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Donna's blog on coaching, leadership, and life

Archive for March, 2018

Overwhelmed by multiple strategic demands? Try this.

In addition to day-to-day demands, an executive leader has several long-term or organization-wide initiatives that demand strategic thinking and planning. The more day-to-day demands build up, the less time we have to be strategic. The more we’re distracted from our strategic demands, the more we begin feeling overwhelmed, stressed, and exhausted. And how much do we accomplish when we’re feeling overwhelmed, stressed and exhausted? Not nearly as much as we need or want to. This type of slump can happen to the best of us, and however short-lived it may be, it’s not a happy place.

If you can relate, here is a pretty simple approach that may help you get back on track, and soon:

– Put time aside for a brain dump. Make up your mind that you’re going to commit to 2-3 hours off-line to make sense of it all. Schedule an evening or some time on a weekend with the specific goal of re-organizing your thoughts and multiple initiatives.

– Imagine a bird’s eye view of your current strategic initiatives or goals. Let go of the daily “to dos” during this exercise. As you think of each area or initiative needing your strategic attention—in no special order of importance—simply write the title of each area or initiative on a post-it note and stick them on a surface in front of you.

– Begin to brainstorm and note any strategies or tasks that you already know need to be done under each initiative. Take the pressure off of yourself to come up with new strategies or tasks for the moment. Just roughly note/document those action items or ideas you’ve already had swimming in your head. Then go from there with whatever else may come to mind during this exercise, or later, under each project title. (If you’re initially writing into a paper or digital document, designate 2-3 pages for each strategic initiative, so you can add to the list as ideas come to mind.)

– Create clean planning documents. Whether you’re using large paper and post-it notes on your dining room table, or you’re using rough notes on your device to compile the above, you’ll want to transfer your output into a formal working document of some kind. —Something you can work from, use to keep track of your progress and add strategies or steps to. You can also share this more formal document with others, if applicable. Each strategic project or initiative should ultimately have a clean “to do” or “action” list and a planning document or segment of its own.

– Ask yourself if you’re delegating and/or engaging talent enough. Are there any individuals on your team who are equipped to contribute a rough draft of recommendations towards an initiative? Or, who might offer a strategic perspective and add ideas that may be helpful to your exploration phase of a project or initiative? Invite their perspectives and recommendations.

– Prioritize realistically. In most circumstances you’re not going to reach the full potential of all of your strategic initiatives at once. Decide what you feel makes sense relating to your most significant priorities. If you need to make that decision with others, decide what you’re going to recommend relating to timing on each project, and why. (Be prepared to state the business case for your recommendations relating to priorities.)

A couple of hours, a brain dump, initial ideas in writing…..and you’ll be back on your way forward at a pace you can feel good about.