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Every time a new year rolls around, people immediately start making resolutions and new goals. Going to the gym, finally learning that new skill, finishing the project they started but never finished.

Of course, as we all know, not all of those ever actually happen. Maybe a few months go by and we stick with it, but inevitably we’ve set ourselves up to fail. Why? Because we didn’t approach our goals and plans with intentionality.

Staying true to who you want to be in this next year requires specific direction, and it may even involve sacrificing some things you didn’t know you needed to. This episode will help you break through some of the fog and finally get some clarity about how to make this next year the best one yet.

Highlights, Takeaways, Quick Wins
  • Create a road map for your whole year by intentionally planning to have your ideas executed.
  • Don’t let the new year catch you off guard because you don’t have a plan.
  • Intentionality is about the right context with the right people at the right time.
  • Execution without planning is like trying to hike through the mountains without a map—you’ll get somewhere, but you won’t get to where you want to go.
  • It’s better to do a small number of things excellently than do a lot of things poorly.
  • Improving your audience’s experience might mean adding or cutting stuff out, but it’s got to be done intentionally.
Show Notes
  • 01:02 Cory: We’re in the new year now and we’ve been doing this series of episodes as we approach the new year. Last week we talked about too much planning, not enough execution—staying stuck in planning mode and how to get out of that. This episode is on how to plan well.
  • 01:54 Kyle: I’m in this place and I’m sure other people are too: in the new year everything is fresh. It’s like waking up in a new day, but it’s a new 365 days. When that happens, ideas, plans, and ambitions start to come around. Our last episode was on how to actually execute things instead of sitting on an idea for a long time, but it’s great that people are having these ideas. I think this episode comes at the perfect time, because what we’re talking about here is being intentional with those ideas. Write those ideas down, plan them out for the future, and have them ready to go.

Create a road map for your whole year by intentionally planning to have your ideas executed.

  • 03:07 Cory: I feel like I have to bring it up because every new year, new year’s resolutions get made. Do you have any new year’s resolutions, Kyle?

New Year’s Resolutions Aren’t Intentional

  • 03:20 Kyle: I don’t usually have a new year’s resolution, because I know that inevitably, I’m working with the hype when I do that. That’s what we’re talking about here—we want people to intentionally plan this stuff. Now is the time when you’re flooded with ideas and ambitions, and being intentional with those can have big results for your brand.
  • 04:00 Cory: I totally agree. I actually intentionally don’t make new year’s resolutions, because January 1st is always wrapped up in this hype, excitement, and freshness, which can be good, but it’s really easy to make off-the-cuff resolutions and because you’re not actually intentional about it, it’s not going to go anywhere. I’m pretty sure January is when gyms get the highest amount of memberships.
  • 04:38 People always say, “This is finally the year I’m going to take care of my health!” but here’s the deal: if you didn’t want to take care of your health a month ago—back in November or December—what’s to say you’re going to want to take care of your health in February? You’ve got to be intentional and don’t let the new year catch you off guard because you don’t have a plan. There are some ways you can get a laser-focus on what you want to accomplish this year with intentionality. Kyle, what are some things that you’re looking forward to in this new year and how are you planning that out intentionally to be able to complete those?
  • 05:38 Kyle: I’m finally getting into physical products this coming year. I design icons, so I think the first thing I’m going into are prints. I’ll start small since I’m not super familiar with making physical products and I think that’s a good entry. Honestly, the thing I’m most excited about is my plan to share those products as the year goes by. I’ve been planning out the products and how to communicate what the products are about. I took a course by Sean McCabe, owner of seanwes, called Supercharge Your Writing. People often don’t realize how important writing is for everything.
  • 06:49 We’re talking about physical products here and the best thing for me is writing and that’s because I need to be able to sell the products and communicate what those products are about. During this course, he brought up an editorial calendar and he breaks down how to create one. I would encourage everyone to take this course for that part alone because it was huge. Now that I have an editorial calendar, I know when I’m going to publish things and because I know that and what the general topic is going to be, then I can work in those products within my content. I can deliver things in context. Because I’m delivering things in context, it’s a much better plan.
  • 07:48 I’m not just randomly trying to throw out a product and sell it so it makes me feel better. I have a plan and I want to communicate what this product is about and since we talked about too much planning in our last episode, this is another thing that helps with that. I’m going to put a product out there with some explanation and story to it, but I can keep communicating that over time. I can keep sharing that at different points and I can incorporate that more into the marketing than the actually product itself. I’m excited about the way I’m approaching promotion and my content delivery this year. It’s taken a lot of weight off of me to have the editorial calendar. I’ve also made a production calendar for the things I’m making—products, icon designs, case studies, etc. It’s going to be an awesome year and I’m so excited for it.
  • 09:59 Cory: I like what you’re talking about with the editorial calendar of what you’re going to produce and how it connects with the physical products you’re going to produce. Content is about resonating with the right message and context is about resonating at the right moment (Related: e011 Context Is More Important Than Your Content). If you intentionally have a buildup of blog posts or newsletter articles saying, “All of this is culminating in this awesome print you can get at my shop,” and linking to it will make total sense.

