Strategic thinking is the art of taking information you have already gathered and figuring out how you can use that information going forward to better your own life.
We recently published an article about how to think analytically, which is a great way to question ideas and gain all the information you possibly can from your interactions. Strategic thinking is what comes next, the application of that information in smart ways.
Here are 7 of our preferred ways to get better at strategic thinking.
How to Get Better at Strategic Thinking strategic thinking
Keeping A Schedule
Brainstorm the things you need to work on to move towards your goal, and write them down. Categorize the items by color-coding them or assigning them tags. Then sort the list into groups of similar items to maximize efficiency. Finally, stick to your schedule as closely as possible.
Determining precisely what you need to do and when is the best time to do it will allow you to get the most out of your actions and work with maximum efficiency.
Also, getting similar activities out of the way all at once will enable you to get more done in less time. It’s the same concept as a factory assembly line.
Commit 100% To Decisions
When you’re faced with a decision, you need to choose one side and come down on it. Fence-riding is the enemy of strategic thinking.
Thinking in the gray area is an excellent way to avoid offending anyone, but it is not a good way to make progress. If you commit 100% to one side of a decision, you stand to benefit a lot if you turn out to be right. And hopefully, you’re correct more than 50% of the time.
Create Backup Plans
Always have contingency plans. A plan B is great, but you should also have plans C, D, and maybe even E.
If you’re planning out how you think things will go in advance (something all strategic thinkers should do), you’re almost certain to be at least a little bit wrong. Things almost always go awry.
That is not to say you should not be thinking ahead. On the contrary, it is imperative. But you also need to expect the unexpected and prepare safety nets when the unexpected comes to fruition.
Pay Attention to Competitors
To be an effective strategic thinker, you need to keep one eye on what your competitors (or your peers, if you’re in a non-competitive situation) are doing. Analyze their actions to see what they are doing right and wrong, and use that information to fuel your actions, whether you’re learning from their mistakes or trying to stay one step ahead of what they do.
You also need to be reactive. They will more than likely be doing things that can hurt your strategy unless you jump on those things and turn them into advantages for yourself.
Take a look at the end results of each of your daily tasks, and ask yourself if you can use those results to fuel the other tasks that you do. See if you can get the tasks to “feed into” each other in a cyclical fashion.
For example, maybe you need someone to write copy for your website. The copy is meant for the public, but perhaps you also take the copy and use it as a job description to hire more copywriters. And then those copywriters are tasked with writing more copy for the site. Before you know it, you’ve got a whole library of very well-informed content.
That’s a straightforward example, but it’s an example of one of the “engines” that are so important to strategic action.
Take “Safe Risks”
Take a look at each risk you’re presented with and ask yourself a simple question: do the rewards outweigh the potential losses? If the answer is yes, then it’s a “safe risk,” and you should go for it. If the answer is no, there is nothing cowardly or rude about delivering a frank “no thanks” and walking away.
The thing is, humans are naturally risk-averse. They are faced with a risk that has a 50/50 chance of being successful, and they usually don’t take it because they want to stick to what’s safe rather than reaching for the unknown. True strategic thinkers can’t be afraid, though, and they should take every “safe” risk they can find.
Strategic Board Games
Strategic board games that require players to weigh risks and rewards are the single best way to grow comfortable with and practice strategic thinking. From classics like Chess to more complex modern games like Pandemic, strategic games call upon every one of the principles in this post.
Be careful with strategic thinking! It’s an extremely effective way to achieve success, but it’s also easy to forget about mindfulness and personal well-being in your rush towards the gold. So by all means, adopt these tips into your world view, but be sure to balance them out with other, less individualistic ideas explored in most of One Percent Better’s posts.