By Judith O’Neill

thinkingAre you working as hard as you can, but not making real progress? Do the same things appear on your to-do list, day after day? Would you work smarter, not harder, if only you knew how?

If time is not spent working in the most valuable way possible, it is wasted. And the most effective way to stop wasting time is to develop the habit of thinking strategically – about everything. One way to combat this is to stop and ask yourself the following strategic ‘big picture’ questions.

  1. What do I need to achieve?
    It is essential that you are clear on your objectives so that you know what results you need to deliver, and most importantly, how the work you do today fits into the bigger picture you have for your company.
    Every time you go to an industry lunch or have a meeting with staff, ask yourself what you need to achieve. It’s amazing how much time can be lost when you are not clear on what your real objectives are.
  2. Why do I want to achieve it?
    Next, ask yourself why you are doing it. This seems so simple, but it is fascinating that so many responses are ‘because I always do’, ‘because everyone else is’, or ‘just because’. Ask yourself how the task you are working on supports your objectives.
    If this doesn’t support your vision, performance KPIs, or your personal goals, then the big question is – why are you doing it at all?
  3. What am I willing to do?
    If you understand why something is important, you will immediately have a clearer understanding as to the compromises and tough decisions you are willing to make in order to achieve your goal. You may be willing to offer blood, sweat and tears for some objectives, and work weekends or late nights for others, but make sure that you don’t apply this level of effort unless the objective is worth it to you or to your company.
    One of the biggest causes of managerial and executive stress is treating everything as high priority and attempting to deliver 110% effort indiscriminately. Make sure you take a strategic approach to the way you utilise your energy.
  4. Who can I delegate the rest to?
    Once you have determined what demands your focus and why, you may find that there are some things on your to-do list that still need to be done, even though they are not a high priority for you. If you have a team – delegate.
    Give staff a chance to expand and showcase what they can do. If you don’t have a team or the right person to do the job, consider outsourcing, calling in a contractor, or building a support team of niche service providers.
  5. Have I got all the support I need?
    With so many things requiring your attention, it’s important to ensure you are getting the support you need to make it all happen. This includes ‘buy in’ from your managers, stakeholders and key decision makers, as well as more personalised support like working with a specialist consultant, mentor or coach. Mentoring is an area that may be valuable to your strategic thinking, decision making, and the profitability of your company.
    Another strategic question to ask yourself is ‘how much more could I achieve with a mentor?’. The mentoring relationship is one where a wiser and more experienced person assists another person to grow and learn; they are listeners, encouragers, supporters, challengers and friends.
    Mentors encourage mentees to take risks, and those who have been mentored know how to take a risk and apply strategies to minimise potential problems. Think about this and your strategies in this new financial year.

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