The #1 Secret And A Jedi Mind Trick To Make Planning Not Suck

“If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail” – Benjamin Franklin

Why am I so resistant to planning?!

I suppose, like most people, I’d rather be “doing” than planning. All that thinking. It doesn’t feel as rewarding as the instant satisfaction that comes from action: even if it’s answering and erasing emails.

And, yes, planning can be hard to do – documenting and prioritizing ideas. Estimating (aka guessing) how much time I need, versus how much time I have, to get work done can be tedious.

And, true confession time, because I see myself as a sort of free-wheeling over-achiever, writing down goals and planning them out, kills the spontaneity and introduces a level of accountability that can be anxiety making. It feels like a set-up for an annual performance review.

The worst – when I do put together a plan I feel good about, it’s out-of-date almost immediately. The sad truth:  plans are just that – plans. And, like life, they change. It’s the nature of the beast.

So… why do I persist?

Well, when I first started my coaching practice, I didn’t plan. And, a big product launch for my first group program, in plain language, tanked. It bombed. No registrations. Nada. Crickets.

As the launch was circling the drain, I realized what I’d done wrong. I hadn’t planned. Oh, I was smart enough to plan the daily tasks – the tactics. I engaged a great team, but, I hadn’t adequately thought through the bigger picture, strategic chunks of work. I missed accommodating for a big risk:  I’m not that well-known.

As a result, I hadn’t engaged people around me who are considerably better known, liked, and trusted than I am with (much) larger email lists who could have reached out to their audiences to vouch for and promote me. Now, facing disaster, it was too late in the timeline for them to effectively step in and bail me out.

Based on this experience, I realized planning and I had to come to terms – I had to find a way to get over my entrepreneurial ego and accountability anxiety.

My First Exercise In Planning

Here’s my secret (the jedi mind trick).

I sat quietly, closed my eyes, and pretended it was one year from today. I cast myself into the future and imagined I was having dinner with my best friend to celebrate my successes. I thought about what I’d tell her about my accomplishments. What had I achieved?  How did it feel?  What did I learn?  What changes did I make to get the amazing results I was so proud of?

When I opened my eyes, I had more clarity and excitement about my goals for the coming year and the process for achieving them.

But that wasn’t my only discovery.

The imagining exercise changed the story I tell myself about the planning process. I stopped thinking, “Ugh – planning, shoot me now.” Instead, I began asking myself, “How can I make the planning process easy and fun?”

For me, easy and fun means focus.

First, and this step is super important, I describe the qualities of my ideal client.  These are the only people I want to serve because they love what I do and I love working with them.  It’s not to say, I don’t work with other people, but these are the people I actively seek out.

The 4-Step formula I use to describe my ideal clients works like this: “I help people who are [characteristic #1] and [characteristic #2] to achieve [immediate outcome #1] so that they can achieve [big outcome].

For example, in a massage therapy practice, this formula could become: “I help people who are [active in sports] and [have sustained a sports-related injury] to [return to health] so that they can [play competitive hockey again].” Another example could be: “I help women who are [35-45] with [chronic back pain] to [provide stretching/strengthening exercises] so that [they can enjoy the freedom that comes with living pain-free].”

Once I’ve defined who I’d love to work with, I think about what I need from them.  For example, I love to work with people who are committed to doing the exercises I suggest, show up on time, happily pay my fee, and provide referrals.

Next, having identified my ideal client, I think about ways to reach out to them. And, of all the ways I identify, I focus on only 2-3 (instead of 5-6) Big Hairy Audacious Goals or opportunities that are exciting, inspiring, and challenging enough to carry me through the year.

If you love sports and you’d love to work with athletes who are challenged by sports injuries, you’re going to want to build relationships with people who work with them: coaches, trainers, and sport med doctors to establish your reputation and obtain referrals. You may even want to volunteer with sports teams to help players recover from, or mitigate injuries.

