To Be A Successful Planner, You'll Need A Crayon!

“Well I’m just not a planner!” was what a client said when we were talking about designing an extraordinary year for him and his business.

With no grace or mercy, I leaned forward and told him, “You need to suck those words right back in even if you have to choke on them!”

It has been amazing to hear how many people have said that to me over the past number of weeks as I have launched my “Design An Extraordinary Year!” workshop.

As I have coached people to stop speaking those negative words over themselves, the response I often get is: “You just don’t understand because you’ve always been a planner! “

I bust out laughing every time I hear that. The thought that comes to my mind is that they should interview my mom, my dad, my teachers, my band directors, my roommates in college — on and on.

I couldn’t plan my way from my bed to my closet every morning! I just figured things out as I went along. That was plenty good enough for me.

So you may be wondering; how did I go from that lack of a plan to leading a program to help others “design an extraordinary year?”

My wake-up call came years ago when I was attending a Zig Ziglar conference. He was talking about happy marriages. He said, “Early in my marriage, I would begin planning for Valentine’s Day on February 15!” My first thought was, “Dude! She’s already mad by then!”

I didn’t get the point until he said, “As I got older, I learned that I needed to begin planning for her birthday next year, the day after her birthday this year!”

He went on to say that all great business leaders and successful business owners devote great time and effort to planning the next year, the next five years, the next ten years. At that point, I knew I was guilty as charged. Did everyone else here do this already? Was I the only one who staggered from day to day without a plan? I wanted to crawl under my chair.

I wish I could say that after getting that wake-up call, I became the best planner ever overnight! That would be a lie! I wanted to be a good planner when I first heard it–but it took time for me to figure it out.

My long learning process caused me to create my workshop, “Design an Extraordinary Year.” I learned that most others, and maybe you, were just like me. They knew they should plan, they wanted to plan. Many knew that the problems in their marriage, or in their businesses, were the result of a failure to plan. But they had no clue where to start.

In the workshop, I teach planning principles as we walk together through the process of planning a year. From that, you can plan your day, your week, your month. Or plan ten years out.

I teach some key steps to the process of planning. We’re going to talk about those here key steps this week.

But first, there’s more than just my gut feeling that planning was important … Research substantiates it!

Research reveals that the businesses where the leadership focuses on planning grow at a rate 30 times faster than those where leadership fails to plan regularly.

Keep in mind that we are talking about systemic planning, not just daydreaming about it as we drive home.

Research also indicates that 71% of the fastest-growing companies engage in such systemic planning.

Research on healthy marriages and relationships indicates that one of the key factors found in common is that partners plan together — they plan vacations, plan their family interactions, plan their finances.

Dave Ramsey advises couples to have a financial planning session at least monthly and preferably weekly. I have followed that guideline since I became certified as one of Dave’s financial coaches. I have seen tremendous results when couples follow this practice together!

In addition, marriage research indicates that couples who plan together report more intimacy. Perhaps this can be attributed to the fact that “romantic” planning creates unity and keeps couples on the same page.

Research also indicates that planning reduces stress in individuals, in relationships, and in business. It has also been noted as a key component of showing respect.

When we resist planning in both our business and personal lives, we are likely fearing a loss of spontaneity. But effective planning allows for spontaneity within a planned structure.

Here’s a working definition of “planning”:

The act of deciding in advance how to get to a goal or an outcome.

Let me get you started!

1. Plan your food for the next week.

Start with something simple.

I personally started with planning my food when I realized that food was a daily battle for me. I was in school, in the band, in “Keyettes,” and I worked at the movie theater. I didn’t eat breakfast, so while that was not an ideal decision, that meal was easy. Then for lunch, all of us girlfriends would usually leave campus for lunch. And we wasted half of our lunch break just deciding where to eat.

Because I wasn’t a planner then, I was always running late. It was not unusual for me to not have time to eat after band practice ended and going to work at the theater.

I’ve confessed before that I was a “sugar/carb-aholic” when I was younger – a rush of energy followed by a crash!  

When we would jump in the car at lunchtime, I would tell my friends that I wanted to eat at the Dairy Queen (because they had the best dipped ice cream cones). No one argued.

What I really liked to eat before I went to my job was chili Fritos and a giant Butterfinger. OMG! I even figured out that I could buy a week’s worth, keep them in my locker at school, and then grab them on my way to work.

OMG!  I loved how that all worked out!

Clearly, I had a LOT of work to do in my food planning! 

Once I started doing that planning, my life got dramatically better! No more “grab and go!”

We all eat, so I often have people start with planning their food a week in advance. You might be amazed at how much time you will save simply by planning. Plus, starting with planning your food is a non-threatening place to start.

 2. Start small with a 30-day test.

Whether it’s food or something else, decide one thing that you are going to do consistently for the next 30 days. It doesn’t have to be anything big. But if you do it consistently, you will see great results.

Did you know that if you make a 2 mm change now … that over the Did you know that if you make a 2 mm change now … that over the course of the next month it will grow? You may wonder, how big is 2 mm? Well, it’s the size of the tip of a Crayola! So it doesn’t need to be a massive change. But the 2 mm correction will accelerate and broaden something small over a 30 day period.

When I first started intentionally focusing on planning, I heard Oprah speaking about gratitude. I also heard many sermons on gratitude at about the same time. I knew how important gratitude was.

So I incorporated gratitude into my planning regimen.  I decided that, for 30 days,before I went to bed I would write down one thing I was grateful for that day.

