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planning for the future

We’ve all felt it, that nagging feeling. You know the one. We should be working on planning for the future. Yet still, we get distracted by the many squeaky wheels drowning out our inner, more strategic voice. If I do what demands attention now, when will I ever get to the more strategic work?

It’s the universal dilemma, the battle between Now and When and it hinders our ability to get things done both in the present and the future. Each week, someone shares with me their sincere interest in focusing on the bigger picture but just cannot make it happen. I get it. I struggle with it too.

As important as the day-to-day issues are, the big picture can be more important. Sometimes, that’s a harsh reality to admit, especially when those squeaky wheels are directly tied to the help you provide real human beings who have needs right this minute. True as that is, the airlines got it right: it’s crucial you put your own mask on before helping others.

So, how do we make peace with it? How do we know when to give up the battle to win the war? Here are a few ideas to help you as you go about planning for the future.

Anonymize the Situation. It’s hard to say no to a specific person in the real world in favor of helping many more in the abstract. Yet, that’s exactly what leaders have to do—especially when helping one or two people right now jeopardizes helping hundreds more in the years to come. In those situations, try thinking of the people in your reality as avatars for those you will help in the future. Think of them as statistics, as cold as that may seem.

If that’s too heartless for you, do the opposite. Imagine the names, back stories, and needs of the people who will come to you for help later. Suddenly, they’re not as abstract as they were.

Tag Team It. Falling securing under the category of “Easier said than done,” is everyone’s favorite: delegation! We have all used the excuse that it would take longer to teach someone how to do something. Sometimes that has the added benefit of being true. However, more often than not, it’s the emotional energy it takes to teach someone what we do that is the real culprit. Acknowledge that, take a deep breath and dive in.

Hit it With a Bus. We are all fallible, all fragile human beings subject to life’s trial, tribulations, and traumas. In other words, we could all, tomorrow, get hit by a bus. In those situations, someone else would have no other choice but to jump in and pick up the slack for you. Know that the back-up is there to support you even when you’re not in a hospital bed, swimming in pain medication. Explain to your back-up that you just need x number of hours or days to focus on planning on the future and trust them to keep the ship afloat. Obviously, we do not want to abuse this approach, and it’s always best to explain why this break from the day-to-day is in everyone’s best interest.

Get Some Outside Help. I’m a consultant so of course I’m going to recommend getting outside help. (Don’t worry, I will not be making one of those annoying “of course I…” Tik Tok videos. Jeesh, enough already.) However, the value that consultants bring to organizations is real. Not only do we free you up to do work on your day job, we bring outside perspectives that you wouldn’t have otherwise.

What did I miss? Any other ideas or suggestions? If you think these ideas are rubbish, let me know that too! I can take it and try to learn from it.

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