Planning Not Plans: Rolling Priorities

What is this?

This is an adaptive framework I’ve developed and refined over the years to guide personal and professional growth. At its core, the methodology is anchored in the principle of acting with intent. By examining my history, understanding my strengths, and setting forth a clear mission, I can aim with confidence.

Military strategist and President Dwight D. Eisenhower once said,

“Plans are nothing; planning is everything.”

This encapsulates the essence of my approach. While static plans can become obsolete in the face of rapidly changing circumstances, the act of planning equips us with the flexibility, insight, and resilience to adapt and pivot as needed. The framework isn’t about meticulously crafted plans set in stone; it’s about cultivating a mindset of preparation, agility, and continuous learning.

Several criteria came up as I’ve iterated over this framework:

  • Clarity of Direction:

    “If you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there.” – Lewis Carroll

    It’s imperative to have clear priorities and understand the rationale behind them.

  • Reality-Check:

    “Success is not final; failure is not fatal: It is the courage to continue that counts.” – Winston Churchill

    Grounding our objectives in past achievements ensures they’re rooted in reality and builds on proven strengths.

  • Proactive:

    “The future depends on what you do today.” – Mahatma Gandhi

    The world is full of distractions and external demands. This framework ensures we don’t become passive recipients of life’s agenda but active directors of our destiny.

  • Adaptive:

    “It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.” – Charles Darwin

    Life’s only constant is change. A robust system needs to be easy to update, reflecting evolving goals and circumstances.

  • Quick Recovery:

    “Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.” – Confucius

    By focusing on short, 90-day sprints, this approach fosters a “fail fast, learn faster” attitude. If a certain direction proves unfruitful, little time is wasted, and course corrections can be made swiftly.

While the specifics evolve, the process of planning, with its introspection, foresight, and adaptability guide me.

Activities Overview

ActivityRecommended Refresh FrequencyInitial investment
Recurring investment
Reflect on AchievementsAnnual31.5
Recognize Your StrengthsBi-annually31
Affirm Your MissionBi-annually31.5
Aim & Set PrioritiesQuarterly42
Use the Priorities
aka Weekly Review

Note that refresh frequencies are max recommendations, investment times are estimates.

  1. Reflect on Achievements: List out 3 things you’re most proud of from over the last few years. Highlight their impact, such as increased revenue or improved user experience.
  2. Recognize Your Strengths: Reflect on your achievements and identify the strengths that played a role.
  3. Affirm Your Mission: Craft a personal mission statement. Visualize where you want to be and what legacy you aim to leave behind.
  4. Aim & Set Priorities: Define your growth areas for the upcoming quarter. Align them with your mission, leverage your strengths, and ensure they’re achievable within the time frame.
  5. Use the Priorities (Weekly Review): Each week, break down your 90-day priorities into actionable tasks for that specific week. Adjust as you progress and as circumstances change.

Starting this system requires a significant time investment. Begin with one activity a week, allowing yourself time to reflect between each. The initial run-through may take 4-6 weeks. Take your time and let it naturally integrate into your routine.

1. Reflect on Achievements

  • What: List out 3 things you’re most proud of from your work over the last few years.
  • Why: Before setting future goals, it’s crucial to recognize and celebrate past successes. Reflecting on achievements provides motivation and a clear understanding of capabilities.


  • Don’t just list tasks completed; note the impact they had. Instead of “I did hard things X, Y and Z” describe what the increased revenue, improved roadmap, better user experience, opportunities, capabilities or cost cutting your work facilitated.


  • Look through Impact Reviews.
  • Look at your resume/LinkedIn profile and think about major deliverables.
  • Share your accomplishments with a mentor or colleague to gain perspective.
  • Going forward, maintain a weekly or even daily log of your accomplishments. That will make it easier for future iterations. I capture feedback and wins in my daily digital journal so I can search for them later. See more at write a brag document.

2. Know Your Strengths

  • What: Reflect on your achievement list and write out the strengths that helped you accomplish them.
  • Why: Recognizing your strengths gives you an edge. It enables you to play to your advantages, making tasks more effortless and impactful.


  • Request feedback from peers and supervisors.
  • Reflect on the tasks you found most engaging and fulfilling.
  • Consider using psychometric tests. Don’t just take the results at face value; reflect on them and discuss them with others and make your own conclusions about your strengths. My favorite is Working Genius. Others include StrengthsFinder and Enneagram.

3. Affirm your mission

  • What: Write down what motivates you. Think of this as your personal mission statement.
  • Why: Your mission or aim provides direction. It’s the compass guiding your tasks, goals, and ambitions.


  • Do you see how the motivation played into your accomplishments?
  • Do your strengths match up with your motivation?


  • Visualize where you want to be in 3-5 years.
  • Determine the skills and knowledge you need to acquire to get there.
  • Revisit and refine your mission periodically.

4. Aim & Set Priorities

  • What: List your growth areas. Think of this as your strategy for furthering your mission. These are your priorities for the next 90 days.
  • Why: By focusing on a few key areas, you can make significant progress. This approach also ensures you don’t spread yourself too thin.


