The Easiest Way to Actually Stay Focused and Stick to Your Plan

written by Racheal Cook MBA

A plan only works if you work the plan, but what if you’re struggling to stick to the plan?

What do you do when the plan goes completely out the window?

Sometimes we are dealing with personal challenges that disrupt our business. Sometimes we have to navigate external challenges that we can’t control.

And these days – we’re all experiencing the disruption and impact of Coronavirus /COVID-19 as our kids are home from school, businesses are closed, and entire cities are shut down PLUS a global movement for equality and social justice.

A smart CEO knows that the key to sustainable success is a combination of being focused and flexible with the strategic plans they have put into place.

In this final installment of the Unsexy Secrets to Sustainable Success, I’m going to be sharing with you how you can be both focused and flexible as you navigate these new challenges in life and business.

This series is about letting go of all the hype and all the hustle, putting the blinders on to the latest trends and the latest tips, tricks and tactics, all those shiny objects that are holding so many women entrepreneurs back from the real sustainable success that they are looking for in their business.

We started out talking about why so many people are getting overwhelmed by the information overload. This constant stream of the latest trends, tips, tricks, and tactics leave them empty handed when they are no longer as effective – and those entrepreneurs are constantly chasing the latest thing instead of having the confidence that comes when you have a clear strategy to achieve your goals.

We talked about when it’s time to level up your business – once you’ve gotten through the startup stage in your business (you’ve validated your business idea with paying clients), it’s time to get out of the information overload mode and into implementation mode.

Then we talked about creating a 12-Month Profit Plan and the components of that profit plan to help you start seeing how your business should be working for you month in and month out.

In the middle of creating this series – we all were impacted by the world-wide pandemic of coronavirus.

You may have listened to the bonus 3.5 hour live call we hosted with 12 of my favorite CEOs to share how you can create your coronavirus contingency plan.

It’s almost crazy timing for this series – because Coronavirus is literally illustrating why we need to be both focused and flexible with our plans. And that’s exactly what I want to dive into in today’s episode.

We want to make sure that we’re actually setting you up for success by learning to follow-through like a pro and adapt and adjust the plan like a Confident CEO.

When most people create their 12 Month Profit Plan (remember – we talked about this in the previous episode) they may start to feel a combination of relief and overwhelm.

Relief because they finally have a plan down on paper – they know what their marketing strategy is going to be. They have a clear promotional calendar. They have clarity on where they want to go in the next 12 months.

But it can also feel incredibly overwhelming! On top of our marketing and promotional plan, we also have other massive goals we want to tackle.

Things that I hear from my clients are things like – “I need to get a new website. I want to write a book this year. I want to create this new awesome program.” We have all these big goals that we want to accomplish.

It starts to get overwhelming because some of these projects take a lot more work that we actually realize!

How’s it all supposed to happen? It can feel overwhelming to look at everything as just a massive 12 month to-do list… throw in a challenge like Coronavirus… and it can feel like we might as well scrap all of our 2020 plans.

That’s Why We Break It Down Into 90 Day Plans

90 Days it’s just long enough to stay focused and short enough to be flexible! This is exactly why we host a quarterly The CEO Retreat, why we created The CEO Planner, and we even built The CEO Collective around 90 day plans!

When we don’t have clear priorities for how we are going to work this bigger 12 month plan, then suddenly the sexy stuff aka the shiny objects start to take over and the unsexy stuff that’s going to move your business forward starts to fall to the wayside.

Here’s an example I’ve seen happen over and over again – entrepreneurs who jump on a huge rebrand project. They get immersed in the planning, the photoshoots, the copy, the website – and they stop showing up and marketing their business. They stop marketing. They stop making offers. None of that seems as important as the huge rebrand project.

Now, it’s not as sexy to show up and write emails to your community every single week. It’s not as sexy to consistently create content via a blog or podcast. It’s not as sexy to make sure you’re asking people to work with you consistently each and every month.

