Controlling the Activity Trap: The Key to Personal Strategy

Dont Get Caught In The Activity TrapGo back a few years and think about the things you did on a daily basis to get results and achieve goals. Would you say your daily tactics, assignments, projects are the same today as they were five years ago? In most cases people I talk to said no. In my own work, while some of the tactical aspects of my job have remained, almost every other aspect of my job is different. Now, think about what duties your job will require in the future. One year, three years, or five years from now, will you be doing the same things you are doing today? Probably not.

Managers who operate strictly in tactical mode are not focused on their people, their future success, long term goals and strategies, and have difficulty being a well rounded effective leader. Strategic Thinking is an important tool for success in any organization. I believe that everyone can be more entrepreneurial and can drive more value in contributing to long term personal and business success by improving strategic thinking. If your people focus too much on the day to day operations and just getting through their task lists, what will happen to your future? The first skill to being strategic is what we call “Taming the Beast.” The beasts are those things that keep us from spending some time on strategic objectives, keep us from preparing for the future, and blind us from what is on the horizon.

Successful strategic leaders and thinkers understand and develop ways to combat their beasts. They find ways around the roadblocks and are in tune with organization needs and objectives, future opportunities, creative and innovative ideas, as well as worst probable scenarios that might hinder future success.

So what are your beasts? How can you tame them? Beasts are different for each one of us. One of my beasts is email. I don’t know about you but I am quick to stop whatever I am doing just to answer an email that could easily be done later. When that icon pops up on the computer, I tend to stop whatever I am doing to look and see who has sent me a note. Email is a huge distraction in my work day, therefore to tame my beast I keep my computer off for the first 15 minutes of the day. I spend that 15 minutes planning for key strategic objectives that are longer term and need some attention and detail today. When my computer is on, I have established three different levels of distinction for email. Now, End of the Day, and Later files were set up in my email system. Any email that arrives which deserves immediate attention goes in to the Now file and get answered every two hours. Email that is less important goes into either the End of the Day or Later file. At the end of my day I will spend whatever time I need to in answering the email. This system works for me and it is not to difficult to come up with a systematic approach to taming the beast. Here are two suggestions to tame your beasts.

  1. Take some time and identify the beast that is distracting you most from strategic thinking time. Once you have identified the beast create a plan to tackle it.
  2. Try to curb your appetite for activity and regularly schedule some time during the week to focus on long term issues. By doing so, you will be more in tune and prepared for future obstacles and opportunities.

With a little focused effort, you will be surprised at how easy it is.

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About the Author

Eric Mead

Eric is A Senior Vice President for CMOE and specializes in custom learning and development solutions, sales and marketing, and performance coaching. His work in organization development has led him to facilitate workshops on Strategic Thinking, Coaching Skills, Building High Performance Teams, Managing Conflict, Personal Effectiveness, and Leadership Principles. Eric’s expertise is in communication, relationship building, management, marketing, and advertising.