  • These are hard and take a long time to achieve. The harder the growth area, the more it motivates.
  • Not about a title: Think in terms of skills you want to develop, experiences you want to have, people you want to build relationships with.
  • Few: Hone in on the 3 most important to your motivation. These are hard and will take many years. As such, make sure that they’ll energize you by virtue of aligning with your mission.
  • Important. The growth strategy has a clear connection to your mission.
  • Viable:
    • Leverage your strengths.
    • Have relevance at work.
    • You can find mentors, peers, books, courses that will help.
  • Preferably connects to the purpose of the group you’re part of (craft, Job to Be Done you’re solving, product area).


  • Look back at the achievements you already have. How could it have gone even better? How could you have delivered it faster?
  • In 5 years, what would you like to be on your achievement list? What would it take to achieve them?
  • What do you see others accomplishing that you want to do too?
  • What would Mastery look like for the skills you already have and you’re most eager to grow?
  • Run them by your peers. Make sure they understand why you’re doing what you’re doing and ask for feedback to make sure you’re not missing anything important to them.

5. Use the Priorities

  • What: The most important tasks you can take this week to move towards your priorities.
  • Why: Priorities aren’t just a list of tasks. They’re a structured approach to growth, aligning daily tasks with longer-term goals and aspirations.


  • No more than 5 per week.
  • Important: These tasks have a clear connection to your priorities. They are in fact the most important tasks you can do this week to further them.
  • Viable: You can do them this week. They’re not dependent on others or on things outside your control.
  • Realistic: You can do them this week, given your other commitments. Take no more than a few hours each.


  • Every week, break down your priorities into actionable tasks. Consider: what is the one most important thing I can do this week to move towards this priority?
  • Run them by your manager. Ask them to validate the tasks and provide feedback.
  • Note and celebrate progress in the past week. Did they help you move towards your priorities? Did you learn anything that will help you do better next week?

Example Worksheet: Joining TechCorp

To better illustrate the application of this system, here’s an example from my recent experience joining a new company. I updated my previous worksheet, adding in priorities that aligned with my new role. After the worksheet, I included an example of how I used the worksheet to decide on weekly tasks. It’s obviously edited for anonymity and obfuscation.


  • Digital Integration Project
    • Developed a culture focused on data-informed decision-making.
    • Created a platform enabling embedded models for decentralized teams.
    • Fostered a culture of data prowess with trust tiers.
  • Personal Growth
    • Enhanced personal connections through presence, calmness, and vulnerability.
    • Took charge of my career trajectory, emphasizing resilience and continuous learning.
  • E-Commerce Project
    • Earned trust among peers and subordinates, becoming a sought-after resource.
    • Transitioned data usage from a mere supportive function to a strategic partnership.
    • Championed data-driven initiatives, assisting teams in scaling and optimizing operations.


  • Strategic Vision
    • Collaborative strategy formation and seamless execution.
    • Mastery in aligning teams with changing priorities, promoting adaptability.
  • Calm Intensity is my mantra. It’s about forging ahead with determination while ensuring that our approach is thoughtful and well-considered.
    • Calm
      • Listening Before Acting: I believe in understanding a situation in its entirety before making decisions. This means giving everyone a voice, absorbing information, and weighing options carefully.
      • Adaptive Vision: In a world that’s ever-evolving, I strive to continuously reassess our goals and approaches. Are they still valid? Are they still worth our time and effort? This adaptive mindset ensures we’re always aligned with what’s truly important.
      • Steadiness Amidst Chaos: No matter how turbulent or challenging a situation might become, maintaining a calm demeanor is crucial. It provides clarity, instills confidence, and ensures that we navigate complexities effectively.
    • Intensity
      • Deep-rooted Passion: I deeply care about our customers, our outcomes, our team, and our individual well-being. This passion fuels my drive and motivates me to push boundaries.
      • Challenging with Care: I believe in challenging each one of us to achieve more. But it’s not about setting unrealistic expectations; it’s about believing in our potential and supporting one another in our pursuits.
      • Result-Oriented Focus: While the journey is important, delivering results and creating tangible impacts are paramount. This intense focus ensures we don’t lose sight of our end goals.
      • No Room for Blame: Mistakes happen. Instead of pointing fingers, our focus should be on understanding, learning, and growing from them.
  • Per the Working Genius: Wonder & Discernment
    • Wonder: “asking the questions that provoke answers and action … wondering whether things shouldn’t be different or whether there is untapped potential that should be tapped”
    • Discernment: “ability to assess an idea or situation … provide advice and feedback”


Empower teams to achieve significant milestones through calm intensity and adaptable strategies.


As I join TechCorp, my priorities are:

  1. Team Management & Development
    • Understand and address individual needs and aspirations.
    • Clarify expectations and facilitate smooth onboarding.
    • Understand hiring priorities and process.
  2. Role & Contribution Analysis
    • Engage with stakeholders to understand expectations.
    • Familiarize with system portfolio, ensuring alignment with strategic vision.
    • Develop a team charter and ensure understanding across the board.
  3. Strategic Planning
    • Consolidate and validate corporate strategy insights.
    • Collaborate with internal and external stakeholders.
    • Ensure structural alignment and develop tactical plans for execution.
  4. Company Induction
    • Engage in listening sessions with various departments.
    • Review and synthesize available resources.
    • Continuously refine understanding in collaboration with experts.