On the other hand, if your ideal clients are office workers who suffer from neck and lower back pain because they sit at desks all day working on computers, you may want to build relationships with corporate health and wellness coordinators and offer “lunch and learn” sessions or chair massages to build relationships with prospective clients.

Then, I identify what Brendon Burchard, a leading high-performance coach and best-selling author, calls the “needle movers” – the five big steps needed to move each goal forward. These five big moves, or chunks, can include many activities but they keep me from getting too lost in the details.

Photo by: image4you

Making Big Moves

If one of the opportunities I identified was “relationship building”, my five steps might be: identify relationships (successful massage therapists, doctors/chiropractors, team coaches, corporate health and wellness coordinators); speak with key people; identify opportunities (volunteering or speaking engagements); create an offer (e.g. a free consultation); and, develop support materials (e.g. a website or a Facebook page where people could learn more about the benefits of massage therapy, how to select a reputable massage therapist, and get to know, like, and trust me).

For example, when Burchard wanted to produce a best-selling book, he chunked the project down into five steps:  finish the book; cultivate an audience; get an agent; create an offer (e.g. an online promotion that could include a free webinar); and, develop a partnership-focused launch (i.e. engage people who are influencers with email lists to promote the book).

Planning Hack Alert!  Research.

In Burchard’s case, he researched and interviewed authors to learn the process they followed to attain best-seller status for their books. As you can imagine, this helped him benefit from their learnings, avoid mistakes, and build his network. In my case, I find ways to research the level of interest my clients have in the product(s) I’m considering launching to support each Big. Hairy. Audacious. Goal.

Flexibility is the last thing I now build into my planning process because… life happens. Once I decide on my chunks or my “needle-moving” five steps, I plan the first 3 months of my year carefully and I review how I’m doing each week so I can make adjustments. The rest of the year is loosely planned. I know what “chunk” – or big accomplishment – I want to focus on or complete every 3 months but the daily and weekly tasks remain to be fleshed out.

This level of flexibility is important.

I think many people get frustrated with planning because they try to get too detailed too quickly. They spend a lot of time – and do an amazing job – plotting out every little task. Then, circumstances change. They get overwhelmed at work, a task takes longer than anticipated and they get discouraged.

I leave room in my plan to “breathe”.

For example, Mondays are research and writing days. I set aside Friday or Sunday afternoons to reflect and readjust. I’ve learned to accept that planning is a fluid, ongoing process. Once you decide where you’re going, it requires a series of adjustments to stay on track – and that’s ok.

A final big change – I don’t check email (or Facebook) first thing in the morning anymore. Instead, I take a close look at my day and take Burchard’s “needle-moving” approach one step further by identifying the “needle-moving” activities that need to happen. Is there someone I need to call?  An article I must complete? In this way, my annual Big Hairy Audacious Goals get “baked in” to daily tasks, reviewed weekly, and assessed quarterly. Planning has become an ongoing review rather than a one-shot horror show that only takes place once a year – or under duress. And, it’s more engaging because it’s designed to be easy and fun.

Articles Of The Week March 25, 2018

As a follow up to the article he published last week, Curtis shows us how important pain science explanations are vs. biomechanical explanations when communicating with our patients.

“Biomechanics Vs. Pain Science Part 2” – Curtis Tait

How do you explain tension headaches and their treatment to your patients? This post is full of information you could use to explain why Massage Therapy can help treat their headaches.

“Massage Therapy For Tension-Type Headaches” – Richard Lebert

We all know how important exercise is. As a result, some schools are getting more involved in exercise education for professionals using exercise as treatments for various pain and mental health issues. In fact, it is predicted that exercise recommendations are going to increase from world health organizations because of our sedentary lifestyles (which is part of the reason these schools are ramping up programs).

“How Exercise Prescriptions Could Change The NHS” – The Guardian

There are many facets to pain, and many variables on how to manage it. So, do pain management programs actually get people ‘doing’ in real life? Well, it could depend on the relationship between doing/performing and coping/adapting.