It’s so much easier to go back into that top secret entrepreneur lab and work on other projects.

But it won’t take long before it catches up to you.

The foundational elements of your 12 Month Profit Plan – including a clear marketing and promotional plan – are essential to the future success of your business.

How you show up TODAY will impact the sales your business generates in the next 3-6 months.

Showing up for your clients and community is like putting a deposit into an account that your business will draw from in the future. You are depositing social currency by showing up and sharing useful, helpful, relevant content. You are depositing social currency by building relationships.

Then when the time actually comes to announce that awesome new rebranded website, you will have clients and community who are excited about it!

But I get it – being consistent with marketing and promoting your offers can be tricky when you are trapped IN the day to day of running your business. It’s literally almost like living paycheck to paycheck, like many entrepreneurs are, right?

If your business is operating day to day – your business is dependent on revenues from launch to launch – and you in turn are living paycheck to paycheck, it doesn’t leave any room for error. It doesn’t leave any room for the challenges that may show up and throw you a curveball.

There’s two types of curveballs we’ll all face as entrepreneurs::

1:: The first is an internal curveball – something that is impacting you personally and your ability to show up consistently in your business.

This past winter my family was sick a lot more than normal. It seems like this year has been particularly bad for illnesses going through my kids’ school, but the beginning of February, everybody had this terrible cough and sore throat. We had the kids home for several days. I ended up with a sinus infection then bronchitis. Two weeks later, we all came down with the flu. All five of us.

Ask yourself – could your business handle an illness that takes you away for 2 weeks or more?

I know that if I hadn’t worked ahead of my plan, so many things would have fallen through the cracks. I wasn’t able to record podcast episodes because my voice was gone, I was coughing non-stop, my throat was so sore. If my podcast depended on me to record it the week that it was going to go out, we would be in trouble. You wouldn’t have heard any podcasts in February.

We all got sick the same two weeks that I really needed to promote March The CEO Retreat. If I hadn’t already had a plan and worked ahead of the plan, the promotion would have fallen apart because I was focused on taking care of my sick family.

Because I have a plan with clear priorities and clear systems in place in my business – even though I spent two weeks on the sofa with sick kids watching all the Harry Potter movies – the business continued to run without me.

My team had everything that they needed from me to run the promotion. We were working far enough ahead of the plan that me having to take off most of February was no big deal. It made no impact in the revenue that we brought into my business.

That is pretty amazing!

I know that this is the type of security that so many entrepreneurs truly want in their business – because we all know that we are going to be thrown these internal curveballs.

If you haven’t listened to the episode with Mindy Totten, she shared how having a plan in place really helped her last summer when her brother unexpectedly passed away. She had very little time once she heard the news that he was sick then realized that he was going to pass away within a few weeks.

As you can imagine, it was a shock to her, but knowing that she had a system in place for her business allowed her to completely drop everything and go to be with him without worrying about the business.
She was able to continue doing things like sharing podcast episodes, emailing her community, showing up on social media – because it was already planned and scheduled.

So the first curveball is something internal that impacts you personally.

2:: The second curveball is something that is happening externally but impacts your business, your clients, or the world in general.

Do you remember the ramp up to the presidential election in 2016?

As it became clear that the election would be between Donald Trump and Hilary Clinton, the tension was palpable. We were coming up on the debates in September 2016… and it had a real impact on my and many other businesses that Fall.

See, at the time, 80% of my revenues were coming from the launch of my online course. And a huge part of our launch strategy was running Facebook ads to a free webinar followed by an invitation to join our program.

But at the same time – the super PACs were dumping massive amounts of money into Facebook advertising, driving up the cost of ads. This had a massive impact on launches from September all the way through the inauguration.

Our sales were HALF of what we expected based on previous years data. And as we watched the campaigns get more and more intense in October and November, we knew that we needed to shift our approach before our planned January launch of the same program.

