Resolve is easy. Planning & execution are hard.


I know from experience that resolutions are easy. We flex our determination muscle and resolve to achieve X. Making a resolution is easy, but bringing that resolution to fruition is hard. More of us have made resolutions than have seen them through.

Often, we think the issue of accomplishing our resolution is one of will or self-control. In that context, if we don’t realize our goal, it’s because we just didn’t want it badly enough. When we fail, we pity ourselves, have a consolation cookie or three, give up, and go back to a moribund contentment with the status quo. Maybe next year, we’ll be more serious, we think. More determined. Yes, we’ll try it all again at some future point when we can muster up the will to give it another go.

This is all wrong.

For me, difficulty in realizing goals has never been due to a lack of desire or will.

Failure to reach my goals is the natural result of a lack of planning.

My goals don’t just happen because I want them to. I must chart the path from where I am to where I want to be, and then follow that path. Let’s consider a few examples.

  1. Reading a book. If my goal is to finish a specific book, an attainable path to reach that goal is reading a chapter at a time. A formal plan might specify a day and the chapter to read on that day. When the plan is fully executed, I’ll have completed the book.
  2. Writing a blog post. I express many of my ideas and experiences through writing. When I write, I work from an outline. That outline is the plan. Without the outline, the blog post tends to wander, and may never be completed at all.
  3. Executing a change control. To perform a complex IT infrastructure task, I write detailed plans that describe the change, checkpoints along the way, estimated elapsed times, a backout plan, code to apply, scripts to execute, and so on. Without that plan, the change control is likely to fail.
  4. Earning a certification. The path to a professional certification includes acquiring a mastery of topics sufficient to pass one or more exams. Therefore, a certification plan involves documents and books to read and lab work to perform, all along a timeline that culminates in an exam attempt. Without the plan, a certification is more of an idea than a reality — something I think I’d like, but never seem to make progress toward.

While I don’t have any specific resolutions for the new year, I didn’t accomplish as much as I’d have liked to in 2015. In part, this is due to inadequate planning. I’ve been so busy over the last several months, that I haven’t had time to plan. And that’s exactly wrong. The way I get work done, I don’t have time NOT to plan. Looking forward, I must have a plan so that I will have sufficient focus.

Allow me to suggest that you, too, would benefit from a plan for whatever your resolutions might be. Desire and determination will bring resolve, but planning will increase the chance of actual execution. Break your goal down into manageable tasks, assign due dates, and then make it so.

Good luck. I’m off to spend some quality time with Wunderlist.



  • I backed the Self Journal on KickStarter and just received it yesterday. It’s a daily planner with the purpose of planning and tracking your daily execution with milestones towards your goals. It looks promising so hopefully I’ll get some things accomplished this year

  • Excellent post. This is the kinda of thing that we all know but never do “planning” or don’t do well. Thanks Ethan

  • Just downloaded Wunderlist. Simple and cross-platform, just what I was after. Thanks for the tip!

  • Good read. Wunderlist seems promising for basic to-do lists and reminders, and I’m sure I’ll find a use for it in my toolbox. However, for me it falls short in the area of daily recurring lists that help develop habits. Here’s a good list of this type of app: (no affiliation, I just found this site useful). I ended up choosing Simple and cross-platform as well.

By Ethan Banks

Ethan Banks is a podcaster and writer with a BSCS and 20+ years in enterprise IT. He's operated data centers with a special focus on infrastructure — especially networking. He's been a CNE, MCSE, CEH, CCNA, CCNP, CCSP, and CCIE R&S #20655. He's the co-founder of Packet Pushers Interactive, LLC where he creates content for humans in the hot aisle.