“Do Pain Management Programmes Really Influence ‘Doing’ In Daily Life” Bronnie Thompson

This is a pretty scary warning, but certainly one worth looking at. It turns out there can be catastrophic injuries from epidural steroid injections for back pain. Could be some useful information if one of your patients is considering one of these type of injections for their pain.

“FDA Warns About Dangers Of Epidural Steroid Injections For Back Pain” – USA Health Times

Articles Of The Week March 18, 2018

Do you focus on a biomechanical style of treatment, or do you prefer to focus on pain science? Not sure what the difference is, or confused how to integrate both? Well, this post should help out with that. It’s only the first one in a series, but it’s a good way to get started if you’re not sure about those topics.

“Biomechanics Vs Pain Science: Bridging The Clinical Divide” – Curtis Tait

They say exercise is medicine. In clinical studies, it has been shown that regular aerobic exercise is as effective as anti-depressants for reducing symptoms of mild to moderate depression. Unfortunately in our society inactivity is the norm, so exercise isn’t used as much.

“Running From The Pain”  – Scott Douglas

More about exercise! Intense exercise can cause dramatic improvements in heart health, even at older ages.

“Hearts Get ‘Younger’, Even At Middle Age With Exercise” – Patti Neighmond

There are four critical questions we ask ourselves which make us feel like we are connected to our communities. It turns out taking one extra second to be connected with others can actually improve the quality of that presence. 

“How To Change Your Life In One Second Flat” – Katherine Schafler

There is a subheading in this article that is truly amazing. “The best workout isn’t always the most extreme one. The best on is the one you enjoy.” I’d say the same would apply to exercises you recommend to patients for homecare.

“Whatever Happened To Moderate Fitness?” – Colleen Stinchcombe

It’s Time To Start Building Your Tribe

“If you think leadership is only for other people, you’re wrong. We need YOU to lead us” – Seth Godin

We live in a time where information and innovation are at our fingertips.

Yet, within our profession, we still sit steeped in outdated information and a lack of updated education for our students coming out of college.

But there is a reason for that. It’s easier!

It’s easier to teach people to be sheep that follow along, rather than challenge the status quo. It’s easier to go decades without updating curriculum, while still teaching old information with confidence, and failing students for questioning otherwise.

What’s also easier is to just follow rather than question. And there’s nothing wrong with that, it’s human nature. Why would we question what educational institutions and regulatory bodies say?

Well, we have to in order to grow. 

This is where you come in. Your community needs you, and our profession needs you. We need you to embrace the tension between what you were taught and what new information says (it’s literally at your fingertips). 

If you don’t think you can do something like this, you’re wrong. There is a leader in all of us, sometimes we just need to learn how to bring it out.

So with that, here are some examples of therapists doing great things in their communities both locally and professionally to bring about change and make a difference.

Four Therapists Building Their Tribe

Rajam Roose

She was not a professional event organizer and had never taken on the task of organizing a conference while running her massage therapy practice. But, in January of 2014, after organizing a combination CEU course with Barrett Dorko, and Diane Jacobs, a light bulb went off. Rajam would go on to create the “San Diego Pain Summit,” which would officially start in 2015.

Rajam reached out to presenters and would organize them coming to one place to present on pain science, which would, in turn, start to influence our industry (this is where she started building her tribe). Many don’t know that she does everything for the conference herself, from managing the website, organizing speakers, hiring video, negotiating venues, and organizing volunteers (just to name a few of the necessary tasks), which has led her down a road into being more of an educator than strictly a Massage Therapist. Not only has this opportunity led into more business developments, it has also developed quality relationships with therapists from around the world, and gives her a feeling like she is serving our Massage Therapy community by helping therapists change how their patients pain is managed.