We started to shift towards a more evergreen enrollment model – where instead of depending on just 2-3 big launches a year to drive revenue, we could continue enrolling clients more consistently which would in turn stabilize our cash flow.

I was so glad that we did because come January many of our clients were at the Women’s March, not focused on joining our programs. It took another year before a big launch did as well as they did before for my business.

External challenges tend to be like that election year where the public may be focused on something OTHER than your business – and it’s your job as the CEO to come up with a flexible plan to adapt and adjust so you can still achieve your goals.

3:: RIGHT NOW – we are all facing both internal and external challenges due to Coronavirus.

The third curveball.

I actually had recorded this episode previously without a third type of challenge because it happens so so so rarely. 9/11. The 2008 recession. These types of challenges don’t happen every day.

But the combination of this internal and external challenge will likely implode many businesses right now.

Right now, many of us are facing the internal challenges of navigating people getting sick, our kids all home from school, suddenly needing to practice social distancing.

Many of these internal challenges are the results of this collective external challenge – a global pandemic of Coronavirus/COVID 19. Many businesses are already feeling the economic impact of this virus as entire cities are shutting down to reduce the speed at which this is spreading.

And our potential clients – they may be especially distracted right now with news changing every single day. Now – we are very much in the middle of this – but by now, we are all seeing how quickly the stability of our businesses can be tested.

That’s why having a focused and flexible plan is so crucial to your long term success – because you will be able to adapt and adjust quickly for any curveball that is thrown your way.

Sustainable Success happens is when we
1) have a plan and 2) work the plan.


When we are flying by the seat of our pants, making everything up as we go, we aren’t building a strong foundation for our business to lean on when things don’t go as planned.

This is why weekly CEO Dates and quarterly CEO Retreats are so crucially important.

A CEO Date Sets Your Week Up For Success

A weekly CEO Date is a simple practice that I’ve had for over a decade. It is simply an appointment with the CEO of your business – that’s you! – to check in with the progress of your 90 day plan, adapt and adjust as needed, and prioritize your upcoming week. Each week, you make sure that you are marketing and promoting your business. It’s one hour that holds you accountable and helps you stick to your plan!


When I first started talking about this, a lot of people at first were like, “Why would I spend an hour or two hours sitting down to check in and plan my week? I don’t have an extra hour.

But every hour spend planning saves 10 hours in implementation. That’s why The CEO Date is so important – it saves you HOURS each week trying to get yourself organized and on task. It also forces you to check in regularly to see if you are on or off track, so you catch challenges earlier and adapt faster.

Once I started sharing The CEO Date with my clients, they started sharing with me incredible results simply because they were able to be more focused and flexible in their planning – and actually stick to it!

A CEO Retreat Breaks Your Goals
Into Implementable Action Steps

Then we took it all a step further with The CEO Retreat.

There is no secret formula to the CEO Retreat. We’re letting go of the day-to-day distractions by dedicating time to come together and map out exactly how we want to achieve our goals. By the end of The CEO Retreat, each CEO has a list of action items to achieve each goal and has even planned out the timelines for each action step. When they leave, they stick to their plans with the help of The CEO Date and their CEO Planners.

Watching the women at The CEO Retreat has completely transformed my work. I was seeing women step up, and after hearing the feedback from others, after hearing the encouragement from others, they felt more confident in their plan.

And when you feel more confident in your plan, you make that executive decision and just do the darn thing.

No more procrastinating. No more waffling around our decisions or saying, “I’m going to research this even more,” or, “I need to look into how this happens,” or, “I need to look at how someone else did it.

That was no longer happening for these people attending the CEO Retreat. They were quickly making moves in their business and stepping in to a self-leadership role that I haven’t seen in other programs that I have delivered.

Not very sexy, right? Blocking out time to actually plan out your next 90 days?

