In today's economy, 5-year and even 1-year career plans don't make a ton of sense. Too much changes too quickly and it's difficult to anticipate where things will be a year or 5 years from now.
But beyond that, our careers are living, evolving entities that require regular care and feeding, work that is best done in a shorter time frame.
The Problems with Longer-Term Career Planning
One issue with longer planning periods is that it's easier for us to procrastinate. We feel like we have lots of time to make goals happen, so we keep putting off taking action toward those goals.
But when we are dealing with a 30-day time frame, we can be more nimble and agile. We have a shorter horizon for achieving goals and this encourages us to take concrete actions. We can more easily "course-correct" and we are having to be accountable to ourselves on a more frequent basis.
Also, 30 day time frames encourage us to be more experimental with our careers. We can say "let's see what happens if I spend the next 30 day's focused on doing this." That's enough time to see some real results, but not so long that it feels like we're committing to something more "permanent."
How to Plan in 30 Day Increments
1. Figure out what you want to work on for the next 30 days.
Start by figuring out where you want to focus your attention for the next 30 days.
I would suggest doing this Career Resilience assessment to give you a snapshot of where your career is at and what actions you might want to take. Or you may know that you want to do some work in one of the 4 practices of career resilience (Clarify, Connect, Create, Cope).
Another way to start is by looking at your calendar for the next 30 days. What's already coming up and what does it suggest to you about the goals you want to work on? Where are opportunities for experiments coming up?
You can also look at where you feel like you're having problems or challenges. Are you totally stressed by work and feeling like you need to look at your time management? Then maybe that's a place to go. Have meetings been an utter bore and you want to change things up? Then put your focus there.
2. Decide on Goals and Actions
Once you've figured out your area of focus, decide on goals and actions. What do you want to accomplish and how are you going to accomplish it?
Start by thinking about what you COULD do--brainstorm the possibilities.
Then look at what you WILL do--select the actions or activities that feel the most interesting and filled with energy for you.
So, for example, let's say that you've decided that you need to do more to expand and diversify your network (that "Connect" practice of career resilience).
You can decide that you will set a goal of meeting and connecting with 4 new people by the end of the month (1/week) and that you are going to experiment with some different ways to make those connections. Maybe you will try attending a local Meetup in an area of interest to you and making a connection there. You will also reach out to your existing network to ask for an introduction to someone you've been wanting to meet. You get the idea.
The point is for you to identify a goal and then the strategies you want to use in the next 30 days to get there.
4. Schedule the work!
I'm a firm believer in putting your career activities on your calendar. What's scheduled gets done. So take some time to lay out your plan on your calendar, selecting specific dates and times to work on your plan.
5. Build in accountability and a plan for keeping track of your results.
Figure out how you will hold yourself accountable for doing the work in the next 30 days.
I would also suggest building in some opportunities for reflection, at least at the midpoint and the end of the month.
This is self-explanatory.
At the end of the month, evaluate your progress, what you accomplished and what you learned.
Use what you've learned to set new goals and actions for the following month. Where you want to focus now? How can you build on your progress so far?
Periodically (once a quarter, twice a year), you should take a step back to see where you've been and where you want to go. Working in 30 day increments doesn't mean that you don't take longer-term looks at yourself and your situation. You just plan and implement differently.
As you become more skilled at doing your 30-day experiments, you can begin to see longer-term patterns or ideas to explore--maybe you will spend an entire quarter focused on building connections and create 3 30-day plans that really help you dig more deeply into making that happen. Or you decide that you want to start a side gig in the next 6 months, so you lay out your plan in those 30-day increments.
With a 30-day approach to career planning, you can keep the focus on taking action, learning from your experiences, and then iterating into the next opportunity. You are more likely to stay focused on key goals and to keep taking action toward achieving those goals.
A 30-day plan can be one of your most effective strategies for career transformation and it's definitely one to try out--at least for the next 30 days. . .