My 3-Step Planning Method: Make an Action Plan for Your Side-Hustle
I’ve always known I wanted to be my own boss, I ached to escape my 9-5 by building my own business. I knew I needed some sort of plan to make that happen, but it took a while to figure out how to plan in a way that was realistic and achievable but also effective in helping me build my side-hustle as my escape route from my day-job.
Back when I was figuring this all out, I made some wildly over ambitious year-long plans that were dead and buried by April and I tried planning week-by-week. The problem I found with annual planning was that I just couldn’t predict what was going to happen over the course of the year and I’d be pushed waaaay off track after a few months. Oh and the planning week-by-week thing didn’t work at all, I struggled to stay focussed and it didn’t give me a long enough time-frame to work to.
I eventually figured out my own way of planning by using a blend of my side-hustling experience and the skills I’d got from my 9-5 as a project manager. Very quickly, my own way of planning clicked and I started to make some big things happen in my business. My business grew and I was feeling way more in control.
The way of planning I developed is now known as my 3-step planning method and involves planning in 12-week chunks, long enough to make some big things happen but also short enough that it’s not overwhelming and easier to plan realistically.
My 3-step planning method has been thoroughly tried and tested not just by me but also by my clients and everyone who’s taken my planning course
Developing my 3-step planning method has been the biggest game-changer in my business when it came to taking it full time and escaping my 9-5. Here's the whistle stop tour to help get you set-up as quickly as possible with your own 12-week action plan so that you, too can make some big things happen in your business.
Step 1: Find Your Focus
This first step is all about figuring out where to focus in your business over the next 12-weeks. I totally get the temptation is to start drawing up a plan right away, but to effectively move your business forward in the direction of the lifestyle you long for, you need to do a bit of digging first.
Get all of your project ideas down in a list, every single one. Then go through that list asking yourself these questions. Give your project ideas points in response to your answers which should help you to boil down which projects are going to have the biggest, most positive impact on your business over the next 12-weeks.
We all want to do all-of-the-things in our businesses. We all have too many ideas and not enough time. So, I’ve found that picking just 1-3 focus projects to focus on over a 12-week stint is enough. Any more and you’ll be spreading yourself too thin. So, from your list, pick just 1-3 projects you want to work on over the next 12-weeks.
If you’re struggling to cut down your list of projects, get cut-throat. Take away any projects that don’t excite you and remove the ones that are only there because you feel you should be working on those things rather than really wanting to work on those projects. Use your gut to help you make these decisions and keep crossing off projects until you’re left with just three.
Make your three projects as focussed and clear as you can.
So rather than ‘get better at marketing’ you might set that project as ‘create a weekly blog post and monthly newsletter’. You see how that makes your project a lot more measurable and specific?
Step 2: Make a Plan
This is the step where your plan comes together. Start by taking your three projects and breaking them down into tiny chunks. In a notebook write your project at the top and list out all of the steps you’ll need to take to complete that project, often it helps to work backwards from the completed goal, figuring the steps as you work back to where you are now.
This exercise is probably the most important part of making your plan effective because it breaks your project down into appetizing chunks that are a lot more approachable after a long day at work and a wet commute. It also gives you a picture of how much you’ve got on your plate for the 12 weeks ahead.
Now it really is time to make your plan.
Plot all of your tasks out from the previous exercise over the next 12-weeks. Either on a calendar (paper or digital), spreadsheet, big sheet of paper or alternatively I’ve created a 12-week action plan wall poster specifically for the purpose of making an action plan for your business.
Here’s a reminder of the steps:
Put dates on to your plan with a start date for each week and make a note of any weeks where things might be busy at work or when you have a weekend away etc
Write your three goals/ projects at the top of your plan
Plot out the actions you’ve broken down from each project over the next 12-weeks. Don’t be tempted to front weight most of your tasks to the first few weeks, try to spread them out evenly over the 12 weeks to make your plan realistic in terms of what you’ll have time to achieve each week
Finally for step 2, give your plan a reality check. This is where you need to engage your gut and be really honest with yourself. If your plan is looking over ambitious, scale some parts of your plan back or just focus on one or two projects rather than all three.
Step 3: Get Motivated
Having a beautiful plan is one thing. Making it happen is a whole other ball game
This final part is all about setting yourself up for success. It’s time to put measures in place to keep you motivated and on track with your plan all the way to week 12.
One thing that’s guaranteed to help you build your business is creating a support network for you and your side-hustle. I truly believe it’s essential to have this in place to lift you up and help you through the tough days as well as to share and celebrate your wins with. So email that mentor or coach you’ve been wanting to work with, find like-minded people by joining Facebook groups, get in touch with that insta-friend who’s also in business and see if they fancy meeting for a coffee so that you can cheer each other along and hold each other accountable to your project plans.
Speaking of accountability, this is another thing that will help to get you set up for success with your plan; if you’re accountable to it. Depending on how you’re motivated you’ll find different tools work best for you, but here are a few ideas for making yourself accountable to your plan:
Promise yourself a reward for completing your plan
Set yourself milestones throughout the 12 weeks. These can act as self-imposed milestones that break down your plan and help you stay on track.
If self-imposed deadlines aren’t enough try creating accountability by setting public deadlines. This is something I do a lot because it never fails to put a fire under me to get stuff done. For example, I’ll let my social media audience know that my new product or new opt-in is going to be live on my website on a certain date, that really motivates me because I hate the idea of letting my audience down.
Perhaps there’s someone you chat with regularly on social media who’s also side-hustling and you think you’d get on. Why not send them a message and see if they fancy being accountability partners so that you can hold each other accountable to your goals and cheer each other on along the way.
Accountability can also come in the form of working with a mentor who can help you make things happen in your business. It’s something that helped me hugely when I was pivoting my business. Just knowing I had those regular calls meant that I’d get the work done that I’d said I was going to do on our previous call.
And there you have it, a simple but effective action plan for your business, ready and waiting to help you make your ideas a reality. This planning method has been a total game changer for me in creating the business and lifestyle I want and it’s also taught me that growing a side-hustle doesn’t mean working all hours and getting burnt out, it’s about doing less and focussing on the stuff that really makes a difference. I know this 3-step planning method can do the same for you.
And finally, let me say, don’t be afraid to tweak it and edit my process so that it works best for you and your business. That’s what it’s all about, so feel free to experiment with it until you find a way that really clicks with you.
If you’d like to hear more from me on side-hustling and making the lifestyle you long for a reality, make sure you’re signed up to my fortnightly side-hustle letters. You’ll also get access to my free resource library, packed with eBooks, workbooks and templates to help you level up your side-business.