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How Strategic Thinking Can Boost Your Performance at Work

How Strategic Thinking Can Boost Your Performance at Work

Strategic thinking is the future of discovering the breakout performance you want for yourself on an individual level and what will be required for businesses–small and large–to compete in the future. Strategic thinking is a cognitive process; you cannot allow your life to be driven merely by subconscious thoughts. To perform at your highest and best requires taking the appropriate amount of time to imagine, dream, design and think about your future.

“Performance: the manner in which or the efficiency
with which something reacts or fulfills its intended purpose.”
Source: Dictionary.com

1. Ask questions.

1. Where are we today?
2. Where do we want to be in the future?
3. What obstacles stand in our way?

The result: These three powerful questions will boost your performance at work simply by igniting your imagination.

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    2. Imagine your future.

    Motivation and performance are closely tied together. We crave new challenges and new opportunities. Goals are powerful. Choose to step out of the daily noise, distraction and chaos of your daily work. Schedule time to envision your future.  Paint a vidid image of who you are in five years. What new projects will exist?  When you stop to think, what do you see? How clearly can you see the image of your future self?

    The result: Strategically thinking about where you want to be in the future becomes the internal or self-activating motivation that boosts excitement, enthusiasm and performance.

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      3. Be happy. You choose what you think about.

      When you think about your work, are you happy? Are you finding meaning and value in the work you do? Life is too short to focus your time and attention on negative thoughts. Ernest Nightengale said, “You become what you think about most of the time.” Regardless of the current project you are working on, you can choose to be happy. You are the only person who has the ability to choose what you will think about and whether you will choose to be happy.

      The result: Happy people are much more productive. The are more engaged in the work they do and they accomplish more than an employee who hates his job.

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        4. Be bold. Step away from the logical into the creative and new.

        Strategic thinking and performance thrive on creativity.

        • Be new.
        • Be different.
        • Be very very different.
        • See in pictures
        • Envision
        • Imagine
        • Listen
        • Watch
        • Hear
        • Embrace emotions
        • Think ahead
        • Tell it in a story
        • Intuitive
        • See the big picture
        • Ask, what if…
        • What could you change if you chose to be outrageous

        The result: The last 100 years of innovative productivity has come from improvements in planning, budgeting, automation and the beginning of technology. Many of these concepts can be outsourced, the future of boosting performance will come from inside the heart and souls of individuals. Break throughs can be brought to life through corporate backing, but revolutionary increases in performance will come from break through ideas from individuals who have been given the freedom to think outside the box.

        4. Be inspired. Innovate.

        There is nothing more powerful than excitement about a new concept. Creating something that did not exist until your team thought of the concept. Inspiration is one of the core elements of strategic thinking. Be inspired. Innovate.

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        The result: Being on the ground floor of turning an idea into a finished work is incredibly rewarding. Meaningful and fulfilling work will boost performance, work ethic and self-esteem.

        5. Step away from the project.

        Projects often come to a stand still when unexpected obstacles appear. One of my friends is a judge in Arkansas. When he was practicing law in my hometown I would regularly see him meandering aimlessly down the street. His gaze was always the same–distant and intense. He has always worn his suits at least one size too large so it was easy to spot him. One day we passed on the street and I asked him why he was outside so much, rather than at the desk in his office. He replied, “This sidewalk is my desk. I am paid to think.”

        The result: Sitting at a desk in the midst of clutter and old ideas can stifle your ability to strategically think up new solutions to the obstacles you were facing.

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          6. Prime your brain to think strategically.

          The human brain is bombarded with millions of bits of data every second. You receive data through your five senses–what you see, hear, touch, taste and smell. Isn’t it amazing that your brain acts as a gigantic filter–receiving so much information it cannot possibly focus on every single input? For example, do you remember the color of the last car you passed on the way to work? Do you even feel the shoes on your feet until I remind you of those shoes? If you just bought a new white Honda four-door sedan, you will begin to see white Honda four-door sedans. Why? Because the excitement and emotion tied to the novelty of your new car has subconsciously primed your brain and you begin to see white Hondas everywhere. 

          The result: White Hondas were always there, you just didn’t pay attention to them because they were unimportant to you. When you prime your brain with exciting goals that are deeply tied to your personal emotions, your subconscious will be primed to seek out answers and solutions that have always been right in front of you. You just hadn’t seen them before.

