The word ‘strategy’ scares most people. It sounds like hiding a sort of complicated procedures and methods ordinary people cannot grasp.
Many years ago when I first heard it I felt the same. It sounds tangled, but it is unbelievably simple.
Any concept or idea we don’t know about looks complicated. But once explained, it starts to be very simple.
The same happens with ‘strategy’.
If you want a very simple explanation, a strategy is knowing very well why we do what we're doing.
In other words, having a strategy means to work for a clear goal following a plan that makes sense for us.
Every one of us has strategies. And everything we do is part of a strategy.
Let’s take an example.
Some close friends are coming to us tonight and I want to make a chocolate cake for them.
So, here’s my goal: make a cake for my friends.
Why should I want to do this? Simple: I haven’t seen them for months and I want to make them a surprise (knowing that it is their favorite cake!)
Now, how am I going to do this?
I have to accomplish a few steps:
1. gather all the ingredients
2. assemble the ingredients and prepare the composition
3. bake the cake
4. arrange the cake to be served
I know very well what I’m doing and I know very well why I’m doing each action I take (read carefully the recipe, take the sugar and the chocolate from the cupboard, the eggs from the refrigerator, take all the dishes I need, bring the mixer, crack the eggs, mix them with sugar and on and on…)
Now, let’s imagine another scenario:
My mother in law comes to us and decide to bake a cake for us asking me to help her. She doesn’t tell me the recipe. She just asks me to do some actions without explaining to me why are they necessary.
She asks me to crack the eggs without mentioning if I have to separate whites from yolks (so I need to ask…), then she asks me to bring some baking paper without saying how big it should be (I need to ask her again…, etc.
Can you just imagine how I feel and how annoying these tasks are for me?
And it’s normal. As long as I don’t understand exactly what am I supposed to do and why, and what cake my mother in law wanted to prepare, I am confused. I do everything mechanical, and my strategy is to do everything possible to reach the goal of not upsetting my mother in law.
If she would have been told me what exactly she intended to back and explained to me how was she going to do it, it would have been simpler for me. I would have done my best to help her as efficiently as possible and save her a lot of effort. (Fortunately, my mother in law doesn’t cook anything in our kitchen!)
We can go further and take another example.
Let’s think about how an employee spends her time at work.
Most employees accomplish the tasks listed in their job descriptions or required by their superiors without questioning why are they supposed to do them or what is their role in the organization they are part of. They are not interested in the meaning of their activity. They just want to keep their jobs.
Immersed in their daily routine, they don’t even think about where all the activities they’re doing daily will bring them in a few months or years.
Their goal is to cash in their monthly checks and to comply with their obligations. And their strategy is to put to their employer’s disposal a certain amount of their time (about 40 hours a week).
A soldier too has a strategy. Even if he doesn’t know what and why his superior’s goal is, the soldier executes the corporal’s orders. Executing the orders without questioning is his strategy and his goal is to not have problems.
Even when we want to be lazy we’re having a strategy! We want to avoid doing some chores and we find a lot of excuses and explanations of why it would be better to not do them and find ways to simulate that we’re doing other ‘important’ things. Our goal is to relax and indulge in doing nothing without annoying other people.
Understanding what a strategy is and how we’re employing strategies in our daily lives helps us in realizing how we can settle and reach meaningful goals in our lives.
It is not at all difficult to apply a strategy in accomplishing a goal.
What we have to do is to clarify what are our most meaningful and important goals(what we want to achieve and why) and then figuring out how we could reach them.
That’s exactly what strategic living means.
First of all, why is procrastination an issue for us?
Why we procrastinate?
Take a one-minute break and try to answer this question: Why? WHY are you procrastinating?
Now, answer a second question: WHAT are you procrastinating?
If you haven’t found a clear answer yet, maybe this will help.
Procrastination isn’t the problem. It is only a symptom of a problem.
To cure procrastination, we need to address its causes, the origin generating this behavior.
In general, people procrastinate when they aren’t in the mood of doing something, or when they don’t know how to do certain things or when they are not convinced about the relevance of the outcome they would get accomplishing a specific task (they don’t get very clear what’s in it for them).
Think about that. By procrastinating, you avoid doing what you have to do and instead you do other things that make you pleasure for the moment. And, to not feel guilty, you find reasons why it would be better to postpone your tasks.
When something requires an effort from our part and is not pressing, we are always inclined to postpone it.
The problem isn’t when we want to avoid doing some chores. This won’t be probably any problem at all…
Procrastination IS a problem when we waste our time and don’t do what is important for us to do.
Sometimes the time to solve our problems. If we continue to postpone them, some of our chores are done by someone else and we are saved!
But it is sad when time goes and we let our lives pass us by.
We are thinking that someday we will do what we think we need to do, but this ‘someday’ never comes. We just cannot get started…
There are still situations when we can move very quickly and do in a very short time what we couldn’t do in months.
I remember when I was a student I had never succeed to start learning for an exam more than one week in advance. Every time I knew that the exam was important, that I had a lot to learn, that I had some other exams to prepare for and that it would be better just to start reading the books. And every time I found myself procrastinating and postponing to start until a few days before the exam.
And what happened every time in the days before the exam was unbelievable. I succeeded to go through all the books I had to learn and passed the exams.
I was every time able to do in a few days what I couldn’t do in months.
How could I? What drove me every time to find the energy and put it at work to do my job as a student?
The answer is simple: I knew that I need to pass the exams to graduate.
This was my clear objective. I never doubt it and I accomplished it in the least amount of time needed.
I wonder where I would have been today if I would have put a half, of just a quarter of this energy every day into doing important things for my life? If every day I would have done small steps in a certain direction – learning new things and taking specific actions.
I knew that I should do more, but I wasn’t convinced where my effort would bring me to.
That was my biggest problem and the cause of procrastinating.
I wasn’t clear about what I wanted and why.
The fact is that when we know what we want and why, we always find the energy, the needed information and all the resources necessary to accomplish our intention.
In this case, procrastination ceases to be an issue. It simply doesn’t exist anymore.