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December 27, 2010 / Justin Hamlin

Your Life is a Business: Why You Need a Plan

You were born to win, but to be a winner, you must plan to win, prepare to win, and expect to win. – Zig Ziglar

Identifying yourself as a business might seem a little strange, but let’s take a look at the parallels.  You go to work every day, to make money and provide for yourself and your family.  A business exists to make money and provide for its employees and its customers.  A business spends money on things like marketing and employee perks, in order to expand its business and make a difference in the industry.  You spend money on food, clothes and gym memberships in order to make a difference in your own life and expand your sphere of influence.  The similarities are not too far off.

I come from a consulting background where everything had a plan.  From the 4 hour project, to the 500 hour project, it had a plan.  Even our plans even had plans. But it was important, as it gave structure, guidelines and processes.  It helped us make deadlines and ensure customer satisfaction.

If these are tried and tested processes in business, why do we fail to apply them to our personal lives? We start diets and gyms, and unless it is a priority in our life, we forget about it, let it die, and move on, claiming that diet didn’t work, or that gym didn’t work.  Do you think that if we applied a project mentality to attacking the diet/gym, better results could have been achieved? Don’t you want to finish a project for yourself and be that satisfied customer?

Defining Overall Goals

Let’s continue with the gym metaphor.  What was the goal to starting all of it?  A half-baked “I need to be in better shape” or “I want to be skinnier for X”.  Those are typically the responses you will elicit from someone who just joined a gym.  I myself am guilty of it.

You need to start with a well defined goal.  A goal that is specific and focused, otherwise, you will find yourself losing track of that goal.  Now, goals change, focuses shift, but make sure that these goals and focuses don’t change to suit your passing whim, but rather, only change to better yourself or to better your situation.

A more focused goal would be a desire to regain my energy, stamina and overall health.

But wait.  There have been no goals assigned to this, how are you going to measure when you are ready to transition those goals, or for that matter, consider your goal achieved?

There needs to be a 2nd part to that goal.  A goal that can be measured.  It might start with “and lose 10 pounds” or “run a 5k in under 27 minutes.”

Our final goal is to run a 5k in under 27 minutes while regaining energy, stamina and general health.  Without that 5k part, how easy would it be one day to just say “ok, I feel better, my energy level is good, I am not going to go to the gym.”  Pretty damn easy if you ask me.

With the 5k thrown in there as motivation, you now have something to shoot for.

Defining Goal Deadlines

So now we have a 5k we are shooting for.  Ok, when are we supposed to have it done by?  By failing to set a deadline, or a goal time, we are free to let these goals slip.

“Oh, I skipped a few days, I will get back at it tomorrow.”  Then tomorrow becomes next week, next week becomes next month, now you don’t care about the 5k anymore.  It was a nice goal, but oh well, dreams are meant to be shattered, goals are meant to not be met.

If you are doing this 5k for yourself, go sign up for a 5k.  Chances are, in your local area (or very close by) there is going to be a 5k in the next few months.  Search Google, ask around at your gym, or hell, ask me.  They are out there.  Now that you found one, go sign up for it.  Put it on your calendar.

Now you have a date. Your new goal is to run a 5k in under 27 minutes by March 1st.

Defining the Plan

Now you have a goal, and a timeline, but how are you going to get there?

In a normal project plan, you have the (essential) 4 main steps.  Discovery, Design, Planning and Implementation.  So far we have gone through the discovering what we want our goal to be, and designing a goal, now we are on to the planning phase.

This might just be the most important part of achieving your goal.  How are you going to do it.  You have a goal, and a timeline, but in reality, what else do you have?  You need your tools.  You need your plan.

Here is where your gym membership comes in.  You cannot just go to the gym, do your workout, start your running, and go home.  We need measurable results to know how hard we need to push ourselves.  For that matter, before we have measurable results, we just need results.

Make a schedule.  Put it on your calendar.  3-4 days a week, you are hitting the gym.  Depending on your level of fitness already, this can fluctuate, but now you have a plan.  You are going to work on running 3-4 days a week for the next 60 days, in order to ramp up to your competitive 5k in under 27 minutes.

Staying Motivated

Your calendar is getting mighty full, isn’t it?  5k in March, workouts 3-4 times a week.  Sounds busy to me.  For some of you, the work you have put in up to this point is enough to get you going and keep you going.  For others, the preparation and planning is the easy part, it is the motivation that ends up biting you in the ass.

Unless you are a Project Manager by trade, your boss is not going to assign you a huge project without someone to manage it.  So why do you take on personal projects with nobody to manage it? It is hard enough being the designer, the planner and the implementor, but now the manager too?

What you need is someone to keep you on track.  So once you have made it this far, hell, when you start this whole project, tell your husband/wife.  Tell your brother, tell your sister, tell your co-workers.  Write a blog, post it on Twitter, put it on Facebook. Join an online fitness forum, and tell them.  Tell everybody you can.  You will be surprised how many people will support you, and some might even join you.

Throughout the project, keep telling them.  Keep updating them, keep posting/blogging.  Track your progress where everybody can see it.  Track the rest of your life in there too.  Friends will follow your progress and keep you on task.  They will be the first ones to remind you that you have a gym session scheduled for the morning, and that 3rd shot of Patron probably isn’t a good idea.


Now, all that is left, is to go do it. So, what are you waiting for?  Your future, your success, is in your hands.



This is simply an example and was written to show that a project methodology and mentality can (and most of the times should) be used in a number of scenarios.  By no means am I saying that this will work for everything, but it will work for a lot of things.

This is Part 1 in a series about using project methodologies to help you set goals, attain goals, so anything you put your mind to and live a better life.




