As a creative or strategist, there seems to be a never-ending flow of good ideas. Ideas that we are really hyped up for, but for some reason we just don’t execute.
What tends to happen to me is that during times where I’m driving, showing, or when I’ve just had coffee, I get flooded with ideas and visions of things I could do. I immediately start actioning them in my head. It goes something like:
Okay I’m going to set up this joint venture program, what does that look like. Okay, this works and this works but I don’t have these resources to actually make it work.
Then I get distracted before I fully develop the strategy in my head. This is detrimental because while I’m spending energy half-determining the upside and resources involved, I waste a ton of mental energy thinking about what those action items will be for myself. I don't write it down because I’m not fully convinced — because the concept isn’t thought through.
After reading Getting Things Done, I’m convinced that this is the reason why I often feel mentally drained. If, when you’re planning out the strategy and don’t fully plan out the action items, you actually waste will power by halfway thinking through implementaion task even though you aren’t actually implementing. Meaning, you spend energy “implementing” when you haven’t actually implemented anything.
Following GTD (Getting Things Done), now if I have a thought or idea I might jot it down really quickly into Swipes, and if its a day where I’m low energy or low on mental clarity, I might snooze that idea for a day where I’ll actually think it through.
There are days where you’re killing-it, and you get a flash of inspiration, you see the whole picture and you just power it through. It feels amazing when that happens. But how many of those days do we get? Those days are rare.
I’ve discovered that on an average day, what works best for me is to separate strategy work and implementation work.
It looks like this:
I pull up Swipes, and look through my ideas. I choose one that I want to work on and I hash out the entire strategy on a notebook. I write out all the positives, negatives, how its gonna work, why its gonna work, the theory behind it, and potentially alternatives. Then, I write out potential action items that come to mind and break them down into clear tasks, forming a task group. I throw this task group into another task management system, and this is the end of strategy work portion.
When I decide to do the implementation work. All I have to do is open that task grouping and mindlessly follow the action steps. There should be very little thinking involved, just turn on music and crank.
What you will come to realize when you do this is that implementation is actually the easier portion of the two because once you break down the the who, what, when, where, why, and how of the strategy, when you work, you no longer feel frustrated or unmotivated.
I use this to take all of my ideas, no matter how irrelevant or how low it is as a priority and I write them all down into swipes. Then I just "later" those ideas far into the future so future me can be reminded. Maybe then I'll decide to actually take action on those ideas when its a better time.
In this video I:
If you asked me what I do, I'd probably give you a nondescript answer and get on to more interesting topics. Fact is, I "do" a lot of different things. This whole "What do you do?" question is a relic from an earlier era, before it was possible to "do" 30 different things. I am not salaried, so I work on my professional, personal, family, and global objectives each day. A little business, a little reading, a little history, a little art, a little self-discipline, a little philosophy, a little technology, a lot of different things.
But if you had to nail me down to three words, I'd say, "I'm a strategist." Nine words? "I'm a strategist. I figure out how to win." 15 words? “I’m a strategist. I figure out what is winning, and then how to get there.”
The first part of strategy is answering the question, "What is winning? What are even working towards? What are our highest level objectives, and why do we have them?" This is typically known as grand strategy.
Grand strategy is figuring out what the goals of an organization or a solo person ought to be. Arguably, this is the hardest part of strategy, because there is no right or wrong answer. It's subjective. And if you work on the wrong stuff, it doesn't matter how good of a job you do at it.
That's worth saying again. It doesn't matter how good of a job you do bringing your vision to reality if your vision was poorly chosen.