Make a Freakin’ Plan

If you can’t commit to writing down a plan, you aren’t committing to making your idea happen. The plan doesn’t have to be long or complicated but it does have to exist. In writing. Somewhere. It’s actually better of it’s really simple and quick in the beginning. What’s the point of writing out a detailed 125 page project plan if you get to page 14 and figure out that it’s going to cost a bajillion dollars or risk management will never let you do it?

Writing down your plan gives it weight, It gives you a chance to really think through all of the logistics and resources that you’ll need. You may determine that your project isn’t feasible, or that you thought it was a good idea, but now you don’t really want to do it anymore. Once you can objectively look at what the project entails you can make a better decision about it.

Brain Dump

  • What?
  • Why?
  • Why not?
  • Resources
    • Stuff
    • People
    • Money
  • Timeline

I have a format I like to use that I call a brain dump. I use it to get everything out of my head and into a document (usually a google doc) that I can share with whoever I’m working on that project with. I have a bunch of these just sitting on google drive, waiting for me to have time or resources to start them, or that I’ve abandoned. This format also works really well for sharing information with work partners and stakeholders.

I never really thought about what I put into a braindump until I started working on this post, but they have organically evolved to include the same things whenever i do it. But now that i’ve looked at them, they basically break down into 5 categories of information. I’ll put the categories in the sidebar, but they include: What is it, why, why not, resources and a timeline.

What is it?

This is your elevator speech for the project, write 2 -3 sentences describing the idea.

Why?

Why is this a good idea? What is it going to do? Will it save money? Time? What are the outcomes, how will it make things better?

Why not?

This is the most important part of the whole thing. People don’t like change, and they don;t like spending money, or time on things that feel “extra”. So the best way to get your ideas past those people is to figure out what problem or problems they are going to have beforehand and address them all. Try to think of every objection you can, from anyone who might be a stakeholder in the issue and write that down. Then come up with answers for all of the objections.

Resources

Resources are the stuff, money time and people you’ll need to get this done. Evaluate and write down what you will need and the approximate time and cost.

Stuff

Shopping! This is the fun bit. Make a list of all the supplies you will need, where you can get them and their cost. I tend to spend a lot of time on this especially where I think money is going to be a problem, and it almost always is. I try to keep the costs as low as realistically possible to make it easier to move forward.

People

Who are you going to need help from? What roles do you think they should play in the project? What specific things do you need them to do, and how long do you thing it will take? Include your own work and time in this.

Money

How much are all of those supplies, people and time going to cost?

Timeline

Now plan out when you are going to start, and when you are going to hit certain milestones. Give yourself deadlines. If you have to account for other people, or things like marketing or print deadlines, account for those as well.

Sample Timeline for launching a new series of classes

Task Due Date
Project approval July 31
Room reservations and marketing info entered August 4
Locate and lock down partner businesses July 31
Curriculum development complete October 1
Start Classes October 15
6 weeks of classes to be complete December 31
Evaluate and gather feedback on program January 15