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How to Plan for Uncertain Times

Read time: 4 minutes

“All times are uncertain. There’s never been a time ever that was certain.” - Simon Sinek.

I love that quote. Simon is spot on.

Life is a journey. Good, bad, and uncomfortable. When you're doing great, remember to enjoy the moment but recognise it will pass. And prepare for rain.

In today’s issue, I’m going to share with you five lessons I’ve learned on my journey through multiple recessions and downturns over the last 15 years.

Included is a workshop you can adapt and run in your organisation to either help you through a bad period or prepare for a bad period coming in the future.

From training yourself for war to getting everyone involved, I hope these insights offer you a light at the end of the tunnel.

Let's dig into what works and what doesn't, based on real experiences of me and my 11,000+ members, and a genuine desire to help you succeed.

Lesson 1: Train yourself for war in peaceful times

When I say “war” and “peace”, I’m speaking metaphorically to mean when times are generally good or bad.

When times are good:

  • Don’t overspend. My mother drummed into me growing up that spending money you don’t have is always a bad idea.
  • Stockpile resources you can quickly deploy if you need to.
  • Work on your business as much as you work in your business. Develop your skills and the people around you continuously. Don’t ever cut training budgets. Just get smarter about how you use the money. For example, what can your employees teach each other instead of bringing in an external trainer/consultancy?
  • The time to refine, improve and create robust processes and systems is when times are good. Because when times are bad, the pressure to cut costs, deal with emergencies and face challenges is enormous. This is often why companies fail. It's easy to say but hard to do.

Lesson 2: Be humble when you’re successful

That doesn’t mean not celebrating.

Celebrating success is important, but too many companies drink their own Kool-Aid and start believing they’re invincible when things are going well.

By all means, celebrate in the good times but don’t go overboard.

You are not as good as they say when you succeed and not as bad as they say when you fail.

Lesson 3: Don’t get too low when the hard times come

Negativity is a self-fulfilling prophecy. You start with mild worries, which train you to see bigger ones that keep escalating as you fall down the spiral.

Try flipping the narrative by embracing uncertain times as a challenge.

Remove the doomsayers from around you. People who are constantly negative without offering solutions are like a cancer for you and your team’s mental health.

Focus on the things you can control rather than worrying about what you can’t.

Lesson 4: Stay flexible & learn how to manage change

Your ability to adapt and adjust to change will set you apart from your competition.

You will win if you get good at embracing change as a fun challenge rather than an unwelcome chore.

The best way to embrace change as a challenge is to understand what change is and how it works.

And the fastest way I know to do that is to learn from an expert by taking our popular Change Management Secrets Masterclass.

Lesson 5: Get everyone involved in helping your organisation navigate uncertainty

Run this workshop in your organisation to either help you through some bad times or prepare yourselves for a bad period in the future if things are good right now.

Step 1 - Setup

Kick off the session by stating the objective so everyone has a shared understanding of the situation.

If times are good right now, then your objective is to prepare your organisation for a point in the future when things are tough.

If times are bad, your objective is to help your organisation survive and thrive.

Step 2 - Brainstorming

Follow the Think-Write-Share technique for surfacing the best ideas your group has to offer while allowing everyone to be heard.

Ask everyone to spend a few minutes thinking about your objective.

They then write their ideas down (one per Post-it) and put them on the wall.

Ideas Wall Brainstorm

Ask each person to share their most important idea. Go around the room asking for more ideas until most (or all) have been shared.

No judgements should be made at this stage.

People can add new ideas to the wall when they are inspired to do so.

Step 3 - Grouping & Theming

Invite the participants to examine the ideas and either expand, combine or eliminate some. Ideas can be grouped if they are saying the same thing.

Ideas Wall Grouping

Step 4 - Review & Prioritisation

Identify “nugget” ideas that run across groups/themes.

If the ideas require prioritising, invite your participants to put Post-It notes on a different part of the wall with their votes for the first, second and third best ideas.

The output can then be summarized in written or graphical format and distributed to the appropriate stakeholders.


Well, there you have it. My five best pieces of advice to help you with times, good and bad.

  1. 1
    Train yourself for war in peaceful times.
  2. 2
    Be humble when you’re successful.
  3. 3
    Don’t get too low when the hard times come.
  4. 4
    Stay flexible & learn how to manage change.
  5. 5
    Get everyone involved in helping your organisation navigate uncertainty.

Using these lessons, I never worry about negative micro and macro events affecting me too much because I have a plan.

Good luck!

Whenever you're ready, there are 3 ways I can help you:


The WorkshopBank Tools & Activities Library: get lifetime access to all our most effective workshop tools & techniques. Join 11,000+ members here.


Want to master the most important skill in business? Become an expert in leading & managing change with lifetime access to our popular Change Management Secrets self-paced online course.


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About the Author

Nick Martin helps leaders & consultants improve team results with resources, advice & coaching through