In today’s episode, Anna explores the importance of big picture thinking, and how not to lose sight of your big picture vision in your day-to-day life.
As fun as it can be to create an incredible vision for the future, the reality is that we’re facing the stress of a full-time job or, if we’re already working for ourselves, we have client projects and deadlines. Or maybe there’s a personal illness in the family… Or maybe it’s something good, we’re doing lots of travel and other fun things are happening and mean that we just don’t have the time or energy to work towards that vision. And we think, “I just need to get through this – and then I can work on my real vision.” Sound familiar? So the big question is: How do you balance the big ‘ideal’ dream vision with the realities of day-to-day life?
*Resources mentioned during the episode*
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Hello there. I hope you’re enjoying the first month of this new year and new decade. January is proceeding quickly as ever. So hopefully, you’re getting into the swing of things and enjoying what is happening so far. Now, we’ve been looking at how to create your vision for your life, for your business. How to have your best year yet, and all these wonderful things. I thought it’d be interesting to look at how do you not lose sight of that vision in your day to day life. So we actually talked about this in my group programme last week, One Step Outside the 9 to 5. And it’s one thing to do this fancy, pretty, wonderful, big picture vision. And, “This is my ideal life and this is how I’m going to feel. And this is what I’m going to be doing and it’s going to be amazing.” And you feel awe-inspired and you start working on that.
But let’s face it, and this happens to me too, and I’m sure this sounds familiar. It’s very easy to lose sight of that in the day to day, dare I say a drudgery… hopefully it’s not all that bad. But it’s the stress of perhaps our full-time job that we’re still doing. Or if we’re already working for ourselves, maybe we still have client projects and things, deadlines that, “We just need to get through this and then I can work on the real vision.” Right? Or maybe there’s a personal illness in the family. Or maybe it’s something good, with lots of travel and things that are happening that mean that you just don’t have the time or energy. Or you literally just forget about it. Right?
So the big question is how do you balance,
and this is one of my big sort of passions really, how do you balance the massive, big ideal dream vision, big picture with the realities of day to day life? And I think one of the dangers is we tend to think in really black-and-white terms. It’s either this incredible perfect dream or it’s this drudgery, the day to day reality. Either, “I’m travelling the world as a digital nomad, I’m having an amazing time in Hawaii, somewhere playing the ukulele. And the money is flowing into my business.” Or, “I’m stressing away over here in dreary London working hard and hustling away.” We tend to think in those extremes the black and white. It’s either this or that. And the truth is, of course, there are so many nuances, so many shades of grey. So many shades of the rainbow between that incredible vision over there and what we’re doing today.
And there are two ways, by the way, I always say of getting closer to your vision. Number one is to take steps in that direction. Which is of course what we’re always trying to do, work towards that vision, taking action, taking those little steps. The one step that I’m always talking about. So I’m actually moving towards the vision. But the other piece that we tend to forget about is that we can bring the vision closer to us.
So the example I always give is, “If I want to live by the ocean, maybe I’m not yet ready to buy that massive villa by the sea. But what I can do is go down, spend an afternoon by the sea, maybe a weekend, maybe even a whole week.” If you want to move to Canada, maybe can’t do that right now, but you can go on holiday to Canada in the meantime. Those are some location ones. But maybe you’re thinking of retraining to do something else. Okay. How about starting by volunteering or doing a mini course in the area? You can’t right now because you’ve got young kids or you’re travelling or you’re working on that promotion. But what are the little things that you can bring from the idea life, from the way you feel, from what you’re doing all the way over in that fantasy of yours. And actually start bringing that in. Start integrating that into your day to day. So that’s already a couple of thoughts to think about, what actions are you taking towards your vision? And how are you bringing elements of your vision in today?
But I wanted to give you some more concrete tips.
Hopefully concrete tips as to how you can make sure you’re not losing sight of your big picture vision. And something that comes to mind is that in my corporate days at Procter and Gamble as a brand manager, so I was working marketing. We were stewards of our longterm brand equities. So that meant basically that of course in the short term you have these priorities and you’ve got to increase profit and you’ve got to hit your targets and so on. You have these little projects, are nought to the very pragmatic. But our job was to hold that bigger vision of what the brand is going to stand for in the hearts and minds of consumers as we called it, while the team is working on the day to day.