It sounds so basic – but this planning process has transformed the businesses of the women who are implementing it consistently. It’s not only transform their businesses, they’re not only seeing amazing business results, but they’re also transforming their lives, which I never thought I would say because it does sound so cliche.

I’m literally getting text messages from people saying…

“I was able to take the weekend off and I haven’t done that in so long. This system is working for me. I was able to travel with my family and take them to Disney World. I never thought I would be able to take a week away from my business and it would continue running without me and my team could keep things going together. I never thought that I could do these things!”

…but they’re doing them because they not only have the plan, but they know how to work the plan, how to make sure that they are running their business instead of their business running them.

What was most interesting to me though about the CEO Retreats was watching how people implemented after The CEO Retreat.

There were many people who attended the CEO Retreat, then joined our online course Sweet Spot Strategy.

The CEO Retreat helped them to get laser focused first instead of jumping into Sweet Spot Strategy and feeling like, “I have to do the entire program before I take action. I have to get through all of the training before I can start implementing everything. I have to do all of this before I start working towards my plan,” they were treating it differently.

They were treating the information as a JUST IN TIME resource – a resource that they were diving into when they knew that they needed information to help them implement the strategy they had created at the CEO Retreat.

That difference was so fascinating to watch!

I know my community is filled with lifelong learners – but no matter how much I did to try to help, many times I would see people get stuck as they went through the course trying to learn EVERYTHING before they would take action. They would go through not just my program, but other people’s programs and feel like they were never ready because there’s always more information out there.

The focus on implementation made all the difference.

I had people like Margaret Cogswell, a website designer who attended the very first CEO Retreat, who figured out the most important strategies to implement in her first 90 days.

She learned how to raise her prices through quick conversations with other people at the table. She quickly implemented that.

She realized where her clients were coming from and she let go of all of the busy work of social media and content marketing when she realized her referral sources were generating way more business for her.

When she just got laser focused on those things, she didn’t need a ton of other training. She just needed clarity on what was most important right now.

You can listen to an interview with Margaret right here about how she went on to DOUBLE her business to $10K months within a year of implementing the CEO Retreat & CEO Dates in her business.

I watched people like Missy Kai, a mobility specialist and yoga therapist who attended The CEO Retreat twice now.

She got laser focused on what would move the needle fastest for her business and she only did those things and she doubled her revenue within 90 days, taking her business from $2-3K months to $5K-$6K months.

You can listen to an interview with Missy right here about how she has continued to grow her business and hitting her first $10K month – all by implementing consistent quarterly CEO Retreats and weekly CEO Dates!

When you understand what strategies will make the biggest impact with the least amount of effort, you don’t need to have a PhD in marketing or business. You can truly get the maximum return on energy, time, and investment.

That’s what we all need to be doing in our business. As CEOs, we need to be looking at what are the actions that take the least amount of effort but get the maximum results. That is what ROI is all about.

Within the first year of hosting The CEO Retreat, I started questioning how I was supporting entrepreneurs. What was truly the best way to help them get results?

Don’t get me wrong – I love creating trainings and content. That will never change! I’ve spent a decade creating a vault of useful trainings, systems, and frameworks for entrepreneurs.

But when I overlay that content with the planning processes of The CEO Retreat, CEO Date, and CEO Planner, true magic is happening for people’s businesses.

They don’t need to first press pause and invest hours and hours and hours trying to learn all the things before they go out and implement. They can clarity on what they actually need with a support system there to fill in the gaps – and then cherry pick the information they need. My team and I are there to help by directing them to exactly what they need instead of wading through tons of trainings and content.

That’s why I made the incredibly hard decision to retire Sweet Spot Strategy in the Fall 2019.

I was seeing something that I hadn’t seen before… and it was clear as day that the key to success wasn’t just about access to information. We had TONS of information inside the members site!

The key to sustainable success was truly about IMPLEMENTATION. When we added The CEO Retreat on top of all of our content – and provided a quarterly and weekly approach to implementation – it changed everything.

