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BY STEVE BUDNIK
With few exceptions, we all lead excessively busy lives. Demands of our time during the course of any given day are usually too numerous to mention. By going through the process of strategic planning, the act of making important choices can be made easier. Done correctly, it is tool for identifying the best path to your future and the most efficient way to get there.
When most of us think about the strategic planning process, we usually think in terms of organizations we’ve been a part of. However, strategic planning also provides real benefits for individuals.
Taking stock of your goals will call for a certain amount of serious brainstorming. This can be difficult regardless your age and whether you are a full or part-time outdoor communicator. Strategic planning, at the very least, will provide a base from which progress can be measured.
In short, strategic planning is a structured effort to guide you through fundamental decisions and actions during day-to-day activities without losing sight of larger goals.
We usually think of organizational strategic planning as a rather formal process. For many, it brings to mind an image of executives gathered around a big table, surround by white boards and magic markers. Truth be told, strategic planning from an individual standpoint can be a rather informal affair.
Set goals. Do you work full time at this business? Does timely payment of the monthly bills or your kid’s college tuition depend on your monthly productivity? Or perhaps you’ve arrived at that stage in your life where producing the occasional article provides you with beer money or that new fishing rod.
The amount of time you might spend on strategic planning should probably incorporate the number of hours you work each week. As you prepare your strategic plan, you need to look at desired outcomes. What results am I looking for? You must also look at potential benefits. Why is this important to me? Next, you have to look at possible barriers. What might prevent me from being successful?
Resources must also be examined. This could be equipment, finances, time, or a myriad of other things. What support do I have to help me achieve my goals? Finally, your plan must have an evaluation component. How will I know if and when I reach my goals?
The strategic planning process generally contains five primary steps.
Step one: Simply deciding whether you’re truly ready for the process. Each of us carries, to some degree, the “I can muddle through this somehow” gene.
If you have determined that you are achieving maximum efficiency at the level of production you desire, you are done. No need to waste precious time. Proceed to your next project or task.
However, if you see some need for improvement, you should continue with a strategic plan.
Step two: Develop a vision statement for you and/or your business. Where do you want to go as an outdoor communicator? This can take a great deal of thought and, again, it will differ depending on where you are with your life and career. It has been said that a vision statement should fit on the back of a business card. It’s also called the elevator speech, a 30-second spiel about you, your business, your goals, etc.
Step three: Assess your current situation. Are you happy doing what you’re doing now? Full-time or part-time employment would be a consideration here. Or are you a newspaper guy itching to get into radio work? Looking at potential changes is what you want to do at this stage.
Step four: Develop goals and strategies with measurable intermediate objectives based on your vision and current situation. These goals may be short-term or long-term, with short-term generally being thought of three years or less. The operative term here is measurable; you must be able to see your progress or lack thereof in both the short-term and long-term.
Step five: Write it all down. It may be relatively short and sweet, but writing your plan on paper commits you to a certain degree of ownership.
In summary, no strategic plan is ever really finished. Properly done, they are living, breathing documents that change and need continual updating as our lives and careers evolve.♦
—A member since 2009, Steve Budnik covers fishing and fisheries research, as well as conservation, natural resources and environmental issues. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.