All too often many of us sit back because of “imposter syndrome” for fear that we can’t do something, or don’t know enough. So, I have to include this quote from Rajam:

I also have a bit of a rebellious personality. From prior life experiences, I’ve learned that we can do anything we set our minds to. I enjoy shaking up the status quo. For example, most people may be shocked to learn that I have very little formal education. I only have 2 years of high school and 1 year of a college education under my belt. I hope people will read this here, learn what I have and am doing, and be inspired to know they can do anything if they want.

Sarah Haag

Six years ago sitting on a train platform in Milan, Sarah was talking to her friend Sandy Hilton discussing how much better the world would be if healthcare was better, simpler, more efficient, and more scientific. They shared common goals and dreams when it came to patient care, so they started Entropy Physiotherapy.

Part of the goal was to host courses in their clinic where they and other therapists could learn from the best in the world, not just the best who happened to be closest to them when they needed a course. When picking speakers, they chose the ones that would challenge them, make them a little uncomfortable, and start discussions that would make practitioners better.

They wanted course offerings that left you energized from new ideas, collaborations, and developed new relationships. They reached out and started to find those exact kind of instructors, and also took a different approach in dealing with them. As a team, Sarah and Sandy would be very mindful of treating speakers well and not gouging them, or the course participants. While they didn’t have the intention of building a tribe, it has happened in the ensuing years. The people they’ve met at courses and conferences have become their tribe, which is something they’re only too happy to be a part of, not one they feel like they are leading (and they’re having a lot of fun doing it).

Brian Rutledge

“Necessity is the mother of invention” – Plato

After years of co-owning a successful group practice, Brian decided to go out on his own. 

He thought he had all the right skills and all the right plans, but he had no idea what was in store. While solo practice hasn’t exactly been great for his wallet, there have been other opportunities develop.

Having extra time, he has been able to learn about himself, while growing and refining his vision and purpose. This has given Brian the time to start teaching (even though advocating for up-to-date science can be an uphill battle and one that isn’t exactly rewarded), to engage with other professionals, and to pursue other interests. Some of those interests have led into building a community locally and online, as well as creating more educational content, to put on more courses locally for other practitioners.

Those interests have helped shape his practice and resulted in more enjoyment in what he does, a better relationship with patients, and the ability to refine crucial communication skills which have brought about a greater connection with people.

Two years of personal and professional development haven’t been easy, but building his tribe has been priceless.

Jenn Sharman

In October 2017 Jenn teamed up with an old classmate to open a new clinic.

They had a strong desire to create a clinic grounded in evidence-based approaches to treatment and patient care within the biopsychosocial lens while staying within their scope of practice as RMT’s. 

Knowing there was new research detailing advances in pain science for patient care, that wasn’t taught in school, they wanted to discuss these developments with other colleagues. They decided to create a monthly ‘pain science discussion group’ at their clinic. So far the response has been far more enthusiastic than expected (especially since it’s on Friday nights).

So far, three meetings in, the discussions have been on topics like “reconceptualizing pain, enhancing placebo-minimizing nocebo, and shifting from structural pathological to biopsychosocial.” 

Their group has a wide range of people from new grads to seasoned veterans who are all helping in their own way. While this represents an exciting time for manual therapy, it has brought about concerns. If students are not taught up to date information on pain it is doing a disservice to the public, which highlights how we need to come together as a profession to understand current best practices and let go of approaches or theories not supported by scientific evidence.

In creating this group, there is an attempt to share relevant research and get conversations started based on where to look for valid research and information.

This is another spot where I will include a quote:

it’s really exciting to see the level of interest amongst the community of RMTs. Once you get a group of passionate people talking in the same room, new connections and opportunities to create change will grow from there. I’m really excited to be a part of the conversations that need to happen to move our profession forward so that we can provide effective, compassionate and evidence-informed patient care.

Photo by: rawpixel

Now It’s Your Turn

I hope some of those examples will resonate with you as a therapist. 

It doesn’t take a fancy education, huge credentials, or a big financial backing to start making a difference. It just takes some motivation and the desire to create change. 