At the time, I had no idea that I was literally re-programming my neurochemistry. But by the end of 30 days of writing just one thing, I noted that my struggle with depression had decreased significantly.

What will you do for the next 30 days? Do just one small thing that you’re committed to doing daily!

3. Tell yourself the truth by changing your self-talk! 

As a little girl, I was threatened with having my mouth washed out with soap if I ever said a “bad word.” I had no idea what bad words were, but I found out when I repeated a bad word I had heard at school. My dad literally washed my tongue and teeth with a bar of soap! (I’m not endorsing this practice!)

So when people tell me that “I’m just not a planner,” I tell them, “Don’t make me wash your mouth out with soap!” (It’s funny, because the younger generation has no idea what that means. So even though they look perplexed when I say it, the very thought elicits a very horrible facial expression!)

What am I saying when I admonish them in this way?  Change your self-talk!

So I’m telling you the same thing! Why would any of us tell ourselves lies that don’t help us?  Stop it!

It’s OK to tell yourself that you’re “a planner in progress.” But saying you are just not a planner is a lie.

You plan enough to put the car in reverse when you want to back up. You plan enough to get some water when you’re thirsty.

So don’t try to tell me you “can’t plan!”

You may not have mastered the skill yet, but you can! And you will!

The truth is, most people do not plan because of one of several reasons:

  • You are afraid you will lose your ability to be spontaneous
  • You’ve never been taught how to plan and/or didn’t see it modeled
  • You are so busy cleaning up messes from not planning that you don’t have the time or energy to plan

Regardless of your planning failures, put that away. Make a decision to become a planner.

4. Plan your “triumphant trio” for next week.


I began doing this when I started college. (I had heard a sermon about a “triumph” but in the sermon, “trio” had nothing to do with it. I just liked the way the words sounded together! I know; I know – not very sophisticated!)

Just a few years ago, I began working with Michael Hyatt, and he calls this concept your “big three.”

Whatever you call it, what are the three goals that, if you accomplish them in this next week, the accomplishment would: 

  • Make you a better person
  • Propel you toward your goals
  • Make you more successful as a spouse, partner, or professional
  • Move you closer to your purpose and your dreams

Decide to be sure to make progress every single day on your triumphant trio.

I still have the tattered little book where I wrote my first triumphant trio.

It was long ago. My first triumphant trio was:

  • Memorize my solo for the band contest
  • Ace my botany exam
  • Write encouraging notes to my roommates

It’s a practice I continue today. I write my trio on Sunday night. Then the next Sunday night I look back at how I did on those three and write three more. (Sometimes I have to repeat one or more.  Yes, I’m just as human as you are!)

Last week my triumphant trio was:

  • Fast and pray three days for specific guidance
  • Launch my “Created for More” program again
  • Prepare for 2020 taxes by scanning all receipts and downloading all financial transactions

I can already check those off, and Sunday evening I will select three more.

What will your triumphant trio be for this week?

5. Write a note to yourself about how valuable your time is and how valuable you are.

Another reason that we don’t plan is that we fail to realize how valuable we are, how valuable our time is.

When we are young, we never think about our time being valuable. Why would we?  Time is endless when we are young.  I just showed up where I was supposed to be and did the least I had to do to get by. I never considered that my time might be valuable.

The tragedy in this is that we also tend to fail to put value on ourselves. I did what I was supposed to do, but never considered that I might bring value to what I did.

When I was young, I attended a workshop where we were all asked to write a note to ourselves about the value of our time, the value of our presence, and the value of our being.

What? I stared at the lines on the paper, dumbfounded. Truly dumbfounded. What on earth could I write?

My consternation was not a sense of false humility. It was just pure speechless.

Because I saw other people around me scribbling on their paper, I was embarrassed. I could feel hot tears forming. I just hoped to God that others would not see my tears splatter on my page.

Although this reaction may seem humorous, I can assure you there was nothing humorous about it at the time. I didn’t want to sit there frozen, so I started writing the words to the little song I learned as a child, “Jesus loves me, this I know…”

I hope you’re not at this point in your life, but my guess is that you’ve had a moment like that.

The truth is, you are valuable. Your time is valuable. Your presence is valuable.

Sometimes we think we’ve done too much wrong, or haven’t done enough right, or that we are just ordinary.

If I were sitting with you right now, I would lean into you, look you right in the eye, and say: “There is nothing ordinary about you. You haven’t done too much wrong, you haven’t failed to do enough right. You, my friend, are valuable!”

So I’m asking you to do the same thing that I was asked to do on that day. I am asking you to write a note to yourself about the value of you, the value of your time. And if no words come to your mind, just use the quote above. Then change the “you are” to “I am.”

Start there. Say it to yourself often. You will begin to feel your value.

Finally, keep in mind that all world changers have come to understand the need for planning. If we don’t plan, we drift. Drifting will not take you to a destination that you would have chosen if you had only planned.

No one gets married thinking they will end up divorced. But they often don’t plan a wonderful and healthy relationship. The risk is drifting to divorce.

Likewise, we don’t start a business thinking it will fail. But if we don’t plan, we run a great risk of failure.

You have dreams. I know you do. You have a yearning deep inside to make a difference. Without planning, you are likely to drift along and never realize your dreams.

My hope for you is that you will begin with these five steps if you’re just getting started. Your time is valuable, you are valuable, and others need what’s inside of you. Plan to make a difference!


If you’re interested in my upcoming workshop: “Design an Extraordinary Year” click here for more information.