We just finished a strategic planning session for a client virtually over Zoom. One of the things that came up during the sessions was people don’t have time to be strategic. They’re too busy and too task-focused — responding to the inputs they constantly receive. It got me thinking about strategic thinking.
I call myself a strategic communicator. It struck me that there must be something I’m doing to find time for strategic thinking.
So I want to give some tips for communications leaders, who are always being pulled in so many directions, to really think about strategic thinking.
First of all, find a 15-minute segment of your day that you can carve aside simply just to turn everything off. Your phone, notifications, and email — turn them all off for 15 minutes. Use that quiet time just to do strategic thinking. I’ve found this to be really valuable.
A really good time to do this is right after a staff meeting or a leadership meeting. Resist the instinct to check your email, see who called you, or think about your immediate to-do’s. Instead, use those 15 minutes to think about where your organization is heading. Think about how can you add value and how your communications function can support that effort.
Finding More Time
Then I want you to try a two-week experiment. Block one hour on your calendar each week solely for strategic thinking. Join a webinar. Listen to a podcast. Read an article in the Harvard Business Review or smart publication of your choice. Just make that hour about not doing the task at hand in front of you right now. Instead, use it to learn and think long-term about the strategies that are going to drive your organization forward.
Third, find your strategic thinking muse. Think about which people are, or would be, great sounding boards or thought partners for you. These are people who can help you think about longer-term issues, talk about them, and digest them.
Take that hour per week — better yet, schedule a second one — and spend some of it talking with your strategic thinking muse. Even better is when that muse can also be your accountability coach: someone who makes sure you are finding time to think strategically and execute your ideas.
These are some simple ways communicators can rise above the tactical “serve and respond” grind. Taking these steps will help you get into the critically important “lead and challenge” mindset.
We don’t move our organizations forward by issuing a press release or checking off a to-do. We get there by leading and challenging, by thinking strategically and guiding your team and your leadership into a bigger orbit.
It just takes some time, and you’re the only one who can give it to you.