Suddenly, our clients were sticking to their plan. They were embracing the radical self-accountability and self-leadership that would help them promote themselves from chief everything office to CEO of their business. They were rising to the next level of sustainable success in their businesses without working harder, working longer hours, or sacrificing time away from their families.

When I saw that magical combination of strategic planning + just-in-time consulting and training, I knew that it was in everyone’s best interest to bring it all together.

If you’re ready for this…

» If you’re ready to get out of that top secret entrepreneur lab where you feel like you’re never ready because there is so much information and so many different ways to approach your business…

» If you’re ready to let go of perfection, let go of the need for everything to be shiny and polished before you release it to the world…

» If you’re ready to get out of the creative cul-de-sac where the only people who see your work are YOU and you know it’s time to put things out into the world…

» If you’re ready to stop the information overload and start getting into implementation mode…

» If you’re ready to create a plan that gives you the focus and the flexibility to grow your business to consistent $5,000, $10,000, and $15,000 months no matter what curveballs are thrown your way…

…then I would love to invite you to The CEO Collective.

What is The CEO Collective?

This is an implementation mastermind program. When you join us for The CEO Collective, you’re joining us for a full year of strategy, systems, and support.

We start by helping you craft your 90-day plan. If you haven’t joined me for a CEO Retreat, we’ve created a training to ensure that you’re kicking off each quarter with a rock solid 90-day plan – which is going to be more important than ever right now. Not only will you have a documented 90 day plan, you’re actually going to share it with me, your mentor in The CEO Collective, and your mastermind.

That’s right – your mastermind!

Research shows that the optimal size for a mastermind is about 5-6 people. We want you to have peer-to-peer support with other entrepreneurs who are playing at the same level who are just as serious about their business as you are. That’s why we are carefully matching all of our masterminds based on what stage of business they are in.

Trust me, we will not put you in a situation where you are the smartest person in the room and no one else has a clue. You are going to be in the room with brilliant ambitious women who can provide incredible insight to you and help you stay accountable to your plan.

You will also have ongoing support with me and the mentors inside of The CEO Collective.

Every single month, I will be hosting a series of live Q&A calls for each stage of business growth. If you’ve downloaded the Business Growth Checklist, you’ll find that we have designed every part of The CEO Collective to support you where you are – right now – and keep you focused on reaching the next level in your business.

There will also be additional mentor calls from other experts who are filling in the gaps on topics that I am not an expert in. I’m bringing in some of my dear friends and colleagues to talk to you about things like the legal side of running a business, the financial side of running a business, more advanced visibility strategies, more advanced copywriting, and advanced strategies that will help you accelerator your business growth.

I designed The CEO Collective so that not only do you have implementation support around your plan and the ongoing support each and every month as you’re implementing that plan, but you also have the ongoing support of a team who’s really checking in on you and helping you get the results you’re looking for in your business.

We have been testing this out over the last year and the results were just incredible.

The entrepreneurs who have been working in this way with me over the last year aren’t suddenly started having six-figure launches, no one has purchased a dream house or flashy new car… but they have created more sustainability, stability, and security in their business.

They started generating a more consistent, predictable revenue.

They learned how to look ahead, project revenue, and gauge cashflow.

They started building systems and structure that would allow them to work ahead and create more breathing room (no more hustling).

They had the ability to get on the spot feedback and support so they could get right back into implementation mode without getting sidetracked by shiny objects.

Who is The CEO Collective for?

This is for entrepreneurs who are ready for that next level of success.

You are through or nearly through the startup stage in your business, you’ve started taking on new clients, and you know that more information isn’t what you need right now.

You are ready to get into the implementation zone. You are ready for consistency. You’re ready to be able to know how much revenue is coming in your business. You’re ready to have that predictable paycheck for yourself every single month and you’re ready to get out of that feeling like your business is running week to week, paycheck to paycheck, launch the launch.

