I did a call yesterday and she said, “I see you are traveling everywhere.”
“Yes, I’ve built a business that allows me to do client service from anywhere in the world.” When I took stock of my core values: Adventure, Beauty, Freedom. They didn’t align with being at an anchor desk anymore. It took me 10 years, but I finally put the right systems and processes in place to have a business like this.
This week, thought leader Dorie Clark co-hosted a LinkedIn Learning on “Making Strategic Thinking a Habit.” She started with this question: What can I do to make tomorrow easier and better?
Admittedly, sometimes short-term reactivity is all you can do.
But the world isn’t always like that.
“Pace things out, so you can make moves. We can be where we want to be, if we are strategic about it.”
Most of women leaders say they don’t have time for strategy. To them, strategic ‘big picture thinking time’ looks like 6 weeks in an ashram or it takes all day.
Clark says, its less about the time allocation and more about the lens you apply.
“Its about reframing the way you see the world.”
Some of the things she does in the name of strategy:
- Allows more whitespace to breathe in her calendar
- Is disciplined about margins between meetings
- Set up pauses in the schedule
- Takes Friday afternoons in the summer
“Strategy is all about getting in front of things. We don’t need a block of time. It’s how we are using the time.”
When doing strategic thinking, there is merit in asking the question:
“Existentially, who do we want to be in the world?”
Because, as the adage goes, “How you spend your day is how you spend your years. How spend your years is how you spend your life.”
Clark went on to say there are emotional reasons for why we keep ourselves in a constant state of busyness. Busyness is a form of status. It relays the sentiment: “I’m a baller.” It’s ego gratification.
It’s also a form of emotional avoidance. When we are in a lot of emotional pain, we use busyness as an emotional salve
Can you be honest with yourself about this?
- Enlist an accountability partner
- Have a check-in call once a week
- Review and analyze past decisions
- Review and analyze past successful decisions.
“Analyze success too” says Clark. “The process is revelatory”
Ask the questions:
- What does a good outcome look like?
- What does a great outcome look like?
“The more time we spend up front, the less likely we are to be rattled on the back end. Properly scope it.”
There are a bunch of ways to achieve the same goal.
Here are the steps I took to insert more ‘strategic thinking time’ into my schedule
STEP 1 Dedicate one day a week to working ON the business versus IN the business.
Pre pandemic, I heard the co-founder and CEO of Red Antler, JB Osbourne speak. For context, Red Antler is the branding and design agency behind brands with runaway success such as Casper Mattress and Allbirds. In his live interview, he shared his weekly practice that has helped his agency grow: Fridays, religiously, he sequesters himself.
Away from his team.
Away from his clients.
Away from his then new-born baby.
I’ll never forget his ‘why.’
““Fridays are my time to work ON the business, not IN the business. I’m the only one who can set the vision and the strategy for my company. Nobody else can do that.”
I took this piece of advice to heart and started working ON my business on Sundays. I don’t let client work, meetings. Something else trump this block of time.
Three things to consider:
- I interviewed Sue Ashford, who heads up women’s leadership studies at University of Michigan. I titled our talk: I’m Capable, but I Don’t Want to Lead. Listen here. She said strategy is amorphous, nebulous. The time block doesn’t yield the immediate dopamine hit that “doing the proposal for your team” gives you. Sometimes that dopamine hit doesn’t come at all. It’s delayed.
- The second thing to consider, in her opinion, is that we, as women, are ‘do-ers.’ Rather than sit in the discomfort, we just get busy ‘doing.’ But that still doesn’t get the strategic thinking that only the business owner could do. That doesn’t create the vision that only the founder can do. Listen here. Transcript. Buzzsprout link.
- The third thing to consider comes from organizational psychologist and author of “10x versus 2x” Dr. Ben Hardy. He says, we often don’t get to our ‘bigger goal’ because there is a clearer path to 4 or 5 lesser goals
- Do laundry
- Pack kids’ bags for camp
- Help struggling teammate write proposal for client pitch
Given that we are natural ‘do-ers,’ we are inclined to ‘do’ those 4 or 5 lesser things, take the dopamine hit, and never get around to the ‘bigger goal’
STEP 2 Take stock of your core values. Build a vision and strategy around it.
I interviewed Lisa Druxman, CEO of Fit4Mom. Each week, when she sits down to schedule her time, she takes stock of her values, creates a vision around it, creates a strategy around it—then schedules her week.
I’m creating my vision board for the rest of 2023, 2024. Want to create yours and share it? Join me July 29th.
STEP 3 Think critically about ‘who you need to become’
The worthy inquiry then becomes: “Who do you have to BE” or “Who do you have to become?” in order to be the person who books this block of time and follows through with it.
There needs to be a motivating factor.
Here is what I do to think daily about “The Who I Need to Become”
5 journal prompts
- Where are you right now?
- What are your wins for the last 90 days
- What are the wins you want for the next 90 days
- What do you want in the next year?
- What do you want in the next 3-5 years?
These are priming questions. The answers to them live in the front of my notebook. I review them before I start journaling. It helps to “prime” my brain, as Dr. Ben Hardy indicates. Then I start to journal from the perspective of this future self.
I also have a journal practice at night, because this is when I review my day. Sometimes I feel like I did nothing. I was unproductive. Its not until I sit down to write all the things I did, that I realize, “Wow I actually did a lot!” It also generates new ideas for the next day. It helps me plan and prioritize my next day. More on this in a later post.