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Growth Advance Mag 18 Creating Your SWAP

By Melanie Ethridge on Jan 24, 2017

Having a solid strategic plan for taking action and achieving your goals is one of the most important aspects of growing a successful business, yet only about one percent of business owners write out their goals and review them regularly. We aim to change that. Or at least empower you to move into that one percent category.

If you’re joining us for the first time this issue, this is part three of our 4-part series on Strategic Planning. In the first part, we talked about creating a fresh start (you can either click here to read it now or find it in Growth Advance Magazine Issue 16). In the second part, we talked about setting up your goals in a plan-based manner that keeps them in front of you and empowers you to take consistent action to make them a reality. (You can read it here or in Issue 17 of Growth Advance Magazine). To get the most out of what we’ll be talking about today, your Strategic Weekly Action Plan (SWAP), make sure that you check out the first two parts of this series.

I’m really excited about this next installment of the series because this is where the magic will happen in your business. When you get clear about what you need to accomplish each week – and then take action on it – your business will grow like never before. And this practice is particularly powerful when your weekly actions are tied into your bigger pictures goals and strategy. The SWAP keeps you focused and on-task doing the right things.

So let’s jump in and took a look at how you can set up your SWAP week-in and week-out to create your best year ever in business.

Part 1: The Affirmation

Just like with the other parts of this strategic process, I always start my SWAP with an affirming statement about how I’m going to show up in my business that week. (I include my “I am” statement from the Fresh Start Issue here, too.) One of my clients once asked me why I include affirmative statements in each phase of my strategic planning, so just in case you have the same question, this is why: In our world today, it’s easy to allow ourselves to be distracted by the hundreds of other things going on in our lives. It’s easy to allow someone else’s agenda to take over what we need to be doing to hit our goals. In the midst of all that’s going on, sometimes we fail to realize that someone else is deciding for us who and how we’ll be. When you come into the week with a conscious statement about who you are and how you’re showing up in your business, it keeps you in an empowered state and helps you make the choices that align with your own goals and priorities. It truly is an important step of the process. Don’t skip it. J   

Part 2: Your Weekly Priorities – The Top Three

Jim Collins, Author of Good to Great, once said, “If you have more than three priorities, then you don’t have any.” And we take this to heart with our strategic planning. So to set your SWAP, look at your monthly goals and ask, what are the three most important things I need to do this week in order to make progress toward my monthly goals? You will do more than three things this week, I promise, but you want to be sure to zero in on the most important actions that will move the needle forward toward your goals. Once you have identified them write them down at the top of your SWAP.

Part 3: Your Daily Schedule

As you’ll see if you’ve downloaded the worksheet, the SWAP provides a daily breakdown of your most important work. It lets you set the stage for the most important things you need to take care of in a given day. As you are setting your SWAP, be sure to include the following:

Time-Bound Items

Your time-bound items are any appointments, meetings, presentations, coffees, and so on that are to occur at a specific time during your week. Write these down in your SWAP so that you’ll know not to schedule any of the following items during your appointment times.

Power Blocks

This is, I believe, the most important part of your schedule. A Power Block is a chunk of time that you set apart to work on your most important tasks. In your SWAP, it is where you will take the actions necessary to complete your Top Three for the week. I generally recommend that a Power Block last between 45 and 90 minutes. For most people, less than 45 minutes is not enough time to really get into the work and make significant progress. More than 90 minutes? We at Growth Advance don’t think it’s healthy to sit that long. For me, I turn on the Alpha Chill Focus@Will channel, set the timer for either 55 or 75 minutes, and dive in. At the end of the time, the focus music stops playing and I know it’s time to get up and move around, drink some water, and take a break for five minutes before getting into what’s next on the agenda.

These breaks are an important part of maintaining good health practices for entrepreneurs. It’s easy to find ourselves in situations where we’re sitting in front of our computer for extended periods of time, and new studies are showing the detrimental effects this has on our health and mental wellbeing.

One key thing to reiterate here is that the Power Blocks are best utilized for your most important activities. This isn’t a time to respond to email or social posts (unless that is your job, and therefore, your most important activity). Your Power Blocks should be concentrated time for making progress on your Top Three. I recommend that you set one to three Power Blocks for each of your work days. There will be times, when you are working on a large progress, that the bulk of your week is set up in Power Blocks.  

Response Times

Your SWAP should include dedicated times for responding to general emails (messages that are not related to your Top Three), website comments, social media comments and so on. If you don’t set dedicated times to do this, it’s easy to find yourself hopping down a time-wasting bunny trail when you could be moving forward on your goals. For most people, setting aside 15 minutes once or twice per day will get the job done here. Obviously, you know your business better than we do, so set a time-frame that is appropriate for you, but just realize the more time you spend here, the more time you are spending on someone else’s agenda.

General Work Time

If you are not in a 9-to-5-type situation with set hours, it’s also a good practice to set aside work time on your calendar to dedicate to all of the other tasks that need to be done to run your business effectively. Most entrepreneurs have a lot of things that have to be done, but are not part of their priority projects. This is the space for getting those things done.

The benefit of designating both Power Blocks and General Work Time is it ensures that you aren’t just getting done the most urgent items that need to be done, but you are also making steady, daily progress on your priority projects that will move your business forward.

Planning

Yes, we want you to plan to plan in your SWAP. This is a very simple, yet very important step. Many business owners waste valuable time figuring out what to do first when they sit down to work. If you take five minutes at the end of each day to lay out the plan for what you’ll work on the next day, you’ll save time and gain valuable productivity. Schedule five minutes at the end of each word day to look back over your day and set the stage for the next morning so that you can dive right in and make the most of your time. 

After writing these items out in my SWAP, I transfer them into my calendar for the week and set them up like appointments so that I know I’ll be giving uninterrupted time to my most important work. The SWAP allows you to control your agenda instead of being controlled by the busyness of work.

Part 4: Action List

Your Action List is your To-Do list for your business. Simply list here all of the activities you know that you need to get done. At the end of the week, review the list and move any unfinished items onto your next SWAP. If you find that you have an item that is being moved forward week after week, take a moment to ask yourself if it really needs to be done. If the answer is “yes,” then ask yourself, “Does it have to be done by me?” If the answer here is “yes” then make it a priority so you can clear it off your list. The longer we carry an item forward on our to-do lists, the less likely we are to actually do them. If the answer to that question is “no,” then assign it out to the appropriate person so that they can get it done.

Sometimes you’ll have items on your Action List that need to be done and they need to be done by you, but they just are not a priority at the given time. If this is the case, create a list called the “Back Burner” list and move the item there. Review this list regularly and when the time is appropriate, move it back to your Action List and get it done.

Put it Into Play

Click here to download a copy of the SWAP worksheet or create your own following the framework we have discussed here so that you can put it into play and increase your focused productivity in your business. This practice, when repeated weekly, is more powerful than nearly any other practice you can put into play to intentionally and effectively grow your business.  

Have any questions about setting up your SWAP? Post them in the comments and we will be glad to get them answered for you. 

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