Strategic plans move in and out of favour. Even for organizations, they are often dismissed as unworkable, inflexible or inappropriately vague. To take the same principles and apply them personally can feel overly formal or downright pretentious. At the same time, the tools of time management don’t provide a lot of guidance beyond today and this week. They might nod in the direction of longer term planning, but they don’t offer a great deal of direction on how to get there. So what’s the value of building personal strategy, what does it look like and why should you care?
That we are in a collective and unprecedented liminal experience is pretty much beyond debate. We are also now at a point where we can see the return to something like normalcy being dangled tantalizingly before us, somewhere in the near-distant future. The question is where we want to go from here. The pandemic is a universally experienced imposition of reality where none of us had control. Emerging from the pandemic, however, is an entirely different proposition. We have choice. We have opportunity. We have agency. But what do we do with it?
As is no doubt true for many of us, I started off last year with the best of intentions. While I am proud of what I accomplished (despite 2020 being, well, 2020) it was not without its challenges. My first post last year outlined my plans to revisit how I plan, how I organize and how I manage. A check-in on how that went—spoiler alert: inconsistently—and what I’m doing differently this year.
You’ve decided upon your stated direction. You have committed to the attainment of one or two strategic priorities that will most move you forward. And then an opportunity presents itself; a door opens with an interesting and exciting opportunity you didn’t know existed. Is this opportunity a meaningful new option or merely a shiny new distraction? These are the choices that we have to make as we navigate towards the future we most value.
I didn’t intend to write this article. I didn’t even want to write this article. But I didn’t want to leave last week’s article as the end to the series that I’ve been working on. There was somewhat more to be said, and in particular some specifics to be explored about tools. To be clear, I endorse none of the tools that I mention. But I’m curious about several of them.
The future is a big, scary and uncertain place. It’s difficult to think about how things may play out. It’s even more difficult at times to define how we want things to play out. There are few scarier questions to be asked than, “Where do you want to be in five years?” Finding an answer to that is complicated and elusive. It’s also an unfair question, and one that begins at the wrong starting place.