Does it ever feel like your business is adrift? Do you wish you could make stronger plans that brought you closer to your goals or would be easier to follow through with?

Many years of working with business owners and executives have taught us that planning isn’t as straightforward as it seems. Whether it’s putting together a digital marketing strategy or just a new set of policies and promotions, decision-makers at every level sometimes struggle to turn their thoughts and ideas into actionable tactics.

Through the course of helping our clients with things like web design, search engine optimization, and pay-per-click advertising, we’ve gotten pretty good at developing plans that work. Today, we want to share a few pieces of advice we think can make all the difference when looking ahead to the future…

Decide What Matters

What are you trying to accomplish in your business or career? This is a question we often ask as part of the web design discovery process, and it’s surprising how often clients can’t come up with a great answer. If you want to make more money or provide for your family, define for yourself what “success” in that area would look like. Just as importantly, figure out what you’re willing to give up and what it is you don’t want to accomplish. Until you know what actually matters to you, planning is just the equivalent of busywork.

Be Realistic

Smart business planning requires you to be realistic in a couple of ways. First, you have to think about the results that can be generated. It’s not unusual for new clients to tell us that they want to quadruple their sales in a few months, for example, even though it might not be feasible. The second part of the equation is being realistic about what you can contribute in terms of time and money. You don’t want to bite off more than you can chew and leave a project half-finished. Find the balance between these two types of realism, and you’ll have a strategy you can move forward with.

Separate Principles From Tactics

Within your plan are going to be a set of firm goals, along with some activities you can follow to achieve them. Those ideas – the outcomes that matter – shouldn’t change unless you have a compelling reason to alter your thinking. The specific steps, though, can always be altered if you think of something that might be more efficient or effective. In other words, you have to be able to identify your key principles and separate them from the tactics used to carry those principles out. You should never lose sight of your core values, and can’t become too attached to any specific tool, process, or workflow.

Don’t be Afraid to Revisit Your Ideas

If you invent the perfect business plan or strategy, you’ll probably be the first person in history to do so. Even great plans have to be altered from time to time because situations change and unknown variables come into play. Knowing that, you should approach planning with the idea that you’re never finished. Create an actionable strategy you can begin with, but don’t hesitate to revisit your ideas – or even change course altogether – if it’s warranted by real-world results.

A lot of thought is put into the ways businesses of all sizes can follow through with their plans, but far too many entrepreneurs, managers, and executives rush through the initial planning phase itself. We hope you’ll follow the advice we’ve laid out today and start building smarter strategies for the future. Then, you’ll see just how much you can accomplish once you have the perfect plan in place.