You’re ready to feel like you have more control in your business.

This is for people who are self-starters, who are ready to do the work and who are committed to staying accountable to their plan.

This is for people who are ready to take on 100% responsibility for their results and to be radically accountable for where they’re putting their time and effort – and who are ready to be in a room with people who are going to hold them accountable and call them out when we see them chasing a shiny object or deviating from the plan that they said they were going to follow.

Now, I want to be really clear, this is not for everyone.

This is not for people who truly need need to be told week-to-week what they need to do. That’s not what The CEO Collective is about.

In fact, I really want to caution against this. If you can’t learn to be self-accountable and you’re not ready to implement systems to learn how to be self-accountable, then maybe business isn’t for you. Just to be honest. Just To be clear. There’s a lot of codependency happening in the coaching world right now where if people aren’t being told exactly what to do, they don’t know how to run their own business. I think that’s a tragedy.

If you’re an entrepreneur, you need to understand how to show up and how to do the work every single week. You need to know what work you’re doing is going to actually move the needle.

These are things we can help you with at The CEO Collective. These are the things that The CEO Retreat and The CEO Planner are designed to help you do – so you can stop wasting time with all the small stuff and understand what you need to stay focused on.

You have to be committed and take 100% responsibility for following through to see you the results you’re looking for.

If this is piquing your interest and you know that you are ready for something different, you’ve been coursed out, you feel like you’re swimming in a lot of information and you just need that support system to keep you focused into help you stay in implementation mode, we would love, love, love to support you in this.

As we close out the Unsexy Secrets to Sustainable Success, I want to just highlight a few things and remind you to head over to the show notes for any of the links or resources that I’ve mentioned in the last few episodes.

We talked about the difference between the information overload and implementation mode. We talked about why people are getting stuck in this top secret entrepreneur lab because they’re constantly feeling like they’re not ready yet. They don’t have enough certifications. They don’t have enough training. They don’t have enough information. Their programs or marketing or website isn’t perfect yet. There’s so much more they need to do before they can really start putting things out into the world.

Staying in that top secret entrepreneur cave really is a great procrastination strategy.

We need to shift from JUST-IN-CASE INFORMATION where we’re constantly in learning mode to JUST-IN-TIME INFORMATION where we’re cherry picking the information that we need based on our implementation plan.

We need to stay focused on that implementation plan, so that we can create more predictable profits in our business.

Then, we talked about the importance of having a 12-month profit plan.

It takes time to sit down and play plan out what you’re going to be working on in your business for the next 12 months – to create your marketing strategy and your promotional calendar. That takes time, but you have to slow down in order to speed up. If you are finding yourself making up all your marketing and sales strategies as you go – friend you are flying by the seat of your pants – and it is incredibly hard to get out of that feast or famine mode.

Finally, we talked today about why plans need to be both focused and flexible – and how The CEO Retreat and CEO Date are tools that we use inside The CEO Collective to help us adapt and adjust to any curveballs that might come our way.

We are facing uncertain times with Coronavirus. It’s not only causing challenges on an external, global level as cities are on lockdown and businesses are forced to close, but it’s causing internal challenges as we are all navigating social distancing, kids being home, all while keeping our businesses running.

When we are hit with a challenge like this – we need strategy and support.

Being the CEO right now is freaking hard – it means being the boss and making the tough decisions. No one is going to care about your business as much as you do. No one is going to step in and run your business for you.

The CEO Collective is here to help you build those CEO muscles. We have the strategy, the systems, and the support to help you not only survive, but thrive during these challenging times.


1:: Planning is essential – but you also need to have a strategy to adapt the plan for whatever challenges come your way.

2:: How you show up TODAY impacts the business you have in 3-6 months – that’s why we MUST continue showing up consistently.

3:: The two simple practices designed to help you stay accountable to your plan? A weekly CEO Date and quarterly CEO Retreat.