In the newest edition of Fortune, Jeff Smisek, the CEO of the newly-merged Continental and United Airlines, participates in their recurring "Leadership" series. As you might expect, he discusses fuel prices, customer service, merging two company cultures, and stiff competition from low-cost carriers. But then, in discussing how to keep over 86,000 employees focused on the same task at hand, he says this:
Our business plan is the Go Forward Plan [a short statement of company objectives on marketing, finance, operations, and employees] we were using at Continental for 16 years. It's a really simple plan. It's easy to understand, no matter if you're a pilot or on the ramp or a tech-ops person. That focuses everybody on what's important. It's one piece of paper. I tell my co-workers, if you're doing something and you can't trace it back to the Go Forward Plan, stop what you're doing and do something else. What you're doing is not worthwhile if you can't trace it back to this plan.
Over-simplification for a $23 billion company? Maybe. Absolutely crucial? Yes.
Smisek calls it a Go Forward Plan, I call it a Personal Strategic Plan. Regardless of what you call it, your life needs it. Far too many of us spend far too much time on things that aren't important. We know they're not important, yet we do them anyway for reasons even we can't pinpoint. Ultimately, it's because we have nothing to guide us - nothing to reference to tell us what we should be doing and what's not worth doing.
At United, if you can't trace it back to that plan, don't do it. In your life, if you aren't doing things that make you grow, happier, and less stressed, stop doing them and hop to it. I believe having a Personal Strategic Plan will help you to find what's important and say "no" to everything else. The answer to a simpler life isn't minimalism; it's doing more of the right things.
Creating a Personal Strategic Plan is the longest chapter in my new book, Simplify Your Life, available for preorder now from Amazon. For anyone who buys the book between now and its release date (May 31), I'll send you an easy online template for creating your Personal Strategic Plan, helping you keep track of what truly matters so you can stop wasting your time with what doesn't. Simply email me your receipt from Amazon and I'll email you the link to the template by Memorial Day.
We all need help to "Stop what we're doing and do something else."