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It’s even more important to know the long term plan

I write this amid the Coronavirus crisis that is impacting our families, businesses, our country and the world. We don’t know how this will play out and our ability to plan for the next week is looking doubtful, let alone the next quarter, or year, or five years. If you’re familiar with my approach to planning, you’ve heard me say that it’s essential so that you know what to do next. Without a plan, you can do anything, but you have no idea if it’s the right thing to do – with a plan you know that you are doing things that will be effective. That’s essential when business is busy, and you are bombarded with ideas and opportunities. You must prioritise and make the right choices.

In this time of uncertainty when we may be losing orders, clients, bookings and work, knowing what to do next is even more essential. The list of what to do might become dramatically different but I’d encourage us all to have one.

Tend to your basic needs

But I do recognise that this could be extremely difficult when there are concerns about income and financial stability. There is a well-known management tool called Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs that shows we all need to meet our basic needs of food, shelter and safety before we get too concerned about self-esteem or achievement. That’s completely true and loss of income means that we are concerned about the basics such as the weekly shop, the rent or the mortgage. Either because – as is currently happening – others have ravaged the shelves in our local supermarket, or we don’t know where our next income will come from. These are real fears that must be acknowledged.

What next?

However, when you have done everything you can to address those needs, you may still have time on your hands if clients or work are not coming your way. So, what to do next? Worry about everything that’s going on? Get stressed? Understandable, but no, don’t do that. Do everything you can to meet your basic needs (talk to your creditors, look for ways to economise, and so on) and then – knowing you have done everything you can for today – turn your focus to more positive activities.

Think back to all those times that you said you couldn’t do something because of lack of time. Clear out your cupboards, exercise, try home cooking rather than ready meals, tidy your desk, tidy your online life, organise your email, catch up with home repairs, do your accounts, the list goes on. This is the time to get ready for being back to normal. Organise your life, work and business so that when the next activity arrives (which it will) you’re ready and fully prepared to take it on.

Be careful if you make things

Having spent many years in manufacturing, I will add a caveat if you make things. Be careful with raw materials so that you don’t add to financial pressures by using up things that will be difficult to replace. By all means make stock, but only those things that you know sell well and won’t be past their sell-by date when things are better. Easier said than done in the current crisis because we don’t know when normality will return, but you do know what’s most popular and where you have lots of raw materials. Use them conservatively.

Focus on results

Sometimes we put off these mundane jobs because we really don’t want to do them. Now we have time it will be a great test of whether it’s truly lack of time, or actually lack of inclination. I will leave you to examine that within yourself. A top tip is to focus on the outcome and goal. Unless doing your expenses or your accounts is really your thing, you probably won’t be motivated by the prospect. Instead, think of that marvellous feeling when you hand them over to your accountant early, or know that you won’t have that horrible feeling at the end of the year when you’re running late.

Look after yourself

These are challenging times for sure. When we are challenged, we need to nurture ourselves. If you have new time on your hands, do enriching things and use the opportunity for family time, long dog walks instead of a quick walk around the block, a long soak in the bath – whatever it is that you crave when you’re frantically busy. Money may be short, but a walk outside or a long soak are free. Within your business you now have the opportunity to think about what you will do when things are good, plan your business, update your LinkedIn profile, redesign your website, bring your accounts up to date. Again, the list goes on.

And then the magic happens …..

Something strange and wonderful happens. You replace the stress and worry with positive feelings. You have a sense of purpose and goals to work towards. The challenges haven’t gone away, but your reaction to them has. Instead of despair, you are energised by your new plan. Especially if you’ve taken some time to nurture yourself.

When you’ve been alive for a few decades as I have, you accumulate some experience of crisis management. Life has given me the opportunity to build up quite a range of experience in this area. Trust me when I say, if you find a plan and focus your energy on it, you will feel better now, and come out in the best possible shape for the next chapter.

And I have a closing thought in the current crises that I’m borrowing from a very good friend. We are not trapped here in a lift alone – just in the UK there are 66 million people here with us. It’s going to be OK

Article by Frances Fawcett
Consultant, Trainer, Presenter, Coach

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