The Five Phases of Project Planning

David Allen says, regardless of task size, the human brain goes through a Natural Planning Model. This is the process we use daily to organize regular tasks: e.g., getting dressed or driving to work. We go ahead and complete them without much thought. We use the part of our brain that is conditioned for this natural type of planning.

Allen goes on to say, this is an ideal model for planning projects.

The five phases:

  1. Defining purpose and principles – Here’s where we ask “Why?” Answering this question defines the successful outcome, sets the boundaries, as well as focusing and motivating towards completion. You need to know where you’re going before you can plot the course.
  2. Outcome visioning – Allen says, if you can’t visualize the end result you will have trouble figuring out how to do it. He suggests going beyond mere completion and visualizing what “wildly successful” would look like.
  3. Brainstorming – Brainstorming generates the ideas for moving the project to completion. Allen recommends getting the ideas out of the head and onto paper. Writing serves to clear the mind enabling other ideas to come through. Writing also helps keep the focus on the project at hand.
  4. Organizing – Now that those ideas are out of your head and onto paper, start moving them around. Figure out which are the important pieces and sort by components, sequences and priorities.
  5. Identifying next actions – Of course, no GTD planning would be complete until Next Actions have been identified. What is the immediate action required to move the project forward on every front.

David Allen says this about the five phases, “Worked together, they create a whole model of how we get things done most effectively, with the least amount of effort. If any one of the five steps is done insufficiently, however, effectiveness can be severely limited.

David likes to quote this 18th-century inscription from a church in Sussex, England:

A vision without a task is but a dream,
a task without a vision is drudgery,
a vision and a task is the hope of the world.

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How to keep your business plan fresh

(NC)—If your business plan has been collecting dust since you launched, it’s likely time to refresh. Updating your business plan on a regular basis is critical for any business to stay relevant and be successful in the future.

Elements of a business plan change in as little as a year—for example, sales targets, competitors and cash flow. A plan should be a continually evolving roadmap to where your want your business to be in the coming months and years.

Here are some common business-planning pitfalls.

Doing It Alonedevelop a business plan

It’s hard to be impartial when it comes to your own business. So involve employees, experts and other small business owners who may have an interest in the process. They can help you generate new ideas for the future.

Too Much Information

Keep it short and simple. Present your business ideas clearly and stick to the facts: incorporate market studies, benchmark reports and sales projections. Let these facts persuade your investors or lenders that your business will make a profit.

The Wrong Details for the Wrong Audience

You don’t want too much information, but you need to include the numbers and facts that back up your ideas.

If you want lenders or investors to take your business plan seriously, make sure the format is appropriate for your audience and look into different templates and sample business plans. Canada Business Ontario has free templates and sample business plans for a variety of industries and a business planning video to help get you started. They also offer secondary market research and demographic information to get you started. Call the Business Info Line at 1-888-745-8888 or visit www.canadabusiness.ca.

Filing It Away

A business plan can give you an objective picture of the viability of new projects. But it can only do this if you keep it up to date and refer to it regularly. Create a semi-annual or annual schedule to keep it fresh and current.

Continuous business planning helps identify opportunities, competition and changing industry trends. Your business plan will not only sell your idea to potential investors or lenders, it will also keep your business goals on track.

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