We’re all stretched right now. Yet, we need to be pivoting and actively problem-solving as the world changes around us. It’s all too easy to get mired in day-to-day business operations and find it hard to carve out time to do the strategic thinking and planning you need to do to move your business and organization forward. In today’s environment, it’s imperative that you find this time. Plus, this is the type of work that is energizing, rewarding, and fun. And even leaders could likely use a little fun right now, right?
Below are tips on how to conduct a rapid strategy session that takes just 30 minutes to make a shift around a choice you are trying to make for your business. With the below as a guide, you can find time to think and think clearly.
Here’s how it works.
1. Carve out time in the morning for a “strategy break.” Do your rapid strategy session in the morning when your mind is fresh. Research has shown that conscious, critical thinking takes a lot of energy. Our mental energy is finite, getting depleted throughout the day, so it’s best to do critical thinking in the morning when you are still unencumbered.
Put yourself into an environment that will avoid distractions. We all think we can multi-task, but our brains really can’t juggle multiple thought processes at once. So, get yourself into your own space. Turn off your computer and phone and put aside whatever will get in the way of you focusing your attention. Do not allow yourself to get sucked into energy draining and attention distracting activities like reading emails.
2. Quiet and clear your mind. Start by writing down everything that is filling your brain at the moment like to do’s or random ideas and thoughts that are popping into your conscious. Capture them quickly on a piece of paper to get them off your mind.
Then, close your eyes. Get into your body. Put your hands in your lap and take 5 deep breaths focusing on each breath. Turn off your internal dialogue by focusing on the sounds around you. Take another 5 deep breaths and listen. I know it might sound hokey, but it will get you centered.
3. Define your inquiry. Now, get to why you’re here. Write down your inquiry question. Just one sentence and keep it short. Pick one of the following questions to ask yourself:
- What is the goal I’m trying to achieve?
- What’s the ideal outcome I’m seeking?
- What am I trying to solve?
- What am I trying to understand?
4. Get to what’s at the heart of the matter. Focus on the situation and simplify it down to the most salient issues. Simply ask: What is at the heart of the matter? Capture up to 1-3 factors.
5. Investigate what you may have tried already. Note if there are actions you have already taken to address this inquiry question and if there are any learnings or insights you want to consider.
6. Determine actions or options for addressing the issue. This is a time to trust your instincts and not belabor your answers. Take 5-10 minutes to think through an action plan or to develop options and solutions to your inquiry.
If you are ideating options, quiet your mind to see what may appear. If you get stuck, think of potential connections by doing a quick mind map or look for patterns in what’s coming to you. What can you build on? If you reach another impasse, seek inspiration to shift your thinking on to a new track. What is an adjacent topic that can spur a new line of investigation? Don’t get caught up in too much detail rather than thinking of broad, high-level ideas.
7. Now, get into action. To wrap up, if you have an action plan, prioritize your next steps. Be clear on who you want to do what and by when. If you can, before you leave your session, take action on one thing you can do right now to get started, even if it’s sending an email to someone on your team to take the first step you identified. Take advantage of your momentum.
If you have options, look at your list and ask:
- What are the best one to three options?
- If you have one best option, how can you start to put it into action today or this week? Be clear on who will do what and by when.
- To help select an option, consider making a quick 2×2 matrix with Effort on the x-axis and Impact on the y-axis. Quickly map your options against these two axes. What gives you the biggest impact with the least effort? Or, what gives you the biggest impact with effort, but it’s worth it?
- If you have a couple of options still, what needs to be true to make each option the best choice? What actions do you need to take to test those assumptions? What more do you need to know and learn?
- If you can, take the next step and get an action into motion right now.
Now, strategy shouldn’t be taken lightly. But the scale and scope of strategy shouldn’t keep us from making progress either. This method of quick 30-minute strategy sessions will hopefully unlock insights to spring you forward, and that might just be towards a more comprehensive strategy project. More importantly, a 30-minute strategy session can become a method that helps you carve out time for the critical and fun stuff, to do the strategic thinking you need to do to address the various problems and questions that arise on your business. In this small way, you can help ensure you’ll progressively shift your business forward.
For further reference, get the Strategy 30 white paper from The Agency Oneto here.