Why entrepreneurs should only plan ahead 90 days

Plan ahead 90 days

I get it. You’re an entrepreneur.

So that means you have to have a one-year plan, a three-year plan, and a five-year plan–all with their own backup plans each. Right?

I disagree.

In fact, most of the successful independent entrepreneurs that I know personally do three things:

  1. They think big.
  2. They start small.
  3. They don’t go overboard with goals and plans.

It can be easy while you’re thinking big to get caught up in making plans for the next decade.

In the next ten years, not only will you have quit your job and built a thriving client base, but you will have saved $100k in the bank, hired 10 employees, and found a way to spend your winters in sunny Mexico.

Good luck.

I mean, I’m not saying you can’t do it.

I’m just saying planning the details of the next 10 years is next to impossible.

Think about it for a minute: ten years ago, Twitter wasn’t even invented. In fact, it was still two years away. Hardly anyone in the world knew who Barrack Obama was, and Taco Bell wasn’t serving breakfast.

A lot can change in 10 years.

So while it’s good to plan ahead, give this a whirl instead: try planning out the next 90 days.

Just 90 days.

You can have dreams and ideas that span further than that (way into the future if you want), but as for specific tasks and goals, stick to a shorter window of time.

Why?

Because things are changing so rapidly. Goals and tasks you plan on today may become irrelevant quicker than you thought.

Still not convinced? Here are a few rapid-fire reasons you should focus more on your 90-day plan than your 1-year, 3-year, or 5-year plan.

  1. It makes you more nimble as a business allowing you to adapt to change.
  2. It makes everything more realistic. The most common reason entrepreneurs fizzle out is because they get discouraged.
  3. It helps you measure growth. Taking a tally every 90 days can motivate you and help you grow.
  4. It breaks down overwhelming goals and aspirations into bite-sized pieces that you’re sure you can tackle.

One disclaimer: There’s still a place for BHAGs.

What’s a BHAG?

It’s stands for “Big Hairy Audacious Goal” and it’s a common practice among entrepreneurs and business-builders around the world.

A BHAG is a “pie in the sky” goal. Something you’ll achieve “one day.” They generally don’t have a timeline, but you know that’s the way you want to go. And one day, you want to achieve your BHAG.

Here’s how I see it:

The BHAG is the mountain in the distance. You know if you walk (or run) in its direction, you’ll eventually make it to the mountain top.

But your goals involve the journey in getting to the mountain. “I’ll walk 12 miles today and then camp for the night.”

You’re thinking big (the mountain), but planning and setting goals in short increments (12 miles and camp).

This tactic has worked for me as I’ve built a few businesses here or there and, frankly, I enjoy the journey more when I don’t know exactly what to expect. It makes business-building more of an adventure than a chore.

And it’s brought me a fair amount of success in my many 90-days.

What do you think? Could this strategy work for you and your business? Share in the comments.

About Preston D Lee

Preston is a web designer, entrepreneur, and the founder of this blog. @prestondlee

Comments

  1. i so agree. This post right her is right on point. People get soooo far into planning the future that they freeze in fear of how to get there. it takes dedication and action. Get up, get it done! #entrepreneurs rock.

  2. Wise advice and not just for entrepreneurs. I’ve seen and worked in a number of small businesses (>50 employees) where so much time was spent on long-term goals that the “here and now of what can we accomplish this week, month, quarter, year” was often neglected to the significant detriment if the company. So while those BHAG are great to have it really is important to always be aware that you need to navigate the near future well to be certain you’ll survive to ever have a chance to achieve those long-range goals.

  3. I’m with you, Preston – I enjoy a little bit of adventure rather than a set routine. It’s one of my favorite things about freelancing, really – that it’s not day-in, day-out the same thing (not by a long shot!) that I’m required to do, to be, to dress like, to work on, to attend, etc.

    I usually set some yearly goals regarding finances and writing, and then I set some short-term goals, often regarding internal design projects.

    Truthfully, I’ve usually got a mental list of really short-term goals (today, this weekend, this week, this month) to help me keep on track with projects, work-life balance, and general sanity…errr…mental health. :D

    Love your approach!

    April

  4. :… and Taco bell wasn’t serving breakfast” HAHAHAAA… thanks for adding a bit of humor into your posts!

  5. Great advice (I particularly enjoyed your quote about how much has changed in ten years). I can certainly see the benefits of planning in the short term verses the long term – when I graduated high school I felt pressured to have a solid ten-year plan set up before starting university.

    That plan was scrapped almost immediately, and the more time I spend in the real world the more I realize spontaneity is a valuable life skill. I refer to it as the rock n’ roll mentality (as most of my musician friends have this mindset) — You live life in the moment, plan for the short term, but always keep your eye on the ultimate dream (or BHAG).

    I’ve been debating whether or not to go back to the planner’s mind-set as I venture into freelancing, but now I’m much more confident taking things a few months at a time.

  6. Inspiring indeed. I totally agree…you are right on the facts. Being realistic with our goals is the way to go. Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us :)

  7. what things could be planned in 90 days?… just need some examples as I liked the idea and want to try.. but I don’t want to try bad.

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