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This time of year, and, it seems, every other time in the life of a leader, finding the time to plan can be difficult. Finding that elusive large block of time to be both creative and thoughtful, introspective and forward thinking, always takes a lesser priority to whatever is screaming for attention at present. But, plans and strategies don’t scream; they wait. And if a leader waits long enough, the strategy becomes surviving mayhem. Unless, of course, you have a strategy for making time to make your strategy. Unless you lead your strategy and the creation of it, strategically. Enter today’s Monday Moment with five important actions to make planning your strategy possible.

1.     Clarify the Big 3

Before assembling the team and booking that meeting room, get clear on the big three items most important in the upcoming period. For most, this will be the next year. For some, this will be the next 12 weeks or something unique. What are those top three most critical fixes, projects, priorities, or goals that must be accomplished and be the primary focus in order for you and the team to feel like you’ve accomplished something? More than three dilutes focus and efforts. Less than three is feasible, and could in fact, be only one big item, but the one item could likely be broken down into smaller, more manageable thirds.

2.     Choose Three Hours

Workflow, holiday vacations, and general mayhem toward the close of a year (or month or quarter) can make for radically reduced available time for planning. Choose three consecutive hours. Make it a morning, if possible, and be very specific in what you wish to accomplish in that time frame. Book it as soon as possible with all key decision makers needing to be involved in your planning process.

3.     Keep Your Goals Succinct

While you have your big three priorities, you may feel the temptation to attempt a full strategic analysis inside a three-hour period. It is a challenge at best for leaders and team members to examine history, conduct a SWOT analysis, agree on action items, develop a vision and mission, and remove barriers in a half-day session. Tighten the goals and keep them succinct. On those three big items you wish to accomplish, what are the three most important next steps and who is going to do them? That is what you want to accomplish in your next meeting.

4.     Fire for Feedback

While true strategic planning can be a laborious process and quite time consuming, having a plan in place for some kind of action and then taking said action is better than aiming, aiming, and aiming forever, without ever having the benefit of feedback to know if you’re on target. Fire, already. In other words, pick three, choose actions, be specific, be swift in taking those actions and tweak as needed, just as swiftly, in the coming weeks.

5.     Be Realistic and Immediate

If after hearing or reading these steps, you take a moment to check your email, something else will fill your time and require your input or leadership. The only way to make time for planning is to be disciplined in your own priorities and time management. Focus for a moment on choosing your top three, send the email looking for those three available hours and give yourself a checkmark for having begun the process. Then, tomorrow, receive the coordination details of available dates and book the room. Then plan your agenda based on the goal of what actions need to be done first in the upcoming short, time period.

Plans are often not perfect; neither are leaders nor their teams nor their efforts. Putting off the planning process is often a result of not logistics, but the desire to be perfect. A full day session, which no one has time for, spent ineffectively discussing what goals the team might consider, is less than efficient. A short plan is better than no plan. A plan that is put in place and will guide the attention, focus, and efforts of the team to accomplish three goals or items is a strategic use of the time available. Conquering world peace and eating elephants AND strategic plans are often best done one bite at a time.

Monica Wofford, CSP is a leadership development specialist and professional speaker. Her coaching, books, and skill based training programs are requested internationally. Monica is the CEO of  www.ContagiousCompanies.com and a candidate for the Florida House of Representatives. She may be reached at 1-866-382-0121.

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