#SWAAYthenarrative

Please Don’t Tell Me to Be More Strategic

Career

"Mita needs to be more strategic. She needs to showcase more of her strategic thinking capabilities. She has yet to develop strategy. Mita needs to be strategic."

Please. Not again. Please don't tell me to be more strategic.

In those early years out of business school. In review after review, this word strategic kept coming up. It was like a SAT word that I had never mastered. It was a word I couldn't use correctly in a sentence. It was a word that I also misspelled on one occasion.

What the heck did strategic mean anyway?

I asked some of my managers. The ones who had given me the feedback. I needed to understand what this feedback around being strategic meant.

"Can you help me understand how I could be more strategic?"

They said. Be more strategic. Think big picture (apparently when you say this phrase, you should also extend your arms up into the air.) Take a step back. Think about the overall goal. Showcase your strategic thinking skills. Make sure everything you do ties back to the overall strategy.

Not very helpful.

I then asked the Merriam-Webster dictionary.

Relating to the identification of long-term or overall aims and interests and the means of achieving them. Carefully designed or planned to serve a particular purpose or advantage. Necessary or important in the initiation, conduct or completion of a strategic plan.

Also, lots of reference to war planning. Strategy was used to provide military forces with an advantage. Relating to a general plan that is created to achieve a goal in war, politics. Required for the conduct of war and not available in adequate quantities domestically strategic materials.

What the heck did military forces have to do with selling body wash?

And finally. I asked my husband. He shrugged his shoulders, downing a Chobani yogurt in one bite.

"Did you ask your boss?"

Again. Not very helpful.

So I tried to observe others in their strategic mastery. In their strategic prowess. Basking in their strategy and strategic ways. Who was strategic and how could I be more like them?

"Before we think about the next step, we need to take a step back and think about the overall strategy."

"The long-term strategy should be the focus of this discussion."

"I like this idea. Ties back to our strategy."

"Yes, we should think strategically about this."

"I believe our strategy should be focused."

These individuals had mastered strategic thinking. They always seemed to have a lot to contribute in meetings. They peppered in the word strategy, strategic and strategic thinking into their monologues.

"Here's the deal," my assigned buddy sat me down one day. In the middle of the afternoon in the dark corner of a cafeteria. "Let me tell you what my buddy once told me."

"Being more strategic. It's about what you choose to work on when and how much time you devote to initiatives."

I was writing everything down. Word for word. Scribbling as fast as I could.

"Being more strategic is about how you work. Send less emails and go talk to people. Go find them in person.

"Being more strategic is about how you show up in meetings. You don't need to sit there writing everything down word for word. Be present, absorb what's being said, and engage. And when you do engage make sure you sound strategic."

How do I sound strategic? Do I start just using the word strategic and I would magically become more strategic? If only it were that easy.

The truth was, that conversation with my buddy that afternoon was another turning point in my career. I wasn't being strategic at all.

I wasn't strategic about the use of my email. I sent way too many emails all the time- checking them off as items on my to do list. I sent emails as a way of getting stuff done, moving it off my to do list. I didn't think about how my colleagues felt about me bombarding their inboxes.

Instead of setting up 30 minutes with individuals to review a list of actions we needed to do together.

I wasn't strategic in my thought process. I would show up to meetings with my boss and cross functionals. Outlining an understanding of problems at hand, and early on never really providing any concrete solutions. I was ready to do whatever they wanted me to do. And not what I thought we should do.

Instead of coming up with three clear options. And putting my name behind one of the options as the recommended solution.

I wasn't strategic about my project list. I worked on whatever people gave me. Sometimes work from those who were not even my boss. Because I was building a brand around getting shit done.

Instead of asking. Should I be working on this and is this driving the overall business? Or raising my hand to work on projects aligned with the business priority and my passions. Or offering to work on an idea I had.

I wasn't strategic on how I approached the work. I just dove right in, doing what I was assigned and not asking too many questions. And doing it as fast as possible- showcasing that bias for action. And kept my head down. And just worked.

Instead of taking a moment. To understand what I was being asked to do and why. To ask clarifying questions instead of spinning my wheels. And creating work that was not value add.

I wasn't using the word strategic when I was indeed being strategic. To reinforce with others that I was being strategic. Because it finally occurred to me what strategic could mean.

That I was being thoughtful about how I use my time and what I asked of others. That I was thinking of, anticipating problems before they occurred. And could then recommend on how we course correct. That I was working on projects and activities that aligned with what we said our business priorities were.

Please. Not again. Please don't tell me to be more strategic.

Feedback is a gift. You can keep it, toss it, maybe even re-gift it. When you repeatedly here the same feedback, from different sources, it's time to sit up listen. Accept the feedback and do the work to course correct.

The work has paid off. Because it has been awhile since anyone has told me I wasn't strategic.

And that's the beginning of the story. Of how I became more strategic. I showed up strategic. I engaged strategically. I spoke strategic. I became strategic. And yes, I even started spelling the word correctly.

3 Min Read
Health

7 Must-have Tips to Keep You Healthy and Fit for the Unpredictable COVID Future

With a lack of certainty surrounding the future, being and feeling healthy may help bring the security that you need during these unpredictable times.

When it comes to your health, there is a direct relationship between nutrition and physical activity that play an enormous part in physical, mental, and social well-being. As COVID-19 continues to impact almost every aspect of our lives, the uncertainty of the future may seem looming. Sometimes improvisation is necessary, and understanding how to stay healthy and fit can significantly help you manage your well-being during these times.