Intentionality is about the right context with the right people at the right time.

  • 11:01 Kyle: When approaching the new year, people always say they’ll do things and then don’t do them and it makes me think of those old NES Mario games. How many times have you heard someone fall off a cliff in one of those games, so they have to reset, and they say, “This time I’ve got it!” but then it happens again. They don’t finish what they started, but it’s easier to not to finish what you started when you realize you have chances. Once someone gets to their last life on Mario, they’re much more likely to finish the level because, otherwise, they’re out of the race.
  • 12:07 I think that’s what happens in the new year. We think, “I’m going to do this as well as I can,” and at some point it becomes less of a motivation and you think, “Next year I’ll definitely do it,” and it’s a repeat process. If you went into that game again and said, “I don’t have any other chances. I have one chance and that’s it, otherwise I lose everything I’ve done.” Plan out how you’re going to do it. Maybe print out what the level looks like and plan where you jump. Now, you have a plan and you can intentionally get through the level and finish your goal without restarting.
  • 13:22 Cory: For various games, they used to have subscriptions for gamer magazines and strategy guides. There were these really elaborate guides with levels, strategies, and tools. It feels a little like cheating, but if you want to finish it makes sense.
  • 13:54 Kyle: It comes back to planning execution—you could plan too much. My point was to figure out what’s coming and understand what you’re faced with. Look at it with a holistic view and plan out how you’re going to get to the end. That’s the problem with new year’s resolutions. You say, “New year, new chance. I’m going to do this,” then you’re just doing it as you go and that’s why a lot of people don’t follow through with their new year’s resolutions: they didn’t have a plan. They didn’t hire a personal trainer and go through the steps to get to a certain point in a certain time, they just said, “I’m going to get in shape this year.” It just doesn’t work that way.

Execution without planning is like trying to hike through the mountains without a map.

You’ll get somewhere, but you won’t get to where you want to go.

  • 14:52 Cory: As you approach the new year or the next phase of life with intentionality, there may be some things you need to cut out. It’s not just about doing new things, it’s about cutting out old things and possibly postponing new things. For instance, I was planning on starting a weekly video show at the beginning of the new near to give some quick brand nuggets and to answer questions.
  • 15:42 Honestly, as I was looking through this next year, there’s a lot happening in my life. We’ve got another baby coming in May, we’ll be going out of the country a few times, seanwes conference in October, I’m writing a book to be published in 2016, and my wife and I are trying to move to Ireland. Moving to Ireland is something we’ve been working on for five or six years and we plan to be there by next fall. There’s a lot of things going on without even mentioning, work, production of Invisible Details, weekly writing, etc. I could do all of this stuff but maybe there needs to be a sacrifice. Maybe I should say, “Video is going to be really important, but maybe I should focus on less of the production of the video and set a time every week to do a live Q&A on Periscope.” That way, I wouldn’t have to worry about editing and recording.
  • 17:21 I’ve been thinking through that and instead of saying, “I’m going to do a video show and it’s going to be great!” I had to sit down and count the cost. What is is this going to cost me, not just in money, but also in time? How am I going to have the peace of mind to create and edit another video show with a toddler and a newborn? Part of intentionality is realizing there might be things to hold off on and count the costs. I know media is heading to video in 2016 and I’m going to take a hit, but there’s enough going on in life and other things I’m working towards that I might need to sacrifice a little bit.

