I was staring at a blank laptop screen thinking about the future. I was considering a simple question; one I’ve answered every year for decades: what do I want to be true in my life in a year that is not true today?

Although it is a simple question, the implications are profound. I was reminded of the impact of this question recently as I sat talking to another leader about planning. I told her I believe planning is one of a leader’s most important responsibilities. Let me explain…

As leaders, we are the architects of the future. It is our job to envision a preferred future and rally people to make it a reality. When we plan, we are creating the blueprints for that future. Our planning will channel the time, energy, focus and financial resources of our organization. It is not a task to be taken lightly.

I’ve known this to be true for decades. Here’s my new thought on this topic – I’ll invest weeks, sometimes months, creating a plan for our organization. What struck me is how little time I spend creating my personal plan for the year. The good news, I’ve already invested quite a few hours preparing my plan for 2015.

My process for creating my personal plan changed many times over the years. Not that it needed to, I think it’s just a function of my personality and my bias for continuous improvement. One of my conclusions – I really don’t think there is a perfect way to create a plan. The only good way is one that works for you.

With that disclaimer, I’ll share some of the steps I’m going through as I try to make 2015 a better version of 2014.

Start with the long view – My coach, Daniel Harkavy, suggested years ago that I decide what I want to be true in my life in 30 years. His challenge, which turned out to be true: if you maintain a long-view, it will change your actions today. He was right.

Review the past 12 months – What worked well? What did you accomplish? What do you want to repeat? What didn’t work well? What do you know now you want to do differently? What barriers and enables did you encounter? It was Socrates who said, “The unexamined life is not worth living.”

Establish your goals – Specifically, what do you want to accomplish in the next 12 months that will move you closer to accomplishing what you outlined in your 30-year vision? One of the questions I’ve debated with others over the years is “How many goals?” You get to decide! I know some leaders who will set one goal and others who will establish 50. Your plan is YOUR plan.

Create the plan – Goals don’t achieve themselves. If they do, they were not very good goals. If you want to learn a foreign language, decide what you’re going to do. You could get a tutor; buy Rosetta Stone; go live in foreign country; or some combination of the above. To accomplish something, you must be willing to do something. Be specific. Pay special attention to individual tactics; these are the guts of your plan. Choose them carefully.

Consider a theme – This is not something I do every year, perhaps I should. However, some years I feel compelled to do so. When you feel you have a huge priority, one that touches several areas of your life, a theme may be appropriate. I talked to a friend this week that has already established his theme for the 2015: Productivity. Not a bad idea.[GLS_Shield]

If you haven’t started working on your 2015 plan, what are you waiting for?

Author: Mark Miller

Mark is a business leader, author, communicator, photographer, husband, and father. He spends his time helping leaders grow.