One of the biggest challenges professionals face is carving out time for strategic thinking amidst the hurly-burly of daily work obligations. Learn how to do it successfully.
- We know it's important to be strategic and that means of course making time for strategic thinking, but that's easier said than done. Most of us are already pushed to the limit when it comes to scheduling, the average professional sends or receives more than 120 emails per day and attends 62 meetings per month. But no one gets paid to write emails or attend meetings. We have to somehow fit in our actual work around all of that. Strategic thinking can seem like a lovely and quaint afterthought, oh maybe one day when I have a little more time.
But you know and I know that time is never going to come, it doesn't just happen you have to make it happen. Here are a few ways to build time for strategic thinking into your schedule. You can also download a checklist from the exercise files to help with this. One place to start is to turn off the noise. There are likely times in your day maybe when you commute to work or go to the gym when you're listening to music or podcasts or audiobooks, those are all great things, but it's only recently in human history that we've been able to fill up every spare minute with distraction and information.
Instead even once a week turn it all off and just sit with your thoughts, be deliberate about it and use that quiet time to let your mind wander. Ask yourself the big questions that we don't often engage in, where do you want to be going, are you headed in the right direction. Giving yourself space during one of these times on a regular basis can yield powerful insights. Or you can create a weekly blog, many of us have meetings we get roped into and often don't have as much control over our calendars as we might like.
But almost all of us have at least some control and we can choose to exercise it more deliberately. Take just an hour a week, ideally at a time when others won't be pressuring you to meet up, let's say late Friday afternoon as the workweek is shutting down. Block that time out on your calendar each week and treat it like a firm commitment just as though you were meeting with someone else. Make that your strategy time and experiment with the best place to do your thinking, maybe it's at your desk, maybe it's taking a walk, you can try it and see. But don't let it get shunted to the side, protect the time and allow yourself to step back and think about the big picture.
It's hard to make the time but once you do, you'll probably both enjoy it and benefit from it. You can also enlist a friend, sometimes commitments are easier to keep if you have an accountability partner, we all know that from going to the gym, but the same holds true with strategic thinking. If you have a trusted friend inside or outside your company, maybe that person is also interested in sharpening her strategic thinking skills and you two could create a regular appointment whether it's every week or every month, to meet up, brainstorm, and talk through ideas.
You could do it in person or over the phone or Skype, depending on what's possible. Alternately maybe it wouldn't really make sense to engage in strategic thinking with your friend but you could still do it on your own and use each other as accountability buddies. At the end of every week for instance you could get in touch and verify that you did indeed carve out the time you promised for strategic thinking. Or risk embarrassment if you didn't. That could help keep you on track. When it comes to strategic thinking, sometimes making the time for it is the hardest part, but these strategies can help.
- Embracing the strategic mindset
- Making time
- Learning from the past
- Getting details right
- Strategic thinking with a team
- Measuring success