Part of what needs to be done is changing the effect some of the “modality guru’s” have within the manual therapy professions, they have made their own tribes. But those people are not where we are going to make change. Growth happens when we reach out to those who aren’t committed members of a tribe, but rather those who are at the fringes questioning modalities, old theories, or questioning those gurus. 

Looking at your local community right now, there are a few ways you can start to build your own tribe. Start by reaching out to other practitioners, whether they are Physio’s, Chiro’s, Athletic Therapists, or other Massage Therapists and be willing to start a conversation (just for the love of all that is good, please make sure it’s evidence-based). You will soon find out if they can be part of your tribe. 

Start pulling people in and discussing best practices, business, education, and whatever else will help each person in your tribe grow professionally and personally. 

Be a leader!

Once you have started locally, reach out online. Start fostering relationships with other practitioners, join in conversations, start conversations, watch debate and see what you can learn.  Join some facebook groups that will challenge your thinking, you will soon find out who you can learn from, and who is still stuck in old theories. Just make sure you join in the conversation.

As Jenn Sharman said, “it’s an exciting time to be a manual therapist,” and it’s a lot more exciting when more people are joining in. 



Articles Of The Week March 11, 2018

Is yoga effective for managing chronic pain? Maybe, but then again maybe we just need to look at safe, non-threatening movement as a way to cure or manage chronic pain.

“Yoga, Mice, Pain and Your Brain” – Sarah Haag

There are some great points in this article about doing aggressive psoas work on patients, but there’s some things I don’t like about the article. To say that only those trained in visceral work should be doing this kind of work (because there’s not much evidence to say visceral manipulation is effective), is a bit of a stretch. However, I like the overall gist, that only trained professionals should be doing the work, and to be careful, there’s no need to do “aggressive” work.

“Serious Warning – If You Do Any Releases To Your Psoas or Abs, You Must Read This” – Antony Lo

Load management in athletes is an important factor in making athletes available for, and being in the best shape possible for competition. This post reviews three factors related to load management to help your athletes.

“Load Management Is Not About Decreasing Minutes” – Tim Gabbett

I love sleep, so I hate this part of the year where I lose an hour of it putting the clocks forward (why are we still doing this!?). A lack of sleep can lead to a host of health conditions and can affect brain health. Fortunately, massage therapy helps with sleep, so this could be a good article to share with your patients as another reason to get a massage!

“Why Are We So Sleep Deprived And Why Does It Matter?” – The Conversation

I’ve been asked many times if I would ever open up a practice at home and while it’s not for me, I know plenty of therapists who do. This post lays out several things to consider if you are wanting to open a home-based practice.

“Opening A Home Based Massage Business” – Allissa Haines

Articles Of The Week March 4, 2018

This one is really interesting as it is several small interviews with different pain experts on different aspects of pain.

“Trust Me, I’m An Expert” – The Conversation

Next isn’t so much an article, it’s a video. But, it’s a great video you could use to help explain pain to patients (or anyone else for that matter). In less than five minutes you could give a simple explanation to patients about what’s going on with them.

“Understanding Pain In Less Than 5 Minutes” – Get PT 1st

Scientists have found “anxiety cells” in the hippocampus which regulate anxious behaviour. They have even found ways to silence them!

“Scientists Just Identified The Physical Source Of Anxiety In The Brain” – Peter Dockrill

It turns out the gut-brain connection is starting to show that certain foods influence the bacteria in our gut, which in turn can influence the mental health. The brain and serotonin are also directly influenced by the gut and dietary improvements may be a strategy for managing mental health.

“Is Your Diet Fighting Depression – Or Intensifying It?” – Natalie Shoemaker

Wow, it seems there’s lots on pain this week, but this is pretty cool! New fitness machines called Jymmin combine a mixture of working out and free musical improvisation, and they make us less sensitive to pain.

“Jymmin, How A Combination Of Exercise And Music Helps Us Feel Less Pain” – Neuroscience News