So in particular when I was in the global team, which in fact I was always in the global team, we had our local markets, our local countries that we’re working on, the sort of the local promotions and activities and Christmas. And at the time they wanted to do some kind of Facebook app for The World Cup or they wanted to do this, then the other. The joke was always, you can’t let them put the Dolce and Gabbana logo on a banana for example. Right? So the balance is, we have this incredible, luxurious, aspirational vision for the brand, and we have to make sure that yes, we’re still hitting our profit goals and so on. And local markets are allowed to have their creativity and work on their media plans and so on. But we have to still keep that longterm brand equity in mind and make sure that all these little things are moving in the right direction at least. And certainly not detracting from that vision. Right?
It’s because of course if you do too many things that damage the brand, then that’s just not going to work in the long term.
And certainly for a luxury brand, which we were working on. You can imagine if you allow too many logos on bananas or even on t-shirts and things, that’s really going to be very detrimental to the brand in the long term. So we were doing that for our brands and you need to do the same for yourself. So my first tip is actually perhaps not so concrete, but it’s something to do with your mindset which is, become the steward of your own brand equity in a sense. Become the CEO of your life. And I’ve heard that in different versions before and it sounds a bit odd, but it’s just thinking of, what if you were there and you are in fact the big boss, the CEO of you, of your life, of your business, of your career.
Maybe you are already the CEO of a company, but imagine that you are the CEO of a company. What are you looking at? You’re not so bothered by the day to day that a junior manager and intern would be doing in terms of, “Oh, I’ve got to deliver this project here and that project there. And the copy for this. And the website tweaks and so on.” You’re really looking at the big building blocks. “Okay, this team over there is doing that. This team there, I need to look at the organisational structure. I need to make sure job satisfaction is good. And the culture of the organisation and big picture numbers are being hit. And we’re moving in this direction. What is the vision for the future and so on.” So that’s the role of a CEO. The more senior you become in a company, whether it’s a big organisation or your own company. In fact, if you’re building a team, the more you have to extricate yourself from that day to day, and really have that big picture strategy, vision.
So the first tip for you is to become the CEO of your life and imagine that you are that high-level executive.
And you are defining the strategy and the vision of course, but also that is your role to make sure that you’re still moving in that direction. Now, of course, you’re not just the CEO of your life, you’re also everyone else in your life because you are the only person who’s living your life. But at least for the purpose of this exercise, I want you to imagine that you’re the CEO of your life.
Now, the second piece linked to that is as the CEO then, you need to be actually reviewing your big picture vision regularly.
Because you can’t keep working towards it if you don’t know what it is. So even if you can’t, the rest of the week you’re busy with your client work or your website tweaks or your Facebook lives and whatever it might be. Not to mention family and fitness and all those things. You need to make sure you have at least one time block per week in your calendar. I always put a couple of hours on Friday morning. But it could be a Monday morning even better to really review your results, to check in on your vision, to see that you’re working in the right direction.
So having a block in your calendar to review your big picture vision regularly is really important. Now obviously you’re not going to tweak and review your sort of massive long term vision every week. But looking in on your annual plan, on your quarterly goals and so on, let’s say every Friday morning is a great way to make sure that you’re still remembering, “Oh yes, my big dream is to be an influential speaker, travelling the world and so on. Okay, so what can I do now the next few months to move closer to that?” Right? So make sure that you’re reviewing your vision regularly.
Now linked to that, in fact, you want to make sure not just that you’re blocking the time to review the vision, but you’re blocking your calendar to actually take actions in that direction. And I’m a big fan of time blocking. So the key is, and this is really critical, to make sure that your practical to-do list and the activities you’re actually doing every day, every week, are matching your vision. So again, an example I often give is, if you want to publish a book or be a writer, then writing should be a big part of your week. A few years ago I had that vision and I still do, and I looked at my calendar at the time and I thought, “Well at no point in my week am I working on a book or pitching magazine articles or anything like that.” Right? So there was nothing on my calendar on day to day, weekly, monthly basis, then any way matched up to my so-called dream, the so-called goal of wanting to be a writer.