Weekly Priorities Review

Here are tasks (or placeholders for tasks, it’s OK, you can figure it out as you go!) I came up with on a Monday morning:

  1. Team Management & Development

    • Understand and address individual needs and aspirations:
      • TODO: Create a list of 1:1s, detailing frequency and topic for each. Request administrative assistance for scheduling.
      • TODO: Initiate meetings with team members to establish rapport and understand their expectations.
    • Clarify expectations and facilitate smooth onboarding:
      • TODO: Check in with new team member during their first week.
    • Understand hiring priorities and process:
      • TODO: Coordinate with managers and HR to understand recruiting requirements and how we can assist.
  2. Role & Contribution Analysis

    • Engage with stakeholders to understand expectations:
      • TODO: Schedule sessions with key department stakeholders.
      • TODO: Share current impressions of the team’s contributions with the department head and gather feedback.
    • Familiarize with system portfolio, ensuring alignment with strategic vision:
      • TODO: Deep dive into Jira to understand the overall project status.
      • TODO: Begin discussions with the QA team assigned to understand collaboration opportunities.
    • Develop a team charter and ensure understanding across the board:
      • TODO: Revisit the existing team charter and, if outdated, initiate the process of revision.
  3. Strategic Planning

    • Consolidate and validate corporate strategy insights:
      • TODO: Start engaging with Project Managers for strategy and planning inputs. Adjust schedule if not accomplished in the current week.
    • Collaborate with internal and external stakeholders:
      • [Further tasks related to collaborating with stakeholders can be added here.]
    • Ensure structural alignment and develop tactical plans for execution:
      • Pass this week.
  4. Company Induction

    • Engage in listening sessions with various departments:
      • [Tasks related to engaging in listening sessions can be added here.]
    • Review and synthesize available resources:
      • Pass this week.
    • Continuously refine understanding in collaboration with experts:
      • TODO: Schedule a discussion with a subject matter expert from another department to deepen understanding.

Credits and Testimonials


  • The First 90 Days by Michael D. Watkins. This helped me understand the importance of the first 90 days in a new role, and success through a learning mindset. After my coach helped me apply these ideas to be successful in new roles, I got the idea of making this a rolling 90-day plan that supports my growth.
  • Stategy and Tactics by Eli Goldratt, Rami Goldratt and Eli Abramov. While it may be obvious to all of you, the idea of a hierarchy of strategy and tactic (and strategy and tactic nested under them) was a revelation to me. I’ve used this idea to help me think about my priorities and how they relate to my mission.
  • The Path Between The Seas by David McCullough. This book helped me understand that we can in fact emark on projects that we have no idea how to complete. We can learn and discover as we go.
  • Outcomes over Output by Joshua Seiden. It’s not about the output, it’s about the outcomes we achieve. So a planning system that focuses on outcomes and pushes out plans until the last minute makes sense and is worth bragging about.
  • The Working Genius book and podcast by Patrick Lencioni. This helped me understand that we each have strengths, and we should leverage them and not lament all the weaknesses we have. He also helped me not feel guilty about my habit of asking people why they’re doing things and urging them to reconsider whether what they’re doing is the best way to meet their goals.
  • My coach, Daphne who helps me embrace a growth mindset and apply it to my whole life.
  • The dozens of friends, people I’ve mentored and teammates who’ve tried past versions of the framework and helped me make it better.
  • Many thanks to Jason Rudolph, Jay Floyd and Ale Cabrera for reading drafts of this and providing feedback that made it much better.


Ale Cabrera:

My imposter syndrome hasn’t fully gone away, but we’re at peace now. When I start having the familiar feelings, I just look at my doc and I feel relieved. It works for me.

Jason Rudolph:

Most growth systems seem to assume that your path should be determined by your strengths, or by the company’s needs, or by the intersection of the two. For me, that’s always resulted in a plan I’ve found uninspiring. Muness’s system reveals the missing components: I needed to identify what motivates me, the growth endeavors that I’m most proud of, and the accomplishments of the people that I look up to. The result: A plan that truly inspires me and has guided me toward fulfilling growth for more than a year now.

If you’ve used this framework, send me your testimonials so I can add them here!

Embracing the Journey

Reflecting on the last few years, I’ve learned that while goals seem appealing, it’s the journey — intentional planning, adaptability, and continuous learning — that has unleashed my growth and nudges me towards a growth mindset.

But here’s the beautiful part: this isn’t just my story. The essence of this approach is universally applicable. While I’ve laid out my experiences and methods, the core principles can resonate with anyone. It’s not just about setting goals but the deliberation, the reflection, and the intentional steps we take towards them. It’s also about harnessing the power of focused intent, the fun of adapting, and the joy of continuous learning.

Dive in, make it yours, and tell me about it. How did it work for you? Where did you tweak? I’d love to hear your stories!

This post is licensed under CC BY 4.0 by the author.

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