How to turn a big dream into a real plan
by Christie Browning
"I don't lack for great ideas ... I lack in ways to implement those ideas!"
Can anybody else relate to this comment? While having a discussion with a businesswoman, she made it clear that she has an abundance of ideas and dreams bigger than the sky. However, boiling down those dreams and creating a plan to implement those ideas is where she struggled most.
As the conversation continued, it was evident that this accomplished, educated business owner knew the steps she needed to take to launch an idea. She was able to identify what needed to be done. But overwhelm set in when it was time to act on those steps.
"It's not like I don't know what to do. I can see the steps I need to take in order to see an idea come to life. But when it comes to actually sitting down and making it happen... I get overwhelmed and can't focus."
I know she isn't the only one who has felt this way. I certainly have felt this frustration. In fact, this is the stage where so many dreams and ideas die. Ideas fizzle out when they seem to be so big that there is no clear place to start... so it never gets started. Ideas and dreams can lose momentum and die off. Sure, you might start off strong and enthusiastic, but the idea hits a bump in the road and just like that, motivation becomes derailed.
The good news is... you can change this pattern!
How to turn a big dream into a real plan
When your project hits a roadblock or has trouble getting off the ground, rather than giving up, make your big project a small one. Identify something you can do each day to get you to the finish line. Maybe it's something you do in as little as ten minutes a day, but that concentrated effort can propel your idea forward. What's one small step you can take? What is one thing you can do to move you closer to your goal?
Once you wrap your head around smaller, more manageable action to take, you can easily create a list of steps you need to complete to move ahead to completion.
Craft your action around the right questions
We've already identified that a big project is just made up of smaller projects or action steps. If you can list those smaller action steps and cross them off your list, you can accomplish your goal of seeing ideas and dreams come to fruition. However, the action steps themselves can leave you feeling flat if these steps are just wild goose chases or aren't focused on the goal at hand.
To avoid being busy for the sake of just being busy and to ensure you actually see the forward progression to getting your idea launched, there are a few easy questions to ask yourself. Let's take a real-life example... Your idea is to launch a quarterly publication to provide to your clients and customers to further your message and inform your readers. Here are the questions to ask:
1) Who: Who is going to participate in this publication? Will you complete it alone or have contributing writers involved? Who can you get to create graphics? Who can edit the content? Who will layout and design the publication?
2) What: What does this publication mean to you? To your readers? What purpose does it have? What would you hope readers would say about this new publication? What defines success for this idea?
3) When: When do you want to see the first issue come out? When do you need to have content put together? When do you need to get started? When do you start marketing the idea and availability of this publication?
4) Where: Where do you place/promote this publication? Where do you get it printed? Where are you going to find potential readers?
5) Why: Why is this something you want to invest in? Why do your readers need to read this? Why is this publication different than others like it? Why are you the one who should publish this particular quarterly publication?
So.... these first five questions get things rolling. Even if you only have a few minutes a day to spend on your idea, answering a question a day will help you identify your options and eliminate the rest. These questions provide some clarity. Answering these smaller questions helps you get focused on the right action. As you start to identify what you really want and what it looks like, you can create an action plan by answering the final question:
6) How: How do I make this happen? How do I begin to put the pieces together? How do I begin?
Given our example, your list might look like this:
- Research printing options with local printing companies
- Identify people I might know or have a connection with who might share their know-how
- Talk to potential contributing writers
- Determine layout and design options
- Calculate hard costs
- Will I charge for this publication? Is it a subscription option?
- Ask my current clients/customers what they want to see
- Create a landing page on my site for promotion
- Take a sample issue to events, networking meetings, etc. to share.
This isn't a complete list.. but you get the idea. Any big goal can become this simple. A brainstorm, brain-dump session by answering the Who, What, When, Where and Why can flush out your idea on paper. Then you can start with the action steps by answering the How. What this process does for you is:
1) Minimizes the vast idea to doable concepts and steps.
2) Takes it out of your head and dumps it on paper so you can achieve clarity, perspective and focus.
Action is the life-blood to your idea
This biggest hurdle most people face when it comes to seeing an idea come to life is mental! In fact, I would be so bold as to say it's probably the BIGGER than a financial hurdle, an education hurdle or a time hurdle. The key to momentum and progress is to stop thinking and get doing! Do something, even a small "something," to move ahead on your idea. Action is what keeps the idea alive. So how do you do that? You make it simple to move ahead by breaking down big ideas into simple, small steps. Maybe you can't design and print your publication in one day or even in one week, but you can identify the theme for that issue and make a list of articles you want to include.
A few other helpful hints
Dump and organize separately. If you're a perfectionist like me, you'll be tempted to want to create a complete list that not only is in perfect order but is written with the perfect pen on the perfect paper with the perfect penmanship. BUT.... what works best is to get over the perfectionist in you and dump all your thoughts on your ideas in one notebook (I like sketchbooks because they are unlined). Just scribble them down. Then... take your braindump and pull out actual steps that can be organized into phases or groups and put those in a more organized fashion in your day planner or another notebook.
Put it on your schedule. When something feels overwhelming, it is appealing to ignore it. Instead, commit yourself to time on a regular basis — whether it’s every day, every week, or every month. Block this time off so that you don’t allow other people or things to bleed into this space, and use that time to complete one or two small steps every time you sit down to work.
Focus on iterative processes. Iterative work is work that builds on itself. If you commit to reading 10 pages of a book every night, you will have read 3,650 pages a year. Look for small steps that will add up. Don't dismiss the small, humble beginnings!
Underestimate what you can do when you’re making your schedule. We tend to overestimate how quickly we can do things or how much we can do in one day. Instead of booking yourself solid — and increasing the likelihood of burnout — try underestimating yourself. Give yourself something that feels laughably manageable, so that it’s actually enjoyable and easy to do your work and accomplish your daily goals.
Make a list of downtime projects. We waste so much time in 10-minute increments. Instead of checking your email the next time you’re waiting around for a meeting to start, you should be making small progress on your big idea. The best way to make this happen is to keep a running list of things you can do in small chunks when you have a few minutes of downtime, so you always have a suggestion of something productive you could do. This might include things like googling a question you have, making a phone call, or loading a batch of posts to your blog.
Big dreams can happen!
Each of my "successes" started out as a big, overwhelming idea. But how did I see it happen? Taking one step at a time, every single day. I got clear on what I was doing, I got focused on the tasks I needed to do and when and I kept moving... little by little, day by day.
What is your big dream? How can we help you make progress on it? Visit us and share it on Facebook — we want to help you succeed!