If you want to transition out of your corporate job or a certain type of freelancing work that you’re doing into working for yourself in a different area, then, of course, you need to have more and more time dedicated to that new type of work. You need to be shifting more and more. Even if you’re going down sort of part time in the corporate work, let’s say with that particular client work, you need to increase in the projects, or increasing the time you’re spending on this new type of work. So blocking your calendar and again, reviewing every week, whether it’s Sunday evening, Monday morning, Friday afternoon, review your calendar, review your priorities for the next week and month.
And of course, in the short term, we can’t suddenly say no to lots of obligations, lots of priorities and things that we’ve agreed to.
But the key is to see, “Okay, actually this doesn’t have to happen. This is just something I’ve come up with. I can delete that right away. Or this is something I could delegate to someone else or ask someone else for help, delay, get rid of altogether.” And it may take some time. So okay, “I’ve have agreed to do this for the next three months. I can’t say no now, but I can very well say no when it renews or when they ask me again. Or if something else comes up like that, I’ll say no next time.” So the third tip is really to block your calendar, to review your calendar and make sure your to-do lists and your appointments on your calendar are laddering up, are building up to your big picture vision as well.
So tip number four is to have a visual reminder.
So again you can’t work towards your vision if you don’t have some kind of reminder, if you don’t remember what that vision is. So, of course, checking in regularly is important. But I think there’s something really powerful in having something visual, emotional, tangible that you can really look at, even touch and feel, check in every day almost. It’s almost a subconscious way of checking in. And of course, a vision board is one way to do that. So having a vision board on your wall, seeing that every day in your office, having it in your pocket, whatever it might be, you have that. And you can wake up every morning and think, “Yes, that’s what I’m working towards.”
Another idea we had in our coaching call last week was to have a small object. So for example, for me, if I want to live by the ocean, maybe a little shell from when I was walking along the beach one day can remind me about that vision. Or if you want to be a globetrotter, you want to be travelling all the time, maybe a mini little globe on your desk can remind you about that. So get really creative. Think of something. Find something that you’ve got from a particular trip or a particular person. Or that really reminds you that you really have a close association with this dream, this vision that you have for yourself and for your life.
So having a visual reminder, a vision board, but even better, I think some kind of tangible object. A little flip flop magnet, a pot, well put your passport front and centre if you want to travel and so on. I don’t know if it’s more business related, being an influencer, maybe you can think of something there. You want to be an Amazon bestseller. You can put that stick, excuse me, sticker on your computer in front of you every day and so on. So creating a visual reminder.
And then the fifth one is to work with a coach.
Now, a coach can help you be that steward. Like us as brand managers, it’s so difficult to do this for yourself, right? Because it’s so easy to get caught in the reeds, lost in the reeds of the details. Not see the forest for the trees, whatever the idiomatic expression is. Whatever that metaphor is. But the day to day we’re so easily lost in the details. “I’ve got to do that email list and I’ve got to do those posts on social. And I’ve got to send out those proposals. And hang on a second, you forget all about the vision. Does this even link to my vision?” It’s very hard to ask yourself, to hold yourself accountable, to keep yourself focused on that big vision. And to be really honest about whether or not this is moving you in the right direction.
It’s something I can do for other people, but I certainly can’t really do it for myself. So I’m going to be following these tips that I’ve given you today as well to really think of myself as the CEO, to review my vision regularly, to block my calendar and to create a visual reminder. But even as a coach, it’s very difficult for me to hold myself accountable, to hold myself focused on that big vision. And that’s why I work with a coach as well, not just on marketing and sales and so on. But someone who can really push me, probe deeper, ask me difficult questions and help me to guide myself to where I really want to go.
So those are my five tips for you. Hopefully, that’s a helpful transition really, out of looking at that massive big picture vision. The dream. The ideal life and career that you’re envisioning for yourself, in to actually making that happen from a practical perspective. So really tangible things like putting in your calendar, reviewing the vision regularly, having those time blocks on your calendar. And also working with a coach. So hoping that you’ve enjoyed today’s session on anchoring your big picture vision in your day to day life. And how not to lose sight of that. And I look forward to seeing you next week. Thank you so much and best of luck with anchoring that vision in your day to day. Bye for now.
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