“Someone’s sitting in the shade today because someone planted a tree a long time ago.” ― Warren Buffett
Introduction to Planning
Planning is the first step in any project, whether you’re going to the moon, building a birdhouse or creating a niche website that sells bird seed.
The problem with planning is that we think we don’t need to do it.
We skip planning because we know all the steps in our head. But it turns out that we don’t know as much as we think, or things change along the way.
Planning involves every aspect of a project, including:
- The scope (what is included and what is NOT included)
- Schedule (when will tasks be completed and in what order)
- Cost (budget considerations)
Let me explain a common scenario:
- A person, Lindsey, finds a blog posting from Smart Passive Income (It’s all out of date by the way…) from early 2010 that talks about link building for a niche website monetized with Google Adsense.
- The next day, Lindsey gets inspired and starts researching keywords, buys a domain, starts building a website, and applies for Adsense.
- A week after that, Lindsey finds Podcast Y from late 2012 and learns that things have changed since Website X published the blog posting.
- Lindsey realizes that the niche might not be a good one but reads on Podcast Z that starting a podcast could be a good way to get traffic.
- The next day, Lindsey orders a microphone so she can start a podcast to promote her first website.
- A day after that, she buys another domain so she can target a better keyword in another niche.
It might seem like Lindsey is a lady of action and can get things done. After all, she started 2 websites and a podcast in just a month!
She isn’t afraid to pivot, change directions, to follow a better strategy.
In reality, she started three projects without planning appropriately. The results is three unfinished projects with little to show for it.
She never took the time to plan out her ideas or think ahead.
In project management, SCOPE means the things you’re going to do. Something that’s OUT OF SCOPE is what you will NOT do.
What is Scope?
Let’s focus on scope planning today. Again, in the project management world scope means what you are going to do. Something that’s out of scope is what you will NOT do.
At at minimum, you should be able to define the scope as it applies to creating a (birdseed example) niche website:
- What is included in the project?
- Spend time brainstorming for a product niche – YES
- Decide on a niche – YES
- Creation of an affiliate website that sells bird seed from other suppliers – YES
- Creating useful content related to birding topics – YES
- What is NOT included?
- Sourcing or selling bird seed directly – NO
- Selling bird houses – NO
- Selling squirrel food – NO
I know what you’re thinking…
Okay, I get it.
You might be concerned that this type of plan will tie you into a very specific website without any flexibility.
Never fear. Your plan isn’t written in stone or anything. You can and should change your plans.
Project management has a process called Monitor and Control – that’s where you look at how things are working (monitoring), then change your actions (controlling) as needed. You can think of it as a feedback loop.
This process occurs throughout the project lifecycle. Corrective actions are taken to control the project performance.
Let’s look at an example…
You discover that the squirrel food market is HOT due to a Pixar movie series with a squirrel in the lead role. No problem since you can adjust your focus to include squirrel food in the scope of your niche website.
In the example, you monitored the performance of the market and discovered that squirrel food is selling well. Squirrel food was previously out of scope for your website project but can take corrective action to take advantage of the change in the market.
Here is what to do…
It is critical to plan before you take action. Literally, write or type it out.
- Figure out what the goal is.
- Determine what’s included and what isn’t.
- Write out all the steps to reach the goal.
I prefer to write it out. I get out a sheet of plain white copy paper and a Pilot G2 Pen. It’s messy and I can barely read the first draft.
The second draft looks considerably better. And by the third draft, I can type it out and feel good about the plan.
Just doing those steps will add clarity to whatever it is you’re doing. It’s amazing. It actually removes that feeling of overwhelm when you have some much to do.