Are you ending your season and preparing to break? What needs to happen during the off-season, pre-season, the big season? Is this a quarter that seems to melt into the next one without a lot of differentiation? What can you do this season to make it different? Offer a promotional opportunity? Hold an open house? A workshop? Create a new brochure? Start an email campaign? What can you do this season to make it different? Offer a promotional opportunity? Hold an open house? A workshop? Create a new brochure? Start an email campaign?

Ultimately, it’s time to clean out the old, explore possibilities for the new, and reinvigorate ourselves with sunshine—when we can find it.

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