In order to maintain that balance, here’s a key technique you can use in your life to help keep you on the right track: “visual chain thinking.”
Ambitious people know that each step toward their goals is not a singular step. Each discipline is not a singular discipline. Each project is not a singular project. They see everything they do—and every discipline they adhere to—as a link in the chain of events and actions that will lead them to their final destination. Every action and every discipline achieved today is a link in the chain. Every action and every discipline achieved tomorrow is a link. And every action and every discipline achieved in the more distant future is also a link.
Your direction, activities and disciplines all make up crucial links in your chain of success. When you can see that one thing affects everything else, when you come to realize that every discipline affects every discipline, when you look at your future as a chain that needs strong links all along the way… then you’ll build a reservoir of strength and courage that will serve you will during the down times.
When you can see that every link in the chain will eventually lead you to the things you want most out of life and to the person you want to become, then you won’t grow discouraged, fearful or impatient with today. When you can see where you’re going through visual chain thinking, even on the toughest days, you’ll keep moving toward your goals because you know where you’re going.
Building your visual chain of thought begins when you have well-defined plans for your career, your family activities, your investments and your health. Your plans and goals are your visual chain. You know where you’re going before you get there.
It’s ironic how we all understand the importance of mapping out a strategy for a football game or a basketball game. Not one professional team in the world begins a game without a game plan. But few of us take the time to map out such a strategy for our lives.
It’s so important to make this sort of plan. Here’s the first rule for your game plan of life: Don’t begin the activities of your day until you know exactly what you plan to accomplish. Don’t start your day until you have it planned. Do this every day. I know all this writing takes time and a disciplined effort. Remember, however, that reaching your goals is the fruitful result of discipline, not merely hope.
Once you’ve mastered the art of planning your day, you’re ready for the next level. Don’t begin the activities of your week until you know exactly what you plan to accomplish. Don’t start your week until you have it planned.
Just imagine what life would be like if you took time out every Sunday to plan your week. Come Friday, you wouldn’t be saying, “Boy, did this week fly by. Where did it go? What did I do?” No, if you plan your week before you start it, you’ll know exactly what you want to do, what you want to accomplish and what you need to work on. If you learn to plan your days as part of your overall game plan for the week, the parts will fit much better. Your days will be better. You will be more effective. You’ll be working smarter, not harder.
And when you’ve learned to plan your week, guess what? You’ve got to plan your month! Don’t start your month until you’ve mapped out your game plan.
By developing and following your game plan, your days, weeks and months all become part of a larger plan, a bigger design you develop, a long-term view of your life, a visual chain. You’ll start gaining a greater perspective of it all… because you are planning.
If visually seeing your future is new to you, if you’ve never developed a game plan before, let me offer a few tips. There are two things you need to understand before you create a game plan.
- A game plan, a visual chain of your future, is like a spreadsheet. Instead of listing numbers, list activities. It’s like a to-do list.
- The technique of developing a game plan can be used for a single day, a single project or a variety of projects that are happening simultaneously.
Here’s how you do it. Game plans work best on graph paper. Take a sheet of graph paper and make vertical columns corresponding to the number of days this plan is to cover. Then on the left-hand side of the paper, write the heading “Activities.” Under this heading, list all the activities to be accomplished within your time frame.
For example, you’ve got one week to finalize a marketing plan. It’s an overwhelming amount of work to complete, but it’s got to be done. So break it down piece by piece. The best way to start is by listing all of the individual components on the left-hand side of the page. Some of these things will need to be completed before others can be started. You need to obtain your market research results before you can determine your target market. You need to know your target market before you can develop your marketing strategy. You need to have your marketing strategy before you can create a budget for collateral materials, and so on.
When you break down the project piece by piece and deadline by deadline, you can be more effective in putting together the appropriate parts of the puzzle—and in doing your own work while delegating the rest.
The final result of developing your game plan is a clear visual presentation of the tasks before you. This method is used quite often in business to coordinate and develop projects of any length. It’s the only way to see the entire project on paper and manage its progress.
Admittedly, game plans are frustrating to create. They’re frustrating because it’s difficult to completely prioritize your life and all your projects. You might go through several sheets of graph paper before you produce the perfect format. But as soon as you develop your first one, you’ll see the value in this discipline.
Keep your game plan in plain sight. Put it up in your office where you can easily look at it. Have a copy of it at home and tape it to the bathroom mirror. Keep a copy in your journal for quick reference. Your game plan will serve as a constant reminder of all you need to do to get where you want to go.
If you’re doing all you’re scheduled to do, game plans are very rewarding. Day by day, week by week, month by month, you’ll see the magic of your dreams and plans turning into reality. You will have an incredible feeling of being in charge of your life, your surroundings and your future. It’s like creating a work of art on the biggest canvas imaginable. It’s creative. It’s beautiful.
This is powerful stuff. To dream a dream, plan for the dream, and then watch your dream turn into reality. Here’s what’s really powerful about creating game plans: You can see your future right before your eyes. So on those days when your energy isn’t up to par, your enthusiasm is a little low, your ambition isn’t pushing you forward and your attitude isn’t on the positive side, use your game plan to see how far you’ve come. Take the time to visualize exactly where you’re headed. On those days, it’s your discipline and visual chain of the future that will push you ahead. People and circumstances might try to set you back, but your visual chain will propel you toward your goals.