The year 2020 turned out to be a total disaster for most of us. Jobless claims in Japan have reached a three-year high at the end of 2020, and the unemployment rate in the U.S. is also towering over February averages in 2021.
So, how to plan for the future when everything seems to be up in the air?
One good thing comes from the pandemic is that we’re reorganizing our priorities to honor what really matters to us. And for many, “career” is top of the list.
Having a plan is one of the best stress-reduction strategies out there. A plan gives us a feeling of certainty and that we are in control in our lives. Researches show that a sense of control helps us stave off symptoms of depression and anxiety and can even decrease mortality risk. And the more we crave control, in fact, the higher achieving we tend to be.
So, planning is important.
And the method we should use to make the plan is even more important. Here I introduce micro-planning.
What is micro-planning? The basic idea is we take a larger vision and break it down into yearly, quarterly, monthly, weekly, and daily check-in practices to plan and adjust as necessary. Micro-planning is based on biomimicry, “a practice that learns from and mimics the strategies found in nature to solve human design problems – and find hope along the way”.
There are 6 elements of micro-planning:
- Purpose: Identifying the compelling purpose is the first step in micro-planning. Especially when it comes to career. New directions can feel risky, but when we look back at our career history, we often find a thread that connects what all of our different roles have had in common. That thread is a great place to start.
- The year: Make a plan for the year that aligns with our purpose, based on the best information we have available for the moment. In this step, we need to reflect on the previous year and what worked, also what didn’t work, and take into account past lessons we have learnt. Identity 1 to 3 areas we want to focus on. Some examples of this yearlong plan include a job search, pursuing growth opportunities in our current career, meeting and exceeding the current KPIs, etc.
- Quarters: At the beginning of each quarter, reassess what we have been working on and ask ourselves reflection and planning questions, including: What themes emerged this past quarter? What worked, and what didn’t? What did I learn? What needs to shift in my plan based on the new information and circumstances? Based on the answers to these questions, set goals for the next quarter. And limit the number of goals to less than 5.
- Months: Each month, take the goals for the quarter and assess where we stand with them. For any active goals, break them into specific projects and then break each project down into phases. Every project requires 4 distinct phases to get off the ground and achieve the results we want: planning and initiation, making it visible, completion and integration, and rest and reflection. For example, if our project is to “search for a new job”, the “plan and initiate” phase would be updating our resume, tapping into our network for potential opportunities, and searching for openings. The next “making it visible” phase would be applying for jobs, showing up for interviews, and following up after. The “complete and integrate” phase would be the onboarding phase once we receive our new job offer. Finally, the “rest and reflect” phase would be allowing ourselves to exhale and celebrate, knowing that a new cycle has begun.
- Weeks: At the start of each week, make a weekly to-do list, rather than a daily one that’s a mile long and leaves us feeling defeated when we shut down for the day. This weekly plan allows us to have a broader view of what’s ahead and gives us more flexibility to plan than our average to-do list.
- Days: Finally, we need to track our energy on a daily basis. Gathering data about ourselves, including our physical, mental, and emotional energy at the end of the day can give us powerful information as to how to optimize our workflow.
The world is changing dramatically all around us. We need to change with it by breaking down our planning processes into smaller chunks. We need to check in more frequently and adapt more naturally. The micro-planning method provides us a perfect way of doing this.