Leave a Comment
  1. jonathanfigaro / Dec 27 2010 3:18 pm

    I think when it comes to goals we have to measure it. Take our time and allocate ways to make it possible. We must work as hard as we can to make it a reality. The future is in our hands. Why not hold your ideas by the finger tips? Sweet blog Justin.

    • Justin Hamlin / Dec 27 2010 7:39 pm

      Precisely. Too many times people complain about their situation, yet do nothing about it. Time to change that mentality and have more people be accountable for their own lives and goals.

      Thanks for the props and thanks for dropping by

  2. Bryan / Dec 28 2010 7:13 am

    A method well known at the large companies I’ve worked for that we’ve used for goal setting is via the SMART Goal Setting Method. It’s been used everywhere from overall business levels, to project levels to individual goal setting.

    It may be a good method to apply to these types of goals as well to help define them.

    • Justin Hamlin / Dec 28 2010 8:23 am

      I had heard about SMART before, however, had never actually remembered the acronym. From the quick browse, it looks like a sound system and a good basis for goal setting, but it is interesting the parallels that the project mentality process that goes into what they define as S.M.A.R.T.

  3. Dan / Dec 28 2010 11:54 am

    Good stuff, if you can get them to plan their life I might have a shot at convincing them to have a realistic business plan!

    • Justin Hamlin / Dec 28 2010 3:51 pm

      One step at a time, right? Have to crawl before you can walk. Little steps like setting goals and developing plans only generate momentum. Once you decide what to do with your life, and set a plan in motion, that is where the fun begins.

      Thanks for dropping by.

  4. Hajra / Dec 28 2010 1:56 pm

    I hadn’t realized the importance of setting goals unless I was faced with my project data collection. I was supposed to conduct interviews on 400 participants and somehow a good 3 months went by and I had interviewed barely about 20. I did manage collecting 400 samples – I had a goal, 15 per week!

    It is really important to have a definite goal, vague goals just give a false sense of achievement.

    Interesting post!

    • Justin Hamlin / Dec 28 2010 4:00 pm

      It is amazing how the effect of a plan can change the project as a whole. Most of the effect is mental, and with the scenario I laid out, taking part of the onus off of yourself, and having a friend, calendar, forum to keep you honest and to task, helps keep a project goal in sight.

      Glad you enjoyed the post!

  5. Stanley cahn / Dec 28 2010 7:59 pm

    I’m sorry, but before you can set a goal, you must have values. values are where goals come from.

    You don’t speak of values. You need them first.

    • Justin Hamlin / Dec 28 2010 8:22 pm

      Stanley – Thanks for dropping by.

      I completely agree with you. So much of our morals, values and ethics govern the choices, decisions and direction of our lives that ultimately they are an inherent part of setting goals. My post was not intended to cover the moral background necessary to define goals that others might deem admirable, I was merely helping define one method that will assist someone in taking a half hearted goal and turning it into something that is attainable. If you really think about it, what I posted could work for anything from selling crack to embarking on humanitarian relief efforts to Africa.

  6. Lauren Rains @ TheMadtoLive / Jan 13 2011 7:43 am

    Hey Justin!
    What’s up? I got your comment on the guest post I did on the Skool of Life! Thanks for your awesome words that added to the discussion by the way!
    WEll, after checking out your blog I see that you’re definitely on your way to “living busy” as you let life scare the crap out of you in all the new circumstances you’ll be entering. Very cool!

    Anyway, this post was awesome! For me, when it comes to goal setting, I definitely need to create more of a plan in terms of day to day and week to week. I’m good at seeing the overall result and deciding how I’m going to do it, but I tend to let things spread out. You know, getting sidetracked, suddenly coming up with a new idea and I really just want to focus on that, etc. So, I need some discipline there!

    I’m going to check out that fitness forum. Thanks for the resource! I’m running a 5K in 2 weeks!!!

    – LAUREN

    • Justin Hamlin / Jan 13 2011 10:33 am

      Thanks for dropping by!

      Yeah, the next few months are going to be very interesting for me, definitely going to turn them into some good blog posts.

      Anyhow, on the goal setting, there is a lot of wiggle room you need to leave for things like life to happen. I go over that in the 2nd part of this series. We cannot hold ourselves to unrealistic deadlines, otherwise it makes our goals slip and then be forgotten about, in favor of the latest “goal” that is on your plate. It is all a balancing act.

      I have started using Evernote because it syncs across all of my devices/computers, and keeps everything in line. My electronic notepad, if you will. But it keeps everything right in front of me so I stay focused on what I am working on, but dont lose the ideas that I come up with.

  7. Ryan Renfrew @LifestyleDesign / Jan 14 2011 6:02 pm

    Hey Justin,

    Man what a coincidence I literally just read “living the 80/20 principle” and tonight I broke my goals down into their ‘Destinations’ ‘Routes’ and ‘Actions’ which I gues is akin to Discovery, Design, Planning and Implementation.

    To hellp me stay motivated I created a spreadsheet for all my daily actions. I get a smily face if I complete it : )and I frowny if I dont : ( – I just started this today, so Im interested to see if it keepes me motivated.


    • Justin Hamlin / Jan 15 2011 9:19 am

      Ryan –

      Glad to see you dropped by.

      Definitely creating any sort of tracking mechanism for your goal is a plus. Whether that is a loosely followed plan, or a documented, detailed, step by step guide to success. You have something measurable that will able help keep you accountable.

      With your spreadsheet, what I have found works for me is to have that in front of me at all times. In my calendar, on my phone, etc. Keep that literally in front of you at all times and your goals will be in front of you at all times.

      Best of luck, let me know how things work out for you!


  1. Wishful Action » resolution resources and plan
  2. Your Life is a Business: Why You Need a Plan Pt. 2 « Get Busy Living
  3. Your Life is a Business: Why You Need a Plan Pt. 3 « Get Busy Living

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