Every year around this time I stop almost everything I do and focus on one thing, and one thing only: Strategy.
I’ve been doing that for the past 5 years in October. It’s the perfect time I’ve found. Because it’s not too late to make shit happen in the current year. And it’s not too late to plan the next year.
You and I both know what happens when December comes: Shenanigans. Busyness. End of year blues. Whatever. December is just not a good time for strategy.
Life is pretty tactical in nature.
- You answer emails,
- You do groceries.
- You drive your mother to her doctor’s appointment,
- You talk to clients.
- You do taxes.
- You pay bills.
- You create landing pages.
- You write code.
That’s pure execution. And that’s the only way to get work done.
However, that’s also simple day to day stuff. But life is bigger than that.
What about your long-term life and career? When do you think about that stuff?
For most of us, the answer is never.
I don’t know about you, but I’m not letting the outcome of my life over to chance. I might go to the casino sometimes and roll the dice, but I’m definitely not doing that with my business and life.
Why? It’s not only my life. It’s my family’s life and half a dozen employees.
That’s why every person and every business needs strategy.
What is strategy?
Most people don’t even ask that question. They just come up with something and call it a strategy.
One of the best books on strategy is 33 Strategies Of War by Robert Greene. He says:
“The word “strategy” comes from the ancient Greek word strategos, meaning literally “the leader of the army.” Strategy in this sense was the art of generalship, of commanding the entire war effort, deciding what formations to deploy, what terrain to fight on, what maneuvers to use to gain an edge.”
Based on Greene’s book, I define strategy as follows:
- The art of getting results
- And putting ideas into practice.
And when you strategize, you think about all the stuff you’ve learned and how you can use it to get results in your life.
How does the process look like?
For me, it goes a little like this:
- Delegate or stop all tactical tasks for the next week.
- Read a little from strategy books.
- Look at the strategy you made for 2016.
- Look at what went well.
- Look at what you didn’t do well.
- What can you improve?
- Now, it’s time to look forward.
- What are your high-level priorities for 2017?
- For your life, business, relationships, and health.
- Be realistic.
- But don’t think too small.
- Don’t worry about execution yet.
- Read more strategy books.
- Look at the high-level priorities you want to work on in 2017 again.
- Second guess yourself.
- Why do you want to do that stuff?
- If you’re clear on your priorities, it’s time to start thinking about the how.
- Break it down to daily actions.
- Put that stuff in your calendar.
Like you can see, it’s more art than science. It’s my personal approach. For instance, last year around this time, I decided to publish 2 articles a week in 2016. That turned out to be a good strategy.
Some people come up with excuses like, “I don’t have time for strategy.” Well, it’s your life. If you want to be short-term focused, that’s also a strategy.
The emphasis is on deciding what I’m going to do next year. Deciding is the most important aspect.
You can do a million things in your life. But you know what they say about the person who tries to do everything, right?
“A man who chases two rabbits catches neither.”
That’s a Chinese proverb. Never forget that. If you try to do too many stuff at the same time, you will lose.
If strategy is the art of getting results, you should ask yourself: “What will get me results?”
The answer is one word: Execution.
That’s why I created a full course on productivity and achievement. I didn’t create a content marketing course, a blogging course, or build a business course.
All that shit is useless if you don’t know how to achieve things in your life.
Be real with yourself. Are you a finisher?
Yes? Or no?
If you’re not a finisher: LEARN.
I was not a finisher in school. But then I learned.
And then I got my master’s degree, started a business, got a job on the side, wrote a book, etc. It’s not rocket science. Just execution.
Anyway, it’s time for me to retreat and think about 2017. I’m not coming up with big things or anything. No world changing stuff. I’m not Pinky and the Brain, who always say:
“Pinky: Gee, Brain. What are we going to do tonight? The Brain: The same thing we do every night, Pinky. Try to take over the world.”
No. For me, it’s probably going to be more of the same with a few minor changes and new things for 2017. Maybe a podcast. Maybe a new book. Maybe a new course. Maybe a new business.
I don’t know yet. Oh yeah, that’s what this strategy period is for.
How about you?
P.S. Here are three other good strategy books I recommend:
- The Art of War by Sun Tzu — general strategy book. It’s very short. Read this if you don’t want to read Robert Greene’s book.
- HBR’s 10 Must Reads on Strategy — for business.
- Meditations by Marcus Aurelius (Hays translation) — for life.