Do you feel like 2020 has thrown you off the tracks? Are you trying to put the right things into focus again?

Knowing your strategy is extremely powerful in a rapidly changing world. The cultivation of strategic thinking as an ongoing habit allows you to channel your energy towards the right focus. Here are some tips for strategic thinking as part of your daily routine so you can successfully start into the new year.

Make space to focus

Strategic thinking is never the most urgent task but it is key not to get distracted and forget about it. Start by allocating some time regularly in your calendar. It doesn’t have to be much time, but just enough to reflect on these questions:

Do my activities line up with my goals? And can I do something better or differently?

Try changing your location to get yourself in a different headspace so you can spark new creative ideas. Being outdoors for a walk can help to reduce stress and elevate creativity which is beneficial for strategic thinking. Reading a book or watching a film from other countries and cultures might help you gain new insights by observing how people from different backgrounds handle a situation.

Finding your way to being more creative can help you discover possibilities that have been invisible to you before and are just what you need to find you next strategic initiative.

Change up your visualisations

Do you have a to-do list? Or maybe even multiple? If you are struggeling to tick off your items, this might be due to them not providing a structure to identify the significance and duration of different tasks. They create an undifferentiated mess that does not allow you to maintain strategic focus.

If you get lost in your ‘to-do’s, maybe try a ‘to-focus-on’ list. These lists use different durations (eg. 3 months or 5 years) to help guide you on where you want to put your extra time and effort. You will be able to see how your effort should be spent, in what duration, and to what goal they should lead. A mind map lets you represent ideas and concepts in a graphical way. Think about other options that can help your cause.

You can also use different types of diagrams to portray your aims and ideas ā€“ looking at visuals can assist you to see things in different ways. For example, a flow chart can outline in what order processes need to be completed to get to your goal or if any can happen simultaneously. A mind map lets you represent ideas and concepts in a graphical way. Think about other options that can help your cause.

Leverage your assets

It’s helpful to find ways to get more value out of the proportionate share of your time, energy, and effort. Try not to reinvent the wheel ā€“ by recycling work, you have already completed you can lift some weight off your shoulders.

Do you have any documents that could be used as templates? Are there any reseach papers that would inspire a blog or quote on Twitter?

If you have a product that has been very successful, determine whether there are ways to use it for other applications.

Utilise times of mild mental use such as physical exercise, cooking or showering as a time to multitask. Look for another useful and important task that you can do simultaneously but uses a different part of the brain. For example, strategise while showering to make creative connections between things or listen to an audiobook expaning on a topic of your interest while cooking your dinner.

Constantly improve your strategy

The essence of strategic thinking as a habit is to strive to improve constantly. Take time to reflect on what you are currently doing and what you can change to level up. If the outcome is not as you expected, review your underlying asumptions.

Can you find a systemic bias over time? Do you tend to be too optimistic?

It is important to revisit the plethora of decisions we make every day and examine the mechanism by which we make our decisions.

Rather than continuously adding goals and objectives, ask yourself what is most critical and what can be pared down. Determine what is urgent and what is important and keep an eye on them. Identify where you can make cuts to simplify the process and actually improve the results. Too many options lead to confusion and it is easy to freeze and to be paralysed. If it is simple, you are less overwhelmed and can follow processes more easily and efficiently.

Problems will keep coming up whether anticipated or out of nowhere all the time. Here you want to step back, see the bigger picture and identify the root cause of your problems that are manifesting themselves.

  • Start by making sure that you are dealing with the ground truth of a matter and not with someone elseā€™s interpretation that is distorting these facts.
  • Be explicit about your goals and make sure you understand what this means and what the goals and intentions of people around you are.
  • Cultivate a habit of asking why at least five times to make sure you establish the root cause instead of the manifestation of the superficial problem you encounter.
  • By being diligent in seeking out the true answers to problems, not the easy answers, you can be far more successful.

Time to start!

If these tips are new to you or just a welcome reminder to rekindle previous habits – now is a good time to start! It might not be perfect at first but you will be able to find your own style of implementing strategic thinking in your everyday life over time.

These tips and insights were gathered from the LinkedIn learning course How to make strategic thinking a habit by Dori Clark. For more insight, in depth explanation and further ideas, please have a look at her course.

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