“What is your one-, three-, and five-year plan?” is the question I recently posed over an overpriced dinner in a small mountain resort town where I was spending a week with some of our industry’s most successful members. I listened intently over a glass of wine as the answers rolled in. East Coast, West Coast, Midwest, the answers were strikingly similar.

“I’m just looking to get from one week to the next.”

“Five years ago I was set. I knew exactly where I was going.”

“I was going to retire. ... But not anymore.”

“I’m trying to get back to normal, back to a position where I can think about planning and vision. There just hasn’t been time.”

The conversation continued amidst more fine dishes and earthy French wine. Emotions began to lift and swell, and soon new elements emerged.

“Perhaps I should start an outdoor adventure company.”

“I want to design music studios.”

“I want to go fishing.”

“I want to retire. The shoe salesman doesn’t want to sell shoes forever, you know.”

Whoa! Wait a second! Hold up! What is going on here?! These aren’t plans. These are statements about dreamy alternatives to existing conditions! Expressions of fatigue! Where is theplan?

The Means to an End

I’m not going to sugarcoat this for you (the last thing our industry needs is more cajoling). Without a plan, you are wasting your time. You are wandering the desert in circles without a compass, lost. You are drifting, without meaning, without purpose, without intent.

Life without intention is meaningless. Intent sets your direction, tone, and purpose. Your plan should be stored in the front of your brain where you can spit it out in less than 30 words to anyone who asks.

I’m not talking about your basic business goals, I’m talking about knowing why you are here doing what you are doing, and where you want to take things, professionally and personally. Intent describes how you will approach the journey, the methods and means to the end.

So stop reading this article. Stop complaining about the economy. Stop putting off what you should have done already. Write your intentions down. Then on a single sheet of paper write out your 90-day plan. Make it simple, easy to understand, and specific without getting bogged down with detail. Then do the same thing with your one-year, three-year, and five-year plans.

If you don’t know where you’re going, you will have a damned hard time getting there. Act with intention. Move with purpose.

—Michael Anschel is owner and principal of Otogawa-Anschel Design Build, serves on the board of Minnesota GreenStar, and is CEO of Verified Green.