How I Learned to Slow Down and the Importance of Strategic Planning.

Updated: Jan 4, 2018

As the new year is approaching, I’ve decided that with my latest endeavor that it’s time to kick one of my biggest habits that often fires back on me both personally and professionally: Not slowing down.

I have been the type of person that when I get an idea, I take it and run with it. I run towards the sunset and never look back until I complete the project.

And yes, this does mean that I get a lot of projects done, but then is it quality work? I hate to break it to myself; it’s just about “B” quality work…BUT AT LEAST IT’S DONE RIGHT?!…anyone? (Sarcasm)

I never give myself enough time for strategic planning which often includes:

  • The ideation phase

  • Observing potential pitfalls

  • Giving myself reasonable milestones

  • Testing the product out

  • Looking at competitive landscapes

…you get the idea.

While this method works best for short-term success and trying to put a band-aid out there, it’s not ideal for long-term success, and I have found that it often leads me to:

Burn out AND/OR looking back at the product wishing I had slowed down.

But what is it about having an idea and just wanting to skip the strategic part of it and just to finish it?

Personally, I blame it on my reptilian brain that continually looks for instant gratification and want to check something off my list just so that I can tell myself “Good job me! You did it.”

So what made me think to put an end to this habit? I knew that taking on my own business and becoming a freelancer will require me to think differently. This pattern of mine will be the ONE (and possibly the ONLY) reason why it’ll go down in flames. It took a long hard look in the mirror, but I knew it has to get done.

In my past life as an in-house designer, I was exposed to many of roadmaps and strategic planning, and even then it wasn’t clicking for me cause it didn’t show me which of them were a priority. Chronologically, yes, I see where it lands in the year, but which of them, if it came down to it, was THE ONE? It wasn't until a brilliant woman by the name of Adele Rom, our Vice President, Global Talent at TechStyle, introduced me (and our company) to the "Priority Pyramid" and it changed my life forever.

If you’re not familiar, the Priority Pyramid is pretty self-explanatory. You would have your tiers from 1-12 (or wherever you would end it), and within those rows, you were only allowed one sticky note/project that corresponded to the tier. (Ex. Tier 3 would ONLY have three sticky notes)

From there you put all of your projects and start prioritizing.

The #1 question was,

"If there is ONE THING that you could get done this year, what would it be?"

It’s a hard question.

A brilliant question.

It was game-changing.

So, as an exercise for myself, I did a pseudo version and laid out a roadmap for both work and personal and built in the pyramid method in each column. I only allowed myself three projects (1 Large, 1 Medium, 1 Small that I could part with).

Final Thoughts?

All in all this simple shift in change has helped me:

  • Calm my reptilian brain (I know that sounds weird). The idea that it’s on paper and its en route to being complete satisfies my brain and allows to “check” something off the list

  • Build phases and tactics into my projects to keep the project moving forward

  • Plan out on what I can take on vs. when I need to take time off. Giving myself some self-care has been more apparent to me than ever before (and it’s SO IMPORTANT GUYS.)

  • Avoid burning out and getting overwhelmingly stressed out

  • Produce and execute better projects

Breaking habits are not easy, and I plan to stick it out because what's the point of working so hard on a project only to look back at it wishing you “had more time”?

What are some habits you’re looking to break in this upcoming year and what are some ways you build out projects that have helped you?