Are you thinking about today? Tomorrow? Next quarter? Next year? How far out is your thinking? While some people are thinking about what they need to do in the next ten minutes, others are thinking about where they want to be in a year or two. It is important to think about the present, of course, but if that’s all you focus on, you’ll never get ahead of the curve. Every important change in your life or in your business takes time to develop, and long-term thinking is the way to build sustained success.
The value of thinking about and planning for the future seems obvious but in fact, most people find it difficult to concentrate long enough to do this effectively. The concerns of the present always seem more important, more interesting. To keep up with what’s going on right now, we check our emails or the news or our networking sites. We know that we should be planning and working on long-term projects, but we keep getting distracted. Where’s the stock market right now? What’s happening in Washington? Who just sent an e-mail? In business, we do have to know what’s going on today and where the payroll is coming from next Friday. And of course, companies sometimes have to respond to the unexpected by moving quickly. But consider the benefits of thinking in the long run.
Buying another company or providing new services to your customers, for example, might be an excellent choice to make right now but the faster you make that choice, the less chance it has to succeed. Even if you have the money and the staff to pull it off, you still need to consider its value in terms of your over-all goals. Does the decision you make today really fit your goals or are you rewriting your business plan in order to justify a change in course? If, on the other hand, you spend some time considering a possible new project, you will not only be able to create a plan for it, but you’ll also find that new insights begin to emerge. If you do go ahead and implement the project, you will be starting off on much firmer footing.
What if you aren’t considering any significant shifts in course? There are still many ways you can improve your life at home and at work by committing to a long-term goal. For example, you can re-tool your business skills by spending time every day learning something new. After a year, you will be that much more valuable in the workplace, with insights and options to develop.
Let’s look at some long-term projects that would clearly add value your business profile:
Learn a new language As the economy becomes more global in scope — there are even serious discussions now underway about developing a world currency — it is increasingly valuable to be bi-lingual. Even if you never speak a new language like a native, learning it will expose you to new opportunities.
Organize your systems No matter what you do for a living, your workplace should have established procedures for handling all important tasks, whether it’s talking to clients or planning meetings. Most employers, however, never take the time to examine their expectations, much less document them in a step-by-step manual. The benefits of doing this are many:
- Tracking your workflow often reveals better ways to manage it by streamlining or regrouping procedures.
- The cost of hiring and training employees goes down. Rather than having senior staff use valuable time explaining the basics — or worse, having new employees just hang around trying to figure things out — a clearly written manual allows them to accurately learn many tasks on their own.
- Developing a manual increases accountability and reduces office friction. When reviewing performance or pointing out a problem, there’s a clear and impartial guide that can be consulted.
Create a new long-term vision: Staying focused on your long-term goals doesn’t mean that those goals can’t evolve. Being able to change course due to changes in the economy is essential, as long as it’s done with foresight and planning. Take time every week to examine your goals and then work on developing new marketing strategies for achieving them. This will position you to respond to any unexpected challenges or opportunities with the confidence that comes from knowing where you’re heading.
QUOTE OF THE WEEK
“Planning is bringing the future into the present so that you can do something about it now.” Alan Lakein
© 2009 – 2011, Written by Keren Peters-Atkinson, CMO, Madison Commercial Real Estate Services. All rights reserved.