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You need quiet to plan strategy; here’s how to get it

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You need quiet to plan strategy; here’s how to get it

As I write this, I’m sequestered in my hotel room in Las Vegas. Some people love this city; some hate it. I’ve never been a fan, but my job sends me here several times a year.

On this trip, though, I finally figured out why this city bothers me:

There’s no quiet in Vegas.

No matter where you are, the noise never stops. Inside it’s the relentless beeping, ringing and electronic voices calling from the slot and poker machines. Outside, it’s a steady stream of traffic, sirens, and people screaming to be heard over everybody else on the Strip.

Then you walk into a bathroom, and what do you hear? “Never gonna give you up…”

Yep, you can’t go anywhere in Vegas without getting rick-rolled.

I just escaped to my room, and, as I sat here, relishing the calm, I had an epiphany.

Embrace the quiet

I’m always pleading with marketers to think about their objectives and the strategies that will get them there, not to go with tactics first.

One key to being strategic is having the quiet time to come up with those strategies. But modern marketing departments have all the sensory overload of Las Vegas Boulevard at midnight.

What with calls, meetings, emails, executives demanding your attention, Slack messages pinging every two or three minutes and the demands of your own job, it’s hard to find the quiet time you need to come up with workable strategies.

It’s hard, but not impossible, to build quiet time into your work week. Here’s how:

1. Isolate yourself

Lock yourself for an hour in a room with a whiteboard and a marker. Define your strategic plan on the whiteboard. Ask yourself, “What problem do I need to resolve? What areas do I need more clarity on?”

Use this hour to center your thoughts and think deeply about what you need to resolve. Don’t try to do it in a meeting where other people’s agendas and discussions can pull you off track. That’s what planning retreats are for. This is your time for your issues.

One more thing: Leave your phone at your desk. I’m amazed at how many people can’t leave their devices behind (me included!) for fear that they’re going to miss out on something important. Let me reassure you: Nothing is going to explode for the hour that you’re gone.

2. Block off planning time on your calendar

This is one of my favorite tricks for getting quiet time during the workday. If you use a public or group calendar (like Slack, Asana or ScheduleOnce) where people can request time with you, make yourself unavailable for meeting requests at certain times of the day.

Give yourself a block of time every day that’s yours alone to think, plan and catch up on work, or just to gather your thoughts and think about the rest of your life. Building in some breathing room every day is good for all aspects of your life, not just work.

3. Ideate while you eat

Once a month, have lunch off-campus at a quiet restaurant. Take along a coworker on a project or someone from a different department, a smart person with a perspective that could help you view your problem a new way.

You’d be amazed to discover how someone with different responsibilities and priorities can help you see the forest without getting distracted by the trees.

P.S. – Once again, leave your devices in the office. Focus, people!

Takeaways for a quiet breakthrough

These are no-brainer suggestions. But, we often get so consumed by the day-to-day grind that it takes somebody like me to point them out.

Now, here’s the kicker: When did you last do any of the things I just suggested?

If you do them all the time – you have planning time built into your day or week, not just at a once-a-year retreat – great! Hand this to your boss and ask for a raise because you’re a rock star.

If not, print this column out and post it in your cubicle or on your office door where you’ll see it at least once a day. If you don’t embrace the quiet time you need to come up with good ideas, you’ll never come up with game-changing revelations.

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