Planning Might Mean Saying No

  • 18:13 Kyle: That’s another thing that hinders execution: having too many things on your plate. There’s a point where you need to plan and execute, but then there’s the plan where you need to intentionally say, “I’m not going to do this thing right now,” and it’s not because you don’t have a good plan. Cory and I talked about the video show he wanted to do and he had a fantastic plan, the problem is it hindered him from executing everything he needed to and would eventually lead him to burnout where he’s potentially not executing on anything.

It’s better to do a small number of things excellently than do a lot of things poorly.

  • 19:22 If you want your brand to stand out for it’s quality and ability to execute things really well, you can’t have a lot of things. I know we talk about them a lot but I’m going to use Apple as a reference because it’s the best I know of. Back in 1997, Steve Jobs left Apple, a different CEO took over, and they started making a lot of products like digital cameras, printers, pocket PCs, and multiple different kinds of computers.
  • 20:26 It was killing them because quality was low on a lot of things. Consumers weren’t happy about that and the company didn’t have a good reputation. Steve Jobs came back and one really big thing he did to their brand was say, “We’re going to do fewer things really well.” He cut a bunch of products out and focused on doing four or five things really well so their customers knew they had their best interest in mind. That’s extremely important to a brand. Of course they’re a big company now, but at that point they were about to go into bankruptcy. They weren’t going to exist and simply by being more intentional, only focusing on a few things, the brand was refreshed and renewed.</li>
  • 21:28 If you have an existing brand and part of your new year goals is to revive your brand or “rebrand” it, maybe part of that is cutting out some things. Maybe you have too many things happening right now. Maybe you got too excited in the beginning. When I worked in software, I saw this a lot. People would execute on something, maybe an app they would be excited about and they would create a website or promotional material, and over time, that wasn’t sustainable. Because they weren’t intentional about what they’re sharing with people and what ways it was accessible, it proved to be too big of a mountain to climb and the whole thing fell apart.
  • 22:40 Cory: The idea of cutting things out is so hard. I think there’s a difference between cutting things out that you want to do and cutting things out that you’ve already been doing. Cutting things out you’ve been doing is really hard. You think, “I can make it work and I don’t want to just stop doing this thing,” but maybe you need to. As a brand, at who’s expense is continuing, and at who’s expense is stopping that thing? If it’s at the expense of your audience, you have to count that cost and think, is this worth stopping? Is this going to affect my brand and my audience? Or, is it that your audience isn’t getting the kind of quality they can? In order for them to get that kind of quality, do you need to stop working on this so that you can focus on what really matters, what makes your brand what it is, and makes their lives better? That can be really scary.
  • 23:56 Kyle: It’s tough to cut things out. You can do surveys and different things, but there’s a majority of your brand’s audience that’s silent. The fear for people to cut things out a lot of the time is that suddenly it’ll affect your brand in a bigger way than you understood. People are afraid of cutting something out and then their audience won’t like their brand anymore. That may happen with a few people. I don’t want to say cutting something out is going to be all celebration, but for the people that are going to find your brand for the first time or are very loyal to your brand, those are the people who will stick with you and realize you’re trying to improve their experience, no matter what that is.
  • 25:03 Cory: It’s all about improving the experience. How can you do what you’re doing the best?

Improving your audience’s experience might mean adding or cutting stuff out, but it’s got to be done intentionally.

  • 25:20 Kyle: Another example is a local restaurant that was just starting up and had a lot of success in the beginning. Their brand was perceived very well, they cooked great food, and people wanted to support it. Suddenly, they said, “We have a lot of people coming into our restaurant, so we want to extend the hours we’re open so more people can come and experience this.” That sounds great, but they weren’t staffed enough or ready for that weight on their staff. There were fewer people available to help so they had to cook things faster and their employees had to work longer hours. Because of that, the experience was really degraded.
  • 26:15 They went back and realized that people weren’t experiencing what they were experiencing before and they cut their hours back again. Some people were upset about that because they couldn’t get food at other times they wanted it, but it made a great experience for the people who had great experiences from the beginning. The new people that are discovering it don’t know the difference. They’ve just discovered them, they know when the place is open, and they get fantastic service. People are looking at how awesome their experience is with that brand. Some of the things you cut out might effect the people that were very loyal to those things and hopefully you can retain those people, but sometimes you can’t retain them and it’s for the betterment of your brand as a whole. Look at things holistically and be intentional about how you’re planning out things your brand is going to do.