The importance of flexible plans

If 2020 taught us anything it was that we needed to be adaptable and make flexible plans. As 2021 gets underway it looks like that lesson will be ongoing for some time, don’t you think?

I found myself reluctant to make any plans as the year started, let alone flexible plans. It seemed futile with all the current uncertainty to try and make any concrete plans. But then I realised that without plans, the danger is that I’ll drift through the year and actually do nothing. When you run a business that is not a good place to be! In fact, with wanting to develop my art business as well, I need to plan.

Making flexible plans

So, how do we cope with the uncertainty and yet still make decent, flexible plans?

For me, the first thing to consider is – what do I want to achieve? I take a look at what I would love to achieve – and I don’t really put a time-frame on it at this point. So I sit and allow myself to dream big. If I couldn’t fail and nothing stood in my way, what would my ideal life look like?

I allow myself to really visualise it. It is important to look at the feelings that come up – how does this ideal life make me feel?

Watercolour painting image

For example, my ultimate dream would be to have my own art studio space where I could paint, hold workshops and display art. In my ideal world I am a professional, working artist, making my living from being creative. My art business and current wellness business support each other. I have a beautiful home that I own outright, lots of outdoor space to call my own and plenty of free time to enjoy it. My partner and I are healthy and happy. Life is harmonious. So – how do I actually make plans to bring this about? Just dreaming about it won’t make it happen. I have to meet the universe half way!

A 90 day focus

I take one part of it and make that my focus. For example, in order to make art my living, I need to actually create art that sells. The secret of good planning is flexibility and focus. Rather than plan for the next 12 months and allow overwhelm to set in, simply plan for the next 90 days.

A 3 month window of opportunity is perfect for focus. In fact, my coaching plans run over 90 days for this very reason.

So, taking my example, I need to focus for the next 90 days on creating art that sells. Time to work backwards now and funnel that vision into action steps. What do I need to do first?

Well, I need to decide what I want to create – right? So I did a little work and training and decided that a watercolour collection would be the perfect focus for me just now. But that is still not focused enough – a collection of what? OK, let me think – a collection of birds and wildlife. OK – great – how many pieces then? Let’s say a minimum of 15 and maximum of 30 – that would be a good collection size.

Again, I am allowing myself some flexibility here with the number of pieces. Assuming each piece takes 8 hours to create then I work backwards to give myself a deadline. I look at my diary – what other commitments have I already got?

Use a planner

Well, since I run a full time wellness business I do have quite a few other commitments to factor in. So I get out the year planner and pop in the workshops, classes and appointments that are already booked. I block out some planning and prep time for these items and factor in my admin time (for the boring stuff like paperwork and accounts). Now I can see what is left. I also block out free time – time for myself and my partner – otherwise it is all work and no play.

With the time that is left I block out some time in the diary that can be art days. Within these art days I then look at what actions I can take to get this project off the ground. In other words – what steps do I need to take now to create this collection? OK, well I need reference photographs. So I block out time to find them. What else? I need time to edit and print these photographs to make them ready for me to draw from and paint. Again, I block out this time in the planner. Right, what else? I’ll need time to actually paint each piece and allow it to dry. Once more, this goes into the diary – very soon the 90 days are full up.

So, can you see that all of a sudden I have taken a big dream and condensed it into a manageable chunk of action? I have still allowed myself flexibility by adding in free time to the diary and time to play.

Motivation and Action

By doing this I have given myself the ability to make something happen. I have gone from not having any concrete plans to having a full 90 day structured plan of action. This allows me to gain motivation and traction. As I take action and get things done this motivates me to keep going and move forward. And by leaving gaps in the planner for fun, I have space for flexibility. This means if I don’t feel like creating art one day I can move it to another space and do something else instead.

So let me know your thoughts on this – do you plan? Maybe you’d like some help putting plans in place or creating goals to work towards. If so, please do get in touch with me – I have some coaching spaces opening up in February so perhaps you’d like to take advantage of this and get started on making your plans a reality.

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