Tip 1: Communicate with your current wellness providers and set a plan

Gyms, group fitness studios, trainers, and professionals can help you to lay out a plan that will either keep you on track through all of the changes and restrictions or help you to get back on the ball so that all of your health objectives are met.

Most facilities and providers are setting plans to provide for their clients and customers to accommodate the unpredictable future. The key to remaining consistent is to have solid plans in place. This means setting a plan A, plan B, and perhaps even a plan C. An enormous amount is on the table for this coming fall and winter; if your gym closes again, what is your plan? If outdoor exercising is not an option due to the weather, what is your plan? Leaving things to chance will significantly increase your chances of falling off of your regimen and will make consistency a big problem.

The key to remaining consistent is to have solid plans in place. This means setting a plan A, plan B, and perhaps even a plan C.

Tip 2: Stay active for both mental and physical health benefits

The rise of stress and anxiety as a result of the uncertainty around COVID-19 has affected everyone in some way. Staying active by exercising helps alleviate stress by releasing chemicals like serotonin and endorphins in your brain. In turn, these released chemicals can help improve your mood and even reduce risk of depression and cognitive decline. Additionally, physical activity can help boost your immune system and provide long term health benefits.

With the new work-from-home norm, it can be easy to bypass how much time you are spending sedentary. Be aware of your sitting time and balance it with activity. Struggling to find ways to stay active? Start simple with activities like going for a walk outside, doing a few reps in exchange for extra Netflix time, or even setting an alarm to move during your workday.

Tip 3: Start slow and strong

If you, like many others during the pandemic shift, have taken some time off of your normal fitness routine, don't push yourself to dive in head first, as this may lead to burnout, injury, and soreness. Plan to start at 50 percent of the volume and intensity of prior workouts when you return to the gym. Inactivity eats away at muscle mass, so rather than focusing on cardio, head to the weights or resistance bands and work on rebuilding your strength.

Be aware of your sitting time and balance it with activity.

Tip 4: If your gym is open, prepare to sanitize

In a study published earlier this year, researchers found drug-resistant bacteria, the flu virus, and other pathogens on about 25 percent of the surfaces they tested in multiple athletic training facilities. Even with heightened gym cleaning procedures in place for many facilities, if you are returning to the gym, ensuring that you disinfect any surfaces before and after using them is key.

When spraying disinfectant, wait a few minutes to kill the germs before wiping down the equipment. Also, don't forget to wash your hands frequently. In an enclosed space where many people are breathing heavier than usual, this can allow for a possible increase in virus droplets, so make sure to wear a mask and practice social distancing. Staying in the know and preparing for new gym policies will make it easy to return to these types of facilities as protocols and mutual respect can be agreed upon.

Tip 5: Have a good routine that extends outside of just your fitness

From work to working out, many routines have faltered during the COVID pandemic. If getting back into the routine seems daunting, investing in a new exercise machine, trainer, or small gadget can help to motivate you. Whether it's a larger investment such as a Peloton, a smaller device such as a Fitbit, or simply a great trainer, something new and fresh is always a great stimulus and motivator.

Make sure that when you do wake up well-rested, you are getting out of your pajamas and starting your day with a morning routine.

Just because you are working from home with a computer available 24/7 doesn't mean you have to sacrifice your entire day to work. Setting work hours, just as you would in the office, can help you to stay focused and productive.

A good night's sleep is also integral to obtaining and maintaining a healthy and effective routine. Adults need seven or more hours of sleep per night for their best health and wellbeing, so prioritizing your sleep schedule can drastically improve your day and is an important factor to staying healthy. Make sure that when you do wake up well-rested, you are getting out of your pajamas and starting your day with a morning routine. This can help the rest of your day feel normal while the uncertainty of working from home continues.

Tip 6: Focus on food and nutrition

In addition to having a well-rounded daily routine, eating at scheduled times throughout the day can help decrease poor food choices and unhealthy cravings. Understanding the nutrients that your body needs to stay healthy can help you stay more alert, but they do vary from person to person. If you are unsure of your suggested nutritional intake, check out a nutrition calculator.

If you are someone that prefers smaller meals and more snacks throughout the day, make sure you have plenty of healthy options, like fruits, vegetables and lean proteins available (an apple a day keeps the hospital away). While you may spend most of your time from home, meal prepping and planning can make your day flow easier without having to take a break to make an entire meal in the middle of your work day. Most importantly, stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water.

Tip 7: Don't forget about your mental health

While focusing on daily habits and routines to improve your physical health is important, it is also a great time to turn inward and check in with yourself. Perhaps your anxiety has increased and it's impacting your work or day-to-day life. Determining the cause and taking proactive steps toward mitigating these occurrences are important.

For example, with the increase in handwashing, this can also be a great time to practice mini meditation sessions by focusing on taking deep breaths. This can reduce anxiety and even lower your blood pressure. Keeping a journal and writing out your daily thoughts or worries can also help manage stress during unpredictable times, too.

While the future of COVI9-19 and our lives may be unpredictable, you can manage your personal uncertainties by focusing on improving the lifestyle factors you can control—from staying active to having a routine and focusing on your mental health—to make sure that you emerge from this pandemic as your same old self or maybe even better.