What is a rough plan, why does it matter and how to create one?

In a previous post I shared a rough plan for our first few years here at Finca Bravo. In this post I want to talk a bit more about the benefits of having a rough plan and why and when it can be useful to create a draft plan even when you don’t have a lot of information to go by.

When to use a rough plan

When you are planning something substantial, be it a holiday, a move (career or physical), a project, etc it is tempting to try and immediately create a detailed plan that you can then use to guide you along. However I find that you often get stuck at this point as you just don’t have enough information yet to fill out all the details.

For example, you are planning a vacation but your holiday destination might be a country you’ve never been to and you don’t yet know all the things there are to do or visit. After working out the schedule for the first day of your holiday, you start planning your second day when you suddenly discover this amazing thing you absolutely need to make time for on the first day. So you start over again until you reach day three when suddenly it dawns on you that you can only go to that museum in the weekend as they are closed during the week – which again throws off your entire previous schedule. This can be a frustrating and time-wasting experience.

a guy writing a plan on a desk

At Finca Bravo, there were (and still are) a lot of uncertainties – when would our project be approved by the council so we can start the building works? How much time and money do we want to spend initially to get set up? How much will we be able to get done in the amount of time available? How long before we can start our bed-and-breakfast business? It’s easy to let this lack of information derail your plan making process and make you throw up your hands and say ‘F*ck it, I’ll just wing it without a plan’.

This is where a rough plan can make all the difference.

The benefits of a rough plan:

– It forces you to think about everything that is involved in your project

The only way to overcome the lack of information that is holding you back to create a detailed plan is figuring out everything one step at a time. Since you are not trying to create a detailed plan at this stage you just want to start putting down words on paper. For example, all the steps that you will need to complete before you can move to another country (find another job, get a visa, find an apartment, figure out how to move all your stuff, etc). Don’t worry too much at this stage about the order or size of each item, just try to jot down everything that you can think off. For larger project (like moving country) it makes sense to take your time and come back to this regularly over a week or so to make sure you capture everything.

– Drafting a plan eliminates the unreachable goal of perfection

If you were trying to create a detailed plan immediately you would quickly be paralysed by the lack of information which in turn might frustrate you to the point of wanting to throw it all away (or worse give up on your plan altogether). Instead, you can just keep working on your draft until you’ve got a complete rough plan. When creating a rough plan, perfection, whatever that might mean to you, just isn’t the end goal. Depending on the situation, it can be useful to follow up the draft plan with a fully detailed one, but more often than not a rough plan is all you need to get started.

– An impossible project suddenly becomes realistic

This is one of the reasons why having a rough plan is 100x better than not having any plan at all. Without forcing yourself to sit down and write down everything that is involved, a project might seem completely unachievable or ridiculously complex. However, once you start breaking it down you find that it’s usually not that far-fetched at all. This can be very motivating and get you on track to achieve your goal.

So to recap, here are the different stages of creating your rough plan:

Steps in creating a rough plan:

  1. Put down everything involved in your project – small and large
  2. Rank the list order of priority and scale of the jobs
  3. If you feel you have enough information now, you can create a fully fletched detailed plan

Let me know in the comments if you ever created a rough plan yourself and if you thought it was useful.

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