For me, December is a time of reflection and planning.  I start by reflecting on my plan and actions for the current year.   Did I do all of the things I had committed to doing?  If not, why?  What can I learn from that?  Did I accomplish what I wanted to.  If not, why?  Did I choose the wrong action items?  Did I need more of them?  Did the marketplace react differently than I had anticipated? What can I learn from that?

Reflecting on 2019:

There is little value in creating a new plan if I failed to commit to the previous one.  Writing a plan is a great first step and in truth, it does significantly increase the chances of accomplishing your goals; but writing a plan won’t necessarily make it happen.   You must be committed to that plan and that requires continual reminders of what you were going to do, a sense of discipline to ensure you do those actions, and an accountability process (carrot and stick) to provide ramifications for doing or not doing your action items.

Committing to your plan is really about being committed to the planning and implementation process, which is a lot like scientific method:

  1. Develop a hypothesis (or in this case, a series of goals).
  2. Create an environment to test your hypotheses (create action items to achieve your goals).
  3. Conduct your experiment (do your action items). Observe the results (track and analyse the success of your action items).
  4. Compare results against your hypotheses (did you achieve your goals?).
  5. Create a new hypothesis and go around again (plan for the coming year).

Points 3 and 4 are critical steps that are often forgotten.  However, there’s little point in creating a new plan if you haven’t first taken the time to analyse the effectiveness of your previous one.  Plans are not simply a task to be done; they are a growth process and a learning opportunity.  Their purpose is to take you to a higher place.  It’s not at all the same as making a chore list and marketing things off as they are done.

Planning requires guess work.  What do I need to do in order to increase my revenues by 20%?  What do I need to do to land work from that particular client?  What do I need to do to increase my reputation in a particular area of law?   There’s no manual out there with the perfect answer: your plan is your best guess.  You won’t know if you’ve guessed correctly until you analyse the results.  And from that analysis, you can learn a lot about yourself, your client base, your competitors, and the marketplace.   That data will be critical as you move into planning for 2020.  Learning from past mistakes will ensure you don’t repeat them.  Assessing your degree of success in accomplishing a goal will help you to better understand how many and what kind of action items you need going forward.  Seeing where you were most successful will highlight your strengths which can be leveraged further in the next year of planning.   Take the time to critique your plan and implementation, so you know what changes need to be considered next year.

Planning for 2020

Now you’ll have a better sense of the kinds of goals you can reasonably pursue in a year, and the amount of (and type of) action items needed to achieve those goals.  It’s time to create your goals for 2020.   Make a list of 5 – 10 specific goals you’d like to achieve in the coming year.  Don’t speak to action items at this point, only goals.  Speaking at a conference is an action item: what is the goal it wants to serve?  Perhaps the goal is to increase your reputation in an area of law, or with a particular group of target clients or referral sources.  If so, speaking at that conference might be one of four or five action items needed in order to truly accomplish that goal.

I’ve written numerous posts on planning an I won’t re-iterate that step by step process here, but I will leave you with one thought.  If you’ve had challenges planning or keeping yourself accountable for your plan in the past, then consider engaging a coach in the New Year.  Planning and implementing on that plan can be the most powerful business tool you develop in your career, but only if it isn’t done poorly.   If you’ve been doing this poorly in the past, it’s highly probable that you aren’t capable of correcting this behaviour on your own.  Don’t feel badly about this, but do get help.

Planning and strong implementation can make a significant difference in your career.   Why not make 2020 the year you do them well?

Heather Gray-Grant is a business strategist, marketing expert and executive coach for law firms and lawyers.  She can be reached at