“The next time you launch a campaign, try an experiment: do not think about either your solid goals or your wishful dreams, and do not plan out your strategy on paper. Instead think deeply about what you have – the tools and material you will be working with. Ground yourself not in dreams and plans but in reality: think of your own skills, any political advantage you might have, the moral of your troops, how creatively you can use the means at your disposal. Then, out of that process, let your plans and goals blossom.”

– Robert Greene, The 33 Strategies of War

Are you an “over-planner?”

Do you ever feel like you spend too much time setting goals and making plans and not enough time actually “doing the work?”

I know I do. For years, I used complex goal setting and planning systems. I would obsess over the best goal setting and productivity methods. And my calendar looked more like a game of Tetris than a schedule.

There’s nothing wrong with goal setting or planning. It’s good to have a vision for the future, unless that vision blinds you from your current reality.

That’s why I like that quote above from Robert Greene. He suggests you “try an experiment” where you resist thinking about your goals or dreams so you can think of the tools and material you will be working with.

In other words, take time to assess your current situation, including all the resources you currently have at your disposal. Then come up with a strategy that’s based in reality, not fantasy.

Here are some questions you can ask to assess your current business situation:

  • What skills do you have that you could use (copywriting, sales, project management, negotiating, design, etc.)?
  • What relationships do you have that you could nurture today (clients, prospects, referral partners)?
  • What opportunities do you have that you haven’t acted on?
  • How much time do you have today to devote to your business?
  • What applications and programs do you already have that you could use better to grow your business?
  • Do you have any lists you could use to prospect or market to?
  • What has worked best in the past to grow your business?
  • What happened last time you tried to do what you’re attempting to do now?
  • How many clients do you currently have?
  • What was your business profit (or income) last month? Last quarter? Last year?
  • Do you have any open deals in your sales pipeline that you need to attend to?

Not all those questions will apply to your situation. But you get the idea. The point is to suspend your thinking about your goals temporarily so you can concentrate on reality.

Perhaps this is how you think already. But for those of us who are visionary types it’s not. We sometimes feel like these are “details” that we don’t want to be bothered with. We like to do things that excite and motivate us, so this type of exercise can feel boring.

But remember, not everything that’s healthy feels “exciting.” I wasn’t feeling excited when I drove to the gym tonight, but I like the results I get, so I go. The same is true in business. We may not get excited by assessing our current situation but it’s necessary if we want to figure out how to go from where we are to where we want to be.

And this doesn’t mean you should never entertain big dreams again. But every now and then take time to step out of the skybox and unto the field. Don’t think about the whole season or if you’ll make it to the playoffs, just focus on the next play.