Want to win in life and in your career? Then 'plan your work, work your plan'

By Gene Chizik

Browse the self-help aisles of any bookstore, and you will find more books on what it takes to succeed than you could read in a lifetime.

There are countless books on achieving balance, being your best self, finding focus and whatever the latest fad is. Those are all important ideas, but I’ve found a much simpler explanation for why some people get what they want in life and others don’t.

You know why some people don’t get what they want?  They either don’t know what they want, or they don’t have the discipline to devise a plan to reach their goals.

As my wife will tell you, I have a plan for everything. I use an old-school paper calendar with color-coded events and appointments. Laugh if you want to, but guess what? It’s as foolproof as it gets. I don’t have to stress about my calendar synching with my phone or electronic invites ending up on a digital calendar.

I plan my day and my week in the next six months. My long-term goals are posted on the bathroom wall so I see them every day.

I don’t tackle a new project or hire help without a plan.

Our front yard has resembled a war zone lately while crews build new brick columns in the driveway and improve the landscaping. You can bet I asked to see a plan before the first plant was put in the ground.

Think about this: Would you build a new house with no plan? Would you feel confident if your builder just sketched out sloppy house plans on a napkin without giving it any thought or even asking what you want it to look like?

I hope not.

So why would anyone think it’s a good idea to try and build the life they want without a plan? 

It’s one thing to have dreams. It’s another thing to have a plan to make them come true. Life isn’t a Disney movie. Dreams don’t just happen. They take hard work, discipline and a commitment to a plan of action.

I’ve seen too many people get frustrated because they work hard and expend a lot of energy “winging it.” They either don’t know how to plan or they think it’s a waste of time. They spin their wheels and wonder why they are getting nowhere.

What I’ve discovered is meticulously planning my calendar far in advance helps me focus. Having a short-term and long-term plan for the goals I want to accomplish frees me to quit worrying about what I might be forgetting and instead focus like a laser on daily and hourly tasks that move me closer to my goal.

Are there setbacks? Sure. Just like turnovers and penalties slow our progress in a football game, mistakes and unanticipated obstacles sometimes slow us down. A good plan keeps us on track and helps us make smart adjustments when needed.

None of us ever feels like we have enough time, and it does take time to plan the right way—with specific action items that have deadlines and measurable outcomes. But once we invest the time and energy it takes to plan, it’s much easier to get into a flow. You can’t get into a flow if you’re always scrambling and wondering what to do next.

Once you have a plan in place, you don’t have to think about all you have to do anymore. You just do the work.

As my former players and assistant coaches have heard me say a million times: “Plan your work and work your plan.” It’s the surest path to success.

In the crazy world of college football, good coaches are good planners. They don’t ever “wing it.” Our plans for two-a-days were mapped out months in advance. When it comes to game planning, preparation and planning is everything. You don’t wing it, or you get beat.

Having a good game plan in a football game doesn’t mean you don’t make adjustments when things go wrong. They often do.  It’s a lot easier to make adjustments in a game if your practice time the week before has been well thought out, taking into account the many looks the opponent might give you, studying their tendencies and teaching your players what to expect when. You have to make every minute count in practice, just like in the competitive world of business.

Whether in football, business or life, winging it never works in the long run. The failure to plan will eventually reveal itself.

As a college football coach, you get to do some cool things. One of the coolest experiences I ever had was the opportunity to have lunch with former heavyweight champ Evander Holyfield. I asked Evander how he prepared for a fight.

He explained that he and his trainer would each devise a detailed plan for the fight. They would come together and take the best elements of each one and settle on one specific plan.

Sometimes the plan worked flawlessly, Evander said. Other times it didn’t, and it turned into a brawl. Instincts took over.

That’s how life is sometimes. Things don’t always go as planned. 

What I can tell you from experience is the best chance you have of winning at life is planning your work and working your plan. Give it a try. You’ll be surprised how many goals you can accomplish!

Jack SmithComment