The Power of One: Scalable Planning for Success

Systems work because we train, and in a crisis, we fall to the level of our training. If our training revolves around using systems, we go back to the system. Some systems are complex, and we are involved in following or creating grandiose plans. But life doesn’t like plans, as a famous general said, “planning is invaluable, plans are useless.” If the system we use is too complex, then we stop using it when things get rough. Every good system requires that we dial things back to one. There needs to be a way to fall back to one, not to zero. Zero is nothing. One is still doing stuff.

Lots of people recognize this. There’s even a huge forum on a subreddit dedicated to zero, no more zero days. Just do a little bit every single day. The author James Clear talks about this in Atomic Habits. We don’t need grandiose plans, necessarily. In fact, often grandiose plans are the things that hold us back from achieving our goals.

My youngest brother is a capable Mandarin speaker. When he moved to Taiwan, I asked friends to tell me, objectively, as best they could, how good he was. They told me that he spoke like a high schooler. Since elementary school, he just learned one new word every day. He learned different sentences and different ways to use that word, but he just learned one word. My brother knew it was a marathon, and everyone else was trying to compete against his marathon skills with sprinting skills.

Most addictions start that way too. Just play one new level or take one more turn. Turns out, just one more news story or scrolling down just one more page in our infinite news feeds. There is power in that one, precisely because it’s easy and because it’s not zero.

Places where people fail often are planning: long-term planning, quarterly planning, monthly planning, weekly planning, and daily planning. Sometimes you just need planning systems that allow you to dial things back down to one.

So here’s your planning system, Scalable Planning. The beauty of it is that you don’t need much more. You can do it wherever you want. You don’t even need paper, although that might help.

Let’s start with 25-year planning. We’re only going to look at the ones, the base level of Scalable Planning. Here’s your question for 25-year planning: If I could do anything in the world in 25 years, if resources were not a problem, if talent were not a problem, if energy were not a problem, what’s the one thing I would accomplish in the next 25 years? This can and should be a wild goal, and it should be extremely embarrassing for you to share with others.

For Scalable Quarterly Planning, consider what one major milestone or goal you want to achieve within the next three months that will bring you closer to your 25-year plan. Break down your long-term goal into smaller, manageable steps that you can realistically accomplish within a shorter timeframe.

Scalable Weekly Planning involves determining one key objective or task you need to focus on during the week. This should be a priority that aligns with your quarterly goal and ultimately contributes to your long-term plan.

Minimum Scalable Planning is all you need to do. You should reevaluate your plan every quarter. Businesses have a quarterly review, and plenty of people think you should have a quarterly review too. It’s a perfect time to update your 25-year plan. And if all it takes is a few minutes of brainstorming to write down one line, you’ve set your Scalable Monthly Plan, Scalable Quarterly Planning, Scalable Monthly Planning, and Scalable Weekly Planning.

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