I am often asked, how I retired in my 30’s and how I can afford to enjoy a good quality of life on a fixed income. The answer? I planned early. I plan for most things in my life, especially contingencies, and have found it has worked well for me in reducing stress and achieving financial and health goals. I view planning as crucial to being successful.
My motivation for writing and the relevance of this piece is to help somebody achieve their goals and live a happier life. This article is written for those who think they don’t know how to plan or who could plan more methodically.
If you do not believe you plan regularly, or even ever, I’m willing to bet that you probably plan more than you think. If you have ever gone anywhere with any intent at all, you will have made a small plan. What I’m presenting here is a slightly more methodical approach to what most people do instinctively everyday.
In my time in the military I have gone to many schools and courses that teach many techniques of planning. At university we also discussed all manner of ways to plan things. There are as many steps to planning as there are publications covering the topic. The four steps that I have picked out have been identified by others in the past and given many labels. The labels I’m using I came up with over a cup of coffee, their corniness may (or may not) aid in retention. The four steps operate in a cycle and are: Start, Stop, Search, and Supervise.
- · START – Identify where you are.
The most important part of this step is to be honest. As with all the steps, depending on what you are planning to do this may or may not be very complex. Look at all relevant materials. When you think you have found everything, ask a friend what they would look at to ensure you have considered everything you need to.
- · STOP – Identify where you want to be.
Identify what you want. Then ask yourself why you want to meet that goal. Knowing why you want to achieve something can open up opportunities, as there oftentimes is more than one way to skin a cat. The most important thing to remember here is to be realistic and to set a limit (often time but not always) in order to achieve the goal. Determine how you will know when you have achieved your goal.
- · SEARCH – Determine how you want to achieve the goal and measures of success or failure.
This may require a bit of creativity. It’s all fine and well having a goal, but unless you can come up with a way of getting there it will likely never come to fruition. Looking carefully at all the options at this point may alter the original goal, or cause it to be abandoned or delayed.
At this stage units of measure / requirements / should be developed in order to assess progress. If you have no effective means of measure, it becomes very difficult to ascertain whether or not you will meet your goal on time, if ever.
- · SUPERVISE – Execute, Monitor, Reassess
You’ve thought about things long enough, it’s time to act! Begin executing your plan, and always “Keeping your eyes on the prize”. Remembering what your goal is will help guide your decisions and prevent getting lost in minutia or chasing red herrings.
Check your results against your units of measure to ensure you are meeting your goals on time. If you are not satisfied with your progress, adjust your goal, or methods as required. This is where the cyclic nature of planning becomes most obvious, as constant reevaluation is key.
The four steps outlined above can be used in planning many of life’s eventualities. Below is an example of how planning can be used to lose weight.
Bill is a great guy who loves eating but has become overweight and wants to get back to a healthy weight again.
Bill stands on a scale and discovers he currently weighs 250 lbs.
Bill researches what a healthy weight for a man his height should be and settles on a target weight of 190 lbs. Bill decides to lose the excess 60 lbs in six months.
Bill reads up on getting healthy and determines that balancing his caloric intake against his caloric expenditure seems to be the way ahead. He invests in an app for his phone to help keep his food and workout diary. Upon further research, Bill finds that most of the advice he sees suggests losing two pounds a week is the most sustainable and realistic goal he could achieve. Thus 60 lbs divided by 2 pounds a week equals, 30 weeks, which is pretty close to his six-month deadline. With the new facts to hand Bill, revises the deadline for his goal to 30 weeks.
Bill will need to average about 1350 calories a day in order to lose two pounds a week. He realizes that unless he works out to “gain” calories, he’s going to be very hungry. Bill has decided to begin working out for an hour at least three days a week but more if he can find time to do so.
Bill began his new regime on Monday. He tracks his calories on a daily and weekly basis and weighs himself every Monday morning. Bill has learned what to eat to remain full for longer so he is not always hungry. He has made a deliberate effort to move more and workout. He noticed positive results so far and is slightly ahead of timeline due to an initial larger than expected loss. Bill will continue his methods and evaluations.
With every step along the way, honesty is very important. Being honest in your planning and execution will determine the success or failure of your venture.
Planning and contingency planning helps one to make their own good luck and happiness. Good luck to you.