My goal right now, more than anything, is to provide positive leadership through a difficult time…

Not just here.  Also in my personal life.  And first and foremost, through self-leadership.

My life — like yours — is being impacted in a pretty dramatic way because of the spread of coronavirus.

Thankfully I’m not that worried about the actual virus yet.  I have the current good fortune to live in a community where there have been no confirmed cases — although the truth of that statement could change before I hit publish.

However, we are — as a community — taking drastic measures to prepare.  And to “flatten the curve,” which health experts say is the single-best thing we can do to help our healthcare resources not get overwhelmed.

The biggest impact I’m experiencing TODAY is the fact that my kids’ school is closed.

So in addition to being a copywriter, marketer, business owner, entrepreneur, and lead instructor at BTMSinsiders, I am ALSO dad and teacher for my kids.  While the school district has only officially announced closure for this coming week, I fully expect them to be closed for 6-8 weeks, and perhaps through summer.

Among other things to be grateful for: my wife and I both have fairly successful businesses, and are in control of our schedules.  In the summer, we effectively split schedules between us, giving the kids at least one parent at home all the time.  From a pure scheduling standpoint, we have done this before and we can do it again.  I feel for parents who are in a much different situation.

This is the first of what I expect to be many dramatic changes in the days and weeks ahead.

I’m of the camp that agrees we should have a nationwide shut-down for up to 8 weeks.  It would have a dramatic and negative impact on the economy.  However it’s the best way (based on what other countries have done) to seriously limit the spread of the virus.  A spreading virus, in the end, could have a much worse impact.  I would worry about getting food and other basic supplies during this time.  (At this point I’m a little worried about toilet paper simply because we didn’t panic buy any.)  However I believe that is what is in the best long-term interests of our country (and the world).  And I ALWAYS try to make the best decision based on the long view.

With all of this setup, I want to transition to the (related) main topic of today’s issue.

Effective planning for changing times…

Regular readers will recognize this is not my normal Mailbox Monday issue.  I’m skipping that this week, for a topic I consider to be more useful for you.

This topic is also a preview of the Monthly Insiders Call coming up this Thursday, a benefit of BTMSinsiders membership.

The topic of this Month’s call is “Strategic Thinking in a Time of Crisis.”

And it is all about how to stay positive and productive, focused and future-oriented during a crisis.

There should be ZERO doubt this is a crisis.  A combined healthcare and economic crisis that is likely to touch every corner of the globe.

That means big changes.

Big changes in our everyday life.

Big changes in the economy.

Big changes in our routines.

Big changes in our work situation.

Big changes in our quest to live lives that are healthy, wealthy, prosperous, and impactful.

It’s easy to fear or hate change, it’s harder to embrace and deal with change effectively…

Big picture, you will live a better life if you can deal with change more effectively.

Life is always changing.  And even before our current situation, life was changing quicker than in all of human history.

Now today we’re dealing with what is hopefully a temporary change, but a change that happens in minutes, hours, and days — not weeks, months, and years.

You must rise above the default fight/flight/freeze response.

You must be intentional.

Forward-thinking.

Planful and focused on creating positive outcomes.

Ethically identifying opportunities, and making the most of them.

Embracing change.  And making the most of it.

Most of us are ill-equipped to deal with change…

We’re taught from a young age how to find a groove and fall into it.  Jobs.  Career paths.  College majors.  Etc.  It’s all about specialization in one little area.  Which, to a degree, is useful.  But it’s also, by nature, anti-change.

Which means we’re not taught change-management.

We’re not taught the THINKING required to quickly understand, assess, and respond to change in effective ways.

What follows is a method I’ve been using in my business.

It’s the Natural Planning Model from Getting Things Done by David Allen.

And while it’s meant for planning at ALL times, the beauty of it is how direct and simple it makes creating a plan to respond to change.

Effective planning comes in five steps…

These are:

— Defining your purpose

— Creating a vision of success

— Open-ended brainstorming

— Organizing thoughts and plans

— Defining next actions

From here, you have enough to start taking action.  Whether that’s to move forward on some big project.  Or to deal with whatever change has brought to you today.

SIDE NOTE: This process is called the “Natural Planning Model” for a reason.  Because it’s how we naturally tend to plan things.  But by bringing more awareness and intention, it becomes more effective.

Effective planning in action, example 1: Kids at home…

As I mentioned, my kids are at home.

Here’s how these planning steps allowed us to take quick action in response to that:

— Purpose: Knowing school could be out for weeks, we decided we want our kids to maintain educational/learning activities throughout this time.