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            7. Be outrageous with the number of ideas you can write on a whiteboard.

            Imagine the shear number of ridiculous ideas that percolate through the minds of advertising agencies and marketing departments all across the world. How many all night thinking sessions have the creatives and executives of various corporations spent collecting as many ideas as the human brain can generate? Get rid of all the filters. Assume the world is level and all opinions carry the same value.

            The result: Taglines and slogans so closely link with our lives that some of these have not been used in twenty years:

            • Got Milk?
            • Where’s the Beef?
            • Absolutely Positively Overnight
            • Just Do It

            8. Accept risk. Encourage failure.

            If you choose to remain the same, your performance will remain the same. In order to boost your performance at work you must be willing to try new things. Break old models. Accept risk. Encourage failure. Innovation comes with a price. Perseverance, effort, the willpower to try not just one more time but thousands of times if it is needed.

            The result: Businesses who want to grow must embrace the concept of strategic thinking and to embrace calculated risk, anticipate failure and encourage constant challenges to the status quo.

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              Steve Jobs – A Strategic Thinker

              10. Study and learn from strategic thinkers who changed the world.

              Thomas Edison, Alexander Graham Bell, Helen Keller, Leonardo Davinci, and Steve Jobs. What did these people have in common?

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              • They had dreams without roadmaps.
              • They had answers without questiions.
              • They had powerful instincts and they were willing to follow their guts.
              • They had perseverance and endurance.
              • They chose a life of continual learning and growth
              • and, Each one of them had a personal willingness to fail.

              What made these men and women so different?

              They didn’t just look foward. They looked inside themselves.

              They believed.

              Featured photo credit: Head Silhouette View Direction Color Diamonds / geralt via pixabay.com

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              Last Updated on September 20, 2018

              How to Be Happy at Work and Find Fulfillment in Your Career

              How to Be Happy at Work and Find Fulfillment in Your Career

              If you’re going to spend 1/3 of our life at work, you should enjoy it, right?

              Trust me, I know that’s easier said than done. Difficult coworkers, less-than-desirable tasks, or even just being in the wrong position can all lead to a lack of enjoyment and fulfillment in your work.

              But what if I told you it doesn’t have to be this way? Or better yet, if you struggle with all of the above (and then some), what if I told you that enjoying your work and finding fulfillment regardless of those obstacles is possible?

              Don’t believe me? I don’t blame you because I was there too. Before implementing the tips below, I struggled to get through each day, much less find real fulfillment, in the office. Now, even after the toughest days on the job, I still come away with feelings of pride, accomplishment, and fulfillment. The best news is, so can you.

              If you’re ready to make those hours count and find happiness and fulfillment in the office, then read on to find out how to be happy at work and find fulfillment in your career:

              1. Discover the root(s) of the problem

              For this first step, we’ll need to think back to 8th-grade physics (humor me). We all know Newton’s 3rd law, “for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.” When you think about it, the same can be said outside of physics, and we see this law play out in our daily lives, day after day.

              Simply put, all the issues we deal with in the office (and life in general) affect us in a noticeable way.

              If you’re appreciated at work, like the work you do and receive frequent praise, promotions, or raises, then this will probably have an altogether positive effect on your life in the office.

              But what if we reverse this? What if you feel under appreciated, get passed up for promotions, or get denied raises? This is sure to affect the way you feel at work on a negative level.

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              So, before you can implement the steps of feeling happy and fulfilled at work, we first have to discover the reasons why you don’t feel that way already.

              Think about it, write a list, or make a mental note. Run through all the reasons you’re dissatisfied in the office, and don’t hold back. Knowing the exact obstacles you’re facing will make overcoming them that much easier.

              In fact, as a side-challenge to this article, I recommend picking the top three reasons contributing to your dissatisfaction at work and using the following tips to tackle them.

              2. Practice gratitude for an instant uplift

              Did you know the simple act of feeling grateful can increase your happiness and make you more fulfilled at work?[1]

              Well, it’s true, and it’s scientifically proven.

              Dr. Lisa Firestone notes that practicing gratitude “reminds us of what we lacked in the past.” Meaning, it serves as both a boost to happiness and a bit of a wake-up call that things have been or could be, much worse.

              Trying to conjure up feelings of gratitude can seem almost impossible when your work situation seems bleak, but hear me out: There are incredibly easy ways to get started and it doesn’t involve trying to “force” yourself to feel grateful about things that stress you out.

