I recently came across a story on Inc.com titled: The 6 Habits of True Strategic Thinkers. Written by Paul J. H. Shoemaker, the article got me thinking about my time in corporate public relations. I have never struggled more with making time for long-term planning than when I was director of public relations for a large hospital system. My days were jammed with pressing issues. Between phone calls, emails, meetings, media requests, and matters with patients - there was little time to plan for the future. While the story aptly covered the habits of strategic thinkers, I would add an addendum - how strategic thinkers get strategy done. Here are my top five ways to stay ahead of the game.
1. Schedule time on your calendar once a quarter to leave the office and work on your long-term plan. The key phrase is leave the office. The harder you are to find, the more you'll get done.
2. Create a status report so that you may track progress in writing. This is a basic document which can be easily created. Include tactics, people responsible, dates, progress. Commit to updating it every week - this will keep you accountable.
3. Formulate a network of others who are in similar positions at non-competing companies. Discuss your plans with them and they will help you identify strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats, etc.
4. Keep the plan in plain site. Squirreling it away just gives you an excuse to avoid it.
5. Protect your time and question busy work that comes your way. For example, one of the best ways to free up your time is to scrutinize your calendar. If someone requests a one-on-one meeting, see if you can handle their request with a phone call. Handle as much as you can via email and remember - people pay you to get things done, not necessarily do them. Delegate as much as you can.
Being strategic is more than keeping your head above water, it's changing the way you work so that you can achieve long-term goals while improving your efficiency and hopefully, your company's bottom line.