““It is a bad plan that admits of no modification.”” – Publilius Syrus (the first century B.C.)

In Message #155, we talked about the way Jack Welch used a Master Plan to communicate and achieve his vision for General Electric. In Message #191, I suggested that this was the best way for you to achieve your own business goals.

A Master Plan, as you’ll remember, is what some professional sports coaches use to lead and motivate their teams when the prospect of winning a league championship that year or even the following one is next to zero. They know that instead of pumping up their players on the impossible dream, it’s much more realistic – and can be just as exciting for them – to chart a longer-term success plan that will take them where they can hope to be.

The same process can help you achieve your personal goals.

You can take some time out today to create your own personal Master Plan that will be not only the foundation but also the blueprint of your success.

A Master Plan says that you are serious about your life goals. It is a formal contract between the visionary you and the daily, working you that lays out, point by point, what exactly has to be done to achieve all your majorobjectives over time.

The Master Plan works because it takes very large, sometimes very nebulous, ambitions and breaks them down into specific tasks – things you have to learn, things you have to know, and things you have to do. Transforming dreams into tasks may take away some of the romance, but what you’ll get instead is a growing excitement about how increasingly likely it is that you will accomplish your dreams.

I can tell you from personal experience that a Master Plan works. I am getting stuff done that I’ve been dreaming about for years. And I’ve made more progress toward my secondary and tertiary life goals – which are always the objectives that fall behind when you don’t have a detailed plan to follow.

So your action task for today is to spend at least one hour – all day if you need to – refining your personal Master Plan.

If you haven’t done it already, start now. Begin at the end by thinking about how you want to be remembered after you are gone. Make sure this ultimate goal is connected to your four Life Goals (see Message #102). Then figure out what you need to do in the next five years to achieve each one of those life goals. This will give you four five-year objectives, each tied to a lifetime goal.

Now, for each of your four major goals, determine what you have to get done this year to be on track. Once you’ve identified your one-year targets, do a monthly accomplishment list . . . and then a weekly list . . . and then review, revise, or compose today’s task list accordingly.

Your tasks will break down into these categories: (1) “Important and Urgent,” (2) “Important but Not Urgent,” (3) “Unimportant but Urgent,” and (4) “Unimportant and Not Urgent.” Make sure your daily task list contains nothing that is “Unimportant and Not Urgent” and a diminishing number of “Unimportant but Urgent” items (since they indicate that you are not in control of your schedule). But, most importantly, highlight the “Important but Not Urgent” items – for they (and not the” Important and Urgent” ones) are the ones that even hard-working people fail to get to . . . and thereby fail at their lifetime goals.

If this seems all too banal and calculating, forgive me – but do it anyway. The reason most of us don’t achieve our ambitions is NOT that we aren’t smart enough, shrewd enough, or complicated enough. It’s that we are emotionally too complex, shrewd, and smart. We allow ourselves too many subconscious conflicts of interest which stall our progress or derail us.

Making a Master Plan work is about simplifying your interests and acting upon them in a very simple way. When you get the emotional gratification of taking one forward step toward one cherished goal, it will make it that much easier to take the next step.

Think of your Master Plan as a behavior-response system for the ultrasophisticated (and highly interesting) YOU.

To perform better than you have in the past (and achieve more than you have so far), you have to act differently now. And if you really want to achieve those dreams you dream about, you have to make sure that what you do today – this very day, not tomorrow – will move you closer to those dreams.

So finish that Master Plan today. And work it all the way through to your dally task list. Make sure you highlight the “Important but Not Urgent” tasks. And don’t leave your workplace until they are done. Then tomorrow . . . do it all again.

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