Last month, I was incredibly busy in and out of work. An objective that I’ve been working on was pushed back multiple times and wasn’t completed.

When it comes to planning, we tend to plan with abstractions of the real world. The components are too perfect to be reliable. They assume:

  • Our employees won’t get sick.
  • There won’t be a market change.
  • A customer won’t have an emergency.
  • And etc.

But you can’t predict the weather. Invariably, new information is going to affect your plan.

The trick is to account for it.

To provide a concrete example:

The objective that I lost track of in May was to enter new emails into our newsletter queue. Once a week, May 1 – July 1, I’m checking our spam complaints and manually adding new subscribers. This should only take a couple of minutes. But for two weeks in a row I didn’t do this. I was aware of it, but I was just slammed.

Next time I set objectives for a plan, it won’t be for a weekly rhythm. Because in the real world I might get slammed for two weeks! A better objective would have been for eight twenty-five minute iterations. The result is the same, but the eight iterations can flex to our circumstances. If things are easy, we can get ahead. If things are hard, we can re-group later.

Planning on its own is powerful. It forces you to think about what needs to happen to accomplish an objective. But to have a workable plan, you need have eyes for the invisible. You need to be able to see how things could break down and give the plan flex to accommodate the dynamic world we execute our plans in.

Featured image is one of my favorite works of art, The Great Wave off Kanagawa, an 1831 ukiyo-e print by Hokusai. I’ve got another print from his series, “36 Views of Mount Fuji,” on the wall above our fireplace. Used under public domain.