— Vision: We wanted to create structured days with learning and flexible time, much like they get at school.  This would involve schedules (like at school), coverage of various subjects (like at school), and other activities (music, recess), like at school.  So that their weekdays at home are structured similar to how they are at school.  In addition, this gives my wife and I the flexibility to be productive on our own activities, during some project time.

— Brainstorm: We identified subject areas we want the kids to engage with, resources available (such as learning websites, apps, etc.), school curriculum that will be coming in the next few days, as well as normal daily responsibilities, and more.  Plus we decided we needed to create a daily schedule worksheet we could fill out each day, to give each kid a clear understanding of how the day would be chunked, and to help all of us track the activities.

— Organize: We created a printable schedule worksheet, a list of resources, a list of subjects we want to have covered throughout the week, and shared the general plan with the kids.

— Next actions: We printed the schedule for each kid (plus me, who is home today) for the kids, and asked them to identify the activities they want to do today.  Then they filled in specific items they’ll do during the “project” time.  And it’s very clear what they need to do.  Now as I write this they’re all engaged in their first project of the day, each involving an age-appropriate learning activity similar to what they’d do at school.

Effective planning in action, example 2: Dealing with changing in advertising effectiveness…

I don’t know about you, but right now the responses to advertising I’m seeing are mixed.

For the most part, business is still happening.  Some messaging is working better.  Others not as well.

This is demanding rapid iteration and change.  To make that maximally effective, you could follow the same process.

Let’s run through the thinking on that as well…

— Purpose: Define effective advertising opportunities during the current crisis.

— Vision: Have multiple effective advertising programs that continue to generate sales, revenue, and even growth during in a very different environment than we’ve dealt with over the last few years.

— Brainstorm: We need to recognize what will change.  Advertising competition will likely DECREASE as some companies pull back on spending during an economic contraction.  Likewise in the current environment, media consumption will likely INCREASE, leading to more inventory of digital ads.  Which will mean costs decrease, a huge opportunity for advertisers willing to adapt.  So we need to test a variety of ads, to find what resonates.  We can find inspiration by looking at what has worked during previous crisis situations, by trying to resonate around current news, and through additional experimentation.  Likewise we may need to shift our product offerings to match.  We also need to brainstorm any specific resources would be useful have.

— Organize: This may require multiple projects.  Analyze the effectiveness of current ads.  Write specific ads.  Implement specific testing programs.  Launch new offers.  Each of these projects may have specific milestones that you would benefit by defining.

— Next Actions: What specific action steps can you take on each of these projects?  Define a minimum of one physical next action step for each.  Take notes on these, and keep them in a trustworthy place.  (I use Asana for this, in a system that is very clear to me but far too complex to add to this article.)  Then keep identifying next actions until the project is complete.

The power in this is that it keeps you focused on positive action…

The people, communities, and businesses that struggle most in change are the ones who deny it.  Likewise for crisis.

You can’t pretend like this isn’t happening.

You recognize reality as it is, and choose what you believe is the most effective response.

You won’t necessarily get it right.

In fact, you could easily be wrong — and that’s okay.

Simply taking positive action will keep you moving.

Keep moving and adjusting your plan.  Whether you meet success or failure.  Whether things change or stay the same.

Stay focused on positive action, your purpose and vision for what you want to be true.

Make your decisions to serve your vision, not out of fears and failure.

Use the planning steps above to be intentional about how you respond and adapt.

For more thinking like this…

I will remind you my Monthly Insiders Call for BTMSinsiders will be:

Strategic Thinking in a Time of Crisis.

Covering this topic and much more.

If you are a BTMSinsiders member, you should’ve already received an email about registering for the live call, Thursday, March 19th, at 2 PM US Central time.

If you’re not yet a BTMSinsiders member, this is yet another perk of the All-Access Pass.

You get access to these calls (live and recordings).  Plus access to the entire catalog of marketing and business training.  Plus access to all new training for as long as you maintain your membership.

One thing is for certain: during times of change, those who take action are more likely to come out ahead on the other side.

If you’re stuck at home, you can use that time to learn and grow and advance your skills.  Video training (as you get with BTMSinsiders) is a great way to do that.  With nearly 100 hours already in the catalog, BTMSinsiders provides a TON of value for a very small monthly price.

There will be many people who use the crisis as an excuse to do less.  Less learning.  Less action.  Less development.  If you use it as an opportunity to do more thinking and growth, you will put yourself ahead for however this shakes out.

Here’s more information about the BTMSinsiders All-Access Pass and monthly membership.

Yours for bigger breakthroughs,

Roy Furr

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