If you’re like most people, you’ve got more things to do than hours in a day

Are you familiar with that “hamster wheel” too?

By the time you get the essential and urgent tasks done, it’s late and you’re exhausted. Hardly the moment for stepping back and thinking strategically about the bigger picture of your business or career.

But being too busy doing to think beyond the day-to-day will ultimately keep you from advancing in your career.

Think of it as the “fast food” approach to work – dealing with what’s conveniently right in front of you rather than taking the time to plan ahead for a nourishing meal.

This approach taken to extremes will hurt your career just as eating mostly fast-food harms your health longer term.

Like the time my colleague was so busy working on the acquisition analysis, he failed to notice that the target company had been taken over by someone else. And the team member who clung to being the “go-to person” in a specific technical area for too long and became pigeonholed as she watched her peers get promoted ahead of her.

So how do you prevent this from happening to you?

Now is the time to pause and look up from the daily grind

Take a hard look at the things on your to-do list that you keep putting off until “later” when you’ll “have more time”.  Or maybe they no longer make it onto the list anymore.

These are likely to be those “important but not urgent” things like stepping back and thinking strategically about the business or planning out your next career moves.

From a work and career perspective, taking a step back to be strategic right now is critical.

That’s because we’re in a period of tremendous change in the workplace

And with major shifts happening, everything is still malleable. But you have to lift your head from the day-to-day to see what’s happening and understand how you want to play it. For example:

  • Ways of working are changing whether that’s location (the rise and or fall of hybrid working), the structure of jobs (with fractional executives on the rise), or when work gets done (where recent trials of the 4-day workweek are showing positive productivity results). What does this mean for your part of the business and how do you want to position yourself?
  • What it means to lead well is changing. For example, “command and control” no longer flies while taking a coaching approach is succeeding, especially when teams become increasingly diverse. How will you develop your leadership abilities to lead your team and show you’re capable of more?
  • And technology continues to accelerate the pace of change, driven by the impact of artificial intelligence on how we work and add value. What will it mean for your business unit and for your career, and how can you stay ahead of the curve?

You have everything to play for

All that’s required is investing a little brain space in understanding what’s vital instead of just doing what you’ve always done but a little better.

The danger is staying static. Like the frog sitting comfortably in a pot of warm water without realizing it should have jumped out until it’s too late and the water has boiled.

This is no time to allow the urgent to crowd out the important or to let short-term thinking rule at the expense of the longer term.

In times of great change, it’s essential to be strategic

That starts with being able to envision what things might look like at a point in the future, and how your part of the business needs to operate to win.

On the career front, when was the last time you took the time to envision your career path and longer-term goals?  What are you doing to set yourself up for future success?

My team and I recently ran a 5-day Challenge to help working professionals create a game plan for their careers. The Challenge gave people the framework, tools and support to create their “Career Success Roadmap”.

They took the time to envision their career path and longer-term goals and came away with a clear vision that gave them energy and excitement.

“The Career Mastery Challenge is one of the most valuable online trainings I’ve ever participated in because it enabled me to create a practical action plan to move my career forward. I wish I’d had this at the beginning of my career years ago, it would have been much more focused and successful today.”

“The Career Mastery Challenge already made a fantastic difference in my life. It gave me lots of motivation, inspiration and clarity.”

“The Career Success Roadmap made my goals and priorities crystal clear. Now I have a fantastic new tool in my toolbox and I use it every day. Since I took the Challenge, I have been incredibly motivated and productive. The best part? I keep attracting new career and networking opportunities nearly every day!

“One of the most practical, hands-on training sessions I have participated in. I developed a personalized roadmap and action plans specific to my unique situation, and it was easy. I'm confident that if I'd had this opportunity years ago I would have achieved my career goals much sooner.”

When you apply this envisioning to your business area, it will help you advance in your career as well.

Step back to think about your business area strategically. How will the current marketplace trends affect your clients and customers? What are the implications for the way you operate internally? How could you leapfrog the competition?

Imagine how it will feel to propose ideas or make observations to help position the business that senior managers are impressed by and take action on… and maybe you’ll get to lead the charge!

At a minimum, you’ll be seen as a strategic thinker and someone who cares about the business, not just taking orders and grinding out the work.

Taking time to step back and be strategic is essential for your career

And it’s far better than keeping your head down and grinding out more work. The same is true for your overall life too!

What area will you make time to think strategically and focus on first?

Leave a comment and let me know.

Recommended Resources

Take advantage of these Career Mastery trainings to achieve your career goals sooner.

How to Create Your Career Game Plan

Equip yourself with your personal plan of action that identifies your near-term action steps and ensures they are aligned with your longer-term aspirations.

You’ll come away from this workshop with a clear and focused game plan to take your career to the next level.

How to Become and Be Seen as Strategic

Thinking and acting strategically is a huge opportunity to advance in your career. But there’s a lot of confusing advice out there as to what “being strategic” really means.

In this workshop, discover what “being strategic” really means so you can take action, start being seen differently at work, and get the recognition and next level opportunities you deserve.

Get instant access to these workshops and much more in Career Mastery