I use a strategic thinking discipline when I work-out to improve my professional success at work. While exercising my body, I exercise my mind too.
Call it cognitive calisthenics. Mental gymnastics. My daily smart time.
Other people working out at the gym listen to I-pods, watch wall mounted TVs, or scroll through smart phones. Nothing against that. I enjoy technology too.
But by using this regular block of time to strategically think through various work issues, I generate ideas and solutions that increase my work productivity in ways I never imagined.
Of course, imagining is an important part of the thinking discipline.
Maybe that’s because thinking…using the old noggin…as archaic as it sounds, taps into the most advanced technology ever invented—the human brain.
Its capacity to innovate, analyze, synthesize, conceptualize and organize is unsurpassed. But you have to actively use it. Intentionally engage it. Creatively exercise it. Regularly.
My strategic thinking routine begins with vision. I start by asking: What am I trying to accomplish? What’s the direction I’m going? The ultimate goal?
For me, vision is not a grand, idealistic notion. Eloquent words that look good on paper, but mean little. Rather, it’s a mental picture.
As I consider the outcome I’m trying to achieve. What does it look like in a real, practical sense? And what needs to happen to get there?
A better product, successful program, smoother workflow, improved communication?
As the mental picture forms, I map out a plan. The solution usually involves one or more of these areas:
Strategic Thinking About People
Who is the right person for a job? Who has the passion, experience, skills that are needed for a particular assignment, task or leadership position? Match people with their skill set, fit them in their sweet spot.
They will be more successful, productive and fulfilled in their work.
As I consider a particular job position, I am often surprised by who surfaces. It’s not always the one that initially comes to mind. But the one that, when thoughtfully considered, is the perfect fit.
Strategic Thinking About Technology
Sure, technology is cool. It improves your methods, processes, efficiencies and workflow. But it’s still only as effective as you make it. You define and direct how to apply it. Maximize it. And that takes thought.
So regularly evaluate applications for further improvement. Experiment with processes. Consider whether there’s a new or different method that works better.
Because just when you’ve mastered one technology, another one arrives on the scene. Is it really better? Maybe. But not always. Don’t let your thinking shift into automation mode. You might just automate yourself into obsolescence.
Strategic Thinking About Processes & Systems
What pieces and components need to come together so the systems and processes are smooth, seamless and efficient? How can they be organized to increase workflow? What timing is involved?
Thinking through is like assembling a giant picture puzzle. And it’s awesome when everything comes together and the vision in your mind springs to life.
So consider the available blocks of time in your schedule as an opportunity. And rather than de-activate your mind. Activate it. You’ll work smarter and achieve greater success by effectively using the most powerful tool ever invented.
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