              For an instant pick-me-up, try this:

              Find a loose piece of paper, a blank sticky note, or anything you can write on, be it physical or digital. List just three things that you are absolutely without-a-doubt thankful for in your life.

              Now here’s the trick: Don’t just list what you’re grateful for, you have to list why you’re grateful for them, too.

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              For example, simply saying “I’m grateful for my kids” will probably make you feel good, sure, but what if we could amplify the warm, fuzzy feeling into real, lasting motivation?

              Instead, write the reason you’re so thankful for your children. Is it because they make you laugh and forget about other stressors? Or maybe they help to remind you of why you go to work every day in the first place?

              Whatever your reasons may be, jot them down and keep your list somewhere you can see it while you work. A quick glance at your gratitude list throughout the day can provide powerful, positive motivation to keep going.

              Bonus:

              If you can find just three things to be thankful for that specifically relate to your job, and list why those things make you grateful, your list can also help you find fulfillment in your work itself which can give you an even bigger boost of positivity throughout the day.

              3. Take meaningful time for yourself

              We all know creating a strong work-life balance can be crucial to feeling satisfied in our jobs, but rarely do we ever address how we’re spending our time outside of work.

              Many of us survive a 9-hour work day and commute home only to find ourselves busy with our personal to-do lists, running a household, and taking care of a child (or 2 or 3, and so on).

              If you spend all your time working, whether in the office or within your household, you’re going to feel drained at some point. This is why setting meaningful time for yourself every day is highly important.

              Look, I get it: I don’t know anyone in the working world who can shun all responsibility for a 3-movie marathon or happy hour with friends whenever they feel like it. But finding time for yourself, be it just 30 minutes to an hour, can really make a difference in how you feel at work.

              This works because you’ll have time to actually relax and let the day’s stress melt away while you enjoy something just for you. The to-do lists and stressors will still be there after you’re refreshed and ready to tackle them.

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              No time for me-time? Try this:

              If you have a busy household, you’ll need to capitalize on a block of time you know will be completely uninterrupted. The easiest way to do this: try waking up 30 minutes to an hour earlier than usual (or push bedtime back an hour if you’re a night owl, like me) and take time to do something you enjoy.

              This could be reading with a cup of tea, catching up on Facebook, spending time on a passion project—anything! As long as it’s meaningful to you, it works!

              Bonus:

              Starting your day with meaningful time for yourself can set you up to have a positive mood that lasts well into office hours, and having your me-time in the evening can give you something positive to look forward to during the day.

              4. Get productive and feel accomplished

              Don’t you just love the feeling of checking the last item off of a hefty to-do list? That’s because self-motivation can be a huge driver of positivity and success.

              When we accomplish something, no matter how small, it makes us feel good, plain and simple. Applying this tactic to your daily work can be the motivator you need to find fulfillment during the daily office grind.

              While there are tons of steps to get more done at work, I’ll share my personal favorite: Prioritizing.

              Now, many people handle prioritizing differently. Some like to tackle the little tasks first so they can spend focused time on the big to-dos. Others like to knock out the big items first and get to the smaller ones when they can.

              No matter which camp you’re in, you may be missing one crucial step: Time management.

              So how’s this work? When you factor in the amount of time your priorities will take, it can transform your productivity ten-fold.

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              Say you have three top priorities for the day. You might jump into the smaller ones or the bigger ones depending on your preferred method, and then find yourself out of time and bringing work home with you at the end of the day.

              This is prevented when you factor in time. Knowing how long each item will take, or deliberately setting specific blocks of time for your priorities can help you accomplish more in the same 8-9 (or 12) hours that you typically spend at work.

              Try this:

              Take a look at your priorities and consider how long they should take. Pop into your Google calendar (or Filofax, whatever works for you) and schedule time to work on your priority items around any important meetings or events of the day.

              The most important thing to remember is to stick to your dedicated time.

              Often, when we know exactly how long we have to work on something (and honor this time limit), we’re motivated to get more done on time to avoid taking work home at the end of the day.

              The bottom line

              There’s no need to waste 1/3 of our lives feeling unsatisfied at work. Luckily, you now have the tools to get started, take back your time, and become happy and fulfilled at work again.

              The only question is — which tip will you try first?

              Featured photo credit: Ellyot via unsplash.com

              Reference

              [1]Psychology Today: The Healing Power of Gratitude

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