Some of my best strategic thinking happens at the beach!
It's no big secret that it is tough for executives to think strategically while handling the day-to-day business decisions that come their way. Many executives lament that they wish they only had time to think strategically about their business. Unfortunately, the pressures of running a business on a daily basis rarely subside long enough for a leader to think clearly about the future while they are in the office.
I believe if a leader is not purposeful about taking time away from the business, clear thought about the future of their business is likely not to happen. I wish I could tell you I learned this lesson at the age of 30, but that simply isn't so. I'm embarrassed to say that I was well into my 40's before I realized that handling the day-to-day effectively was not enough! Even when I vacationed with my family, I worked. I was still handling things back at the office, as if I had never left. But not until I realized the benefit of unplugging from my daily grind and taking some time for myself, did I uncover how a rested mind could really reflect on my business and define my business strategy. Since this revelation several years ago, I've instituted some of the following behaviors to keep my business strong:
Everyone needs rest, even executives. Schedule time off from work, more than just a day here or there, to rest your mind and give you better perspective on your business. I recommend at least a week at a time, twice a year minimum, to get away from the business.
While away, take the first few days to relax and enjoy yourself. Don't think about your business at all if possible.
Whatever your quiet place looks like (for me it's a morning or evening walk on the beach) take some time there to think on your own. Reflect on the strength of your team, your key or troublesome personnel, and your overall business strategy. Examine your own performance, considering the decisions you might have made differently and the ones you've been reluctant to make.
After reflection, I find it helpful to write down my thoughts. A few times I've written them in the format of a letter to myself or to my manager or the company's board. In the letter, commit to action that you believe will help the company improve.
After my strategic thought on the business, a few days into my time away, I return to relaxation and enjoyment of the rest of my time off so I can return to work renewed and committed to take action on my thoughts.
Upon returning to work, talk about your thought process with your close team members or your superior to vet your ideas and formalize plans to execute them. If you follow this practice, I promise your business will be better for